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I've always been one to enjoy the company of others while off doing my own thing. Examples would be driving along in the car where everyone is laughing, conversing, and having a good time but I don't need to interact or join in. Alternatively, having company over at my house while I'm watching Netflix or playing a video game.

Not because I'm nervous or introverted, but because I simply enjoy the presence of others. I'm content and happy with the fact that I know everyone is okay and having a good time. In fact, I'd probably describe myself as an extrovert because I gain energy from being around others and will still at times chime in and interact with ease.

Is there a word to describe this kind of person or perhaps the state of feeling that way?

I've done countless searches on Google for a word that fits this description. I haven't been able to find a single result even close to it.

Possible Example Sentences:

For the possibility that the best fitting word is a noun:

  • "He found himself in a state of bliss knowing all his friends were okay. As a __________, he thought this very comforting."

  • "She was a true __________; always happy with people around but never feeling the need to join the conversation."

For the possibility that the best fitting word is an adverb:

  • "She sat quietly, happily in the state of __________ reading her book while her friends splashed about in the pool."

  • "Feeling somewhat __________, he was perfectly okay with playing his video games while remaining somewhat aloof from his friends who were drinking and being rowdy."

  • 3
    After all the requests for pejorative language, this is refreshing. – Cascabel Jul 29 at 21:33
  • 1
    @Cascabel Thank you for your feed back. I chose the variation of both adverb and noun to allow the possibility for both (as suggested by the title question). I should have been more clear, though. Thank you for pointing that out! – Cody Patterson Jul 29 at 22:58
  • @Cascabel I see what you're saying; reading the question again now it is pretty hard to understand. How would you ask the title to include both in a concise way? – Cody Patterson Jul 29 at 23:05
  • How about simply "listener" or excellent listener? This includes some but not all of your meaning. Ulltimately, sometimes a sentence or phrase is necessary. – nickalh Jul 30 at 9:10
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    Maybe it's just me, but your situation sounds like you actually are introvert. I consider myself introvert and i'm very similar. It's not being around people that costs me energy but having to interