Why Lunchtime Sucks For Introverts

introverts at work

Lunch hour is often the most dreaded time of day for introverts. Contrary to what you might think, our secret lunchtime anxieties have nothing to do with food.

See if this scenario sounds familiar:

It’s break time at the office, which means you have one hour to chow down, and relax. If you work in a job that requires a lot of talking and dealing with people, you desperately need this time to recharge and fortify yourself against the day ahead. But there’s one problem.

For other people, lunch hour is all about catching up with coworkers. Your extroverted colleagues congregate together, and engage in one of the most offensive pastimes to an introvert.

Small talk.

For extroverts, chatting with others is replenishing. For introverts, not so much. Over the years, we’ve come up with all sorts of sneaky ways to avoid small talk. When it comes to lunchtime at work, you’ll likely see us doing one of the following:

  • Hiding behind a book, and doing everything in our power to avoid eye contact with other humans.
  • Sneaking off to a secluded area of the office where we munch away in sweet solitude.
  • Escaping the office all together and wandering the nearby streets or stores in the hopes that we won’t see anyone we know.

Don’t get me wrong, introverts are not necessarily anti-social. And we might really like our coworkers. But small talk is NOT how we want to spend our precious one-hour lunch break. Instead of replenishing us, as it does extroverts, lunchtime chit chat drains us.

How to make lunchtime less sucky

First of all, let go of the guilt. When I used to work as a bank teller, I worried that my coworkers would think I was a jerk for not socializing more at lunchtime. I couldn’t enjoy my recharge time because I felt so guilty.

Now I know that there is nothing wrong with wanting some peace and quiet on your lunch break. It’s your free time, and you can spend it however you like!

Choose quality over quantity

What I realized when I was working as a bank teller was that it only takes one quality conversation to connect with your coworkers. You don’t have to spend every lunch hour talking about the weather.

Having one interesting conversation with one coworker once a week is way more effective than engaging in mindless lunchtime chit chat everyday. The secret is to know how to transform boring small talk into true connection.

How to actually enjoy small talk

According to my friend and fellow introvert Dan Chang, most people in general are terrible at small talk. Instead of building connections they get stuck in painful pleasantries. Dan has a formula for mastering small talk and making friends, even if you’re introverted and shy

Over the last 9 years he’s spent thousands of hours (and dollars) learning from books, experts, psychology studies, and real-world tests. One of the biggest things he realized is that small talk can do big things.

Dan shares all his small talk secrets in his amazing FREE mini-course.

Get instant access to the free 3-part course with one-click

You’ll learn how to…

– Video #1: Uncover the power of small talk
– Video #2: Overcome boredom
– Video #3: Stop nervousness around new people

…so you can start making friends. Whether it’s at the office, weddings, or just waiting in line for the bus.

If you get nervous when interacting with new people and find yourself stuck in your head, this course is perfect for you. You’ll especially love it if you tend to analyze and understand things before doing them.

 One-click to get instant access to the videos 

However you choose to spend your next lunch hour, remember to include a delicious slice of solitude, and to enjoy it without guilt! 🙂

Love,

Michaela-Signature

14 Comments

  1. Ohh yes this is so true. Last thing I want to do is have to talk while trying to eat and then you lose your track of time and then you have to scoff the rest down and rush off….

    This one guy 20yrs older than me keeps sitting next to me at lunch time talking about crap and wont let me just listen in, no I have to answer 400 questions. I should spit my food everywhere while trying to talk, that ought to stop him from doing this.

    Same with at the start of work, everyone just seems so bubbly and happy and loud and jumping and laughing……..im happy for them really I am but I want the chance to get into work mode I dont want to small talk until I pass out, let me sit peacefully! This other Kiwi guy about the same age requests that I say hi to him at the start of work, heaven forbid I should walk in and sit quietly by myself, no to rub it in that Im not saying Hi he will loudly say hi to everyone else around me to make it obvious that im a snob and am rude….omg drop it please! Ive told him nicely I just want time to chill and I will talk later, 3yrs later he still doesnt get it…

    Reply
  2. Yet another post that reveals that I am not the only one that feels this way !!! Its incredible. I’m pretty sure that my colleagues think I’m an antisocial boring part time mute. But if there is one thing that I’m taking away from this is meaningful conversation. even just once a week. and there are some who need it I think perhaps a lot more than I do. So I might just push myself out of my comfort zone and give it a try.

    Reply
  3. Interestingly enough, a health-care professional once scolded me for failing to go to lunch with my co-workers! He also believed that to fit in (two words that make me cringe), I should periodically join my colleagues when they went out after hours for a drink, even though on the one occasion that I did so, I was bored to tears! To cement my ties with my peers while working in another job, I once joined them after hours for a beer. I thought this would give me a leg up in my career. It didn’t. In fact, it was a complete waste of time. In one of my jobs, my boss, a hyper-extrovert, would periodically suggest that I and my colleague join him in the bar for a drink. Although I went for appearances sake, I never enjoyed the session and usually found an excuse to leave after a half-hour or so.

    Reply
  4. This is so true! Lunchtime is so discomforting. No wonder I usually skip it (which is so unhealthy in itself!).

    Reply
  5. As always, wonderful article Michaela! In the past, I always had lunch alone while I was working, and I simply enjoyed that sweet solitude and recharging that came with it. 🙂
    Like yourself, I also felt a degree of guilt, because I was worried that I would be seen as a “weirdo”, or that I would insult someone by having lunch alone. Luckily, that time is long gone. 🙂
    Once more, beautiful and insightful article Michaela! 🙂

    Reply
    • Glad you can relate, and also that you’ve kissed those awkward lunchtime moments goodbye Marko! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Oh my gosh, I can’t think of anything worse than having to make small talk at lunch time (unless I am with someone I know really well and feel comfortable with). I absolutely have to get out of the office at lunchtime just to take time out to recharge my batteries and NOT have to talk. But I still feel conflicted! I want to connect and get to know my co-workers better, but I so badly need time out during my busy working day where I’m alone with my thoughts, no interruptions. So so conflicted!

    Reply
  7. I can so relate to a lot of this. I remember this guy from work that would always talk to me and all he would ever talk about was snack cakes and surfing. I happen to like both however, not everyday all day. He just wouldn’t shut up. I’d try to change the subject to family or psychology or something work related,
    then he’d twist it back into snack cakes and surfing, aggghhh!! LOL 😛

    This is the same extrovert guy that I told you about before that would follow me to the bathroom, why can’t I poop alone, eat alone, work alone, please, please leave me alone dude, stop bumping into me at the urinal, don’t occupy the stall next to me, don’t sit next to me when I’m eating, and go work with someone, else, I know you like my company but please for the love of God give me my personal space. I think I was developing a complex with a side order of facial ticks. LOL Luckily he had to travel to another location to do a contract, for 8 months, so I got my 30 minutes of peace for now. 🙂 Maybe when he comes back, we’ll play hide and go seek…. “Yeah you hide and I’ll try to find you, It’ll be fun!!” 😉

    Reply
  8. I know you’ve heard this scenario before but here it goes anyway. I’m a 52 year old male and I wish, back in the day, there was something like this to help me understand myself better. I knew there was something wrong with me but didn’t know what it was. Now its all so clear and don’t feel so bad about myself. Growing up and deciding what career path I would take I knew it had to involve very little contact with humans, but yet pay well, and provide a lifestyle which I enjoy, and that is ALONE time. I find 98% of people very boring, predictable and all part of that “flock of sheep” out there. Recently I started a new job, and found the perfect position with this company. It involves very little contact with humans. At times I can go 2-3 weeks with no contact at all with any human, but yet I’m surrounded by other coworkers. Its wonderful. I use to worry about my social interaction skills, or the lack-thereof. But as I get older I find that I just don’t give a #@$% anymore. You will too as you reach my age, but I am glad I found your website today. I look forward to reading and understanding more about us introverts. Thank you

    Reply
  9. I get anxious at about 11am everyday about lunch. I’ve started a new job recently and have tried to make the effort to go with people to lunch but I’ve hated 90% of it being stuck in small talk hell, awkward silences and feeling alone (in the group!).

    The other new people are starting to make connections with the established people in the company but I’m really not, I feel like I’m just tagging along trying to bumble through. I get the impression people feel awkward around me like they can’t cope with a quiet person.

    On the one hand I want to have an hour of solitude to recharge but on the other I know if I didn’t go I’d feel sad like I was missing out and it’d hurt my job.

    I like the idea of trying less frequent deeper conversations, not really able in the lunch group (much prefer one on ones) but maybe if I just don’t go I might start finding others who like it.

    Will probably still feel that guilt for not being “one of the gang” though

    Reply
  10. You feel like you’re missing out? Missing out on what? Like you said, “small talk hell”? Believe me, most people are so caught up in themselves these days, last thing they are thinking about is anyone else, getting to know you, or making you feel comfortable in a group. Wanting to “fit-in” is a waste of
    time with people. Worry about yourself and your job and stop thinking about
    other coworkers. I can assure you, they aren’t thinking about you. They are thinking about their next cup of $tarbucks coffee, the gym, and what they are going to boast next about themselves on Facebook or Twitter…..etc.

    Reply
  11. Yes!! This is the story of my life! This blog is blowing my mind I thought it was just me…

    Reply
  12. Heh. Funny when you read something and see yourself in the proverbial mirror.

    For me it’s not lunch, but breakfast. I’m a commercial pilot, and at work breakfast time means presenting myself in the hotel restaurant, which tends to be filled with- you guessed it- people.

    Over the past couple years I’ve adopted a new strategy: rather than going down right before ‘van time’ in my uniform, I’ve taken to getting up early and going down early in my ‘street clothes’ where I can blend in with the crowd and remain safely anonymous. What’s the difference? There are a couple: 1) When you go down in uniform, everyone else in your company who happens along wants to congregate and engage in small talk. It’s only natural, right? (Yeah- if you’re an extrovert) 2) Non-company extroverts see a uniform and they see a ‘safe’ opening that they mentally interpret as an invite to conversation. If someone can easily discern something about you just by looking, it gives them a huge opening for small-talk fodder. Same thing happens when I’m ‘riding in the back.’ People see that uniform and it’s an open invitation for conversation. My M.O. while riding in the back goes like this: “ass in seat ASAP, noise-cancelling headphones on ASAP, face in book ASAP, world shut out.” It’s not that I’m anti-social- I’m just an introvert. Engaging my ‘seat buddy’ in mindless chit-chat, especially knowing that I’ve never seen them before and will never see them again…it’s just soul-draining.

    The whole lunch article was really self-revealing for me. I never really associated my ‘breakfast strategy’ with my introverted psyche, but I see now exactly why I adopted it. Gotta love it. 🙂

    Reply
  13. I am glad that you have written a blog post on this. Even I have not thought of this.

    Fortunately, I go to my vehicle and eat lunch privately during my 30-minute lunch break. I never like going to a breakroom at a job. I always expect someone or some people waiting for me to come and have an awkward and forced conversation with them. I do not know them; they do not know me either.

    Who wants to talk to a stranger about something obvious or something (e.g. what you eat for breakfast) you do not really care?

    Now, if you are talking to a stranger about drama happening on the job, politics, someone you are dating or marrying, etc., you do not mind at all socializing with him or her.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why Introverts Hate Group Conversations – Introvert Spring - […] too familiar with the PAIN of group conversations for introverts. You’ll also probably relate to my disdain for work…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *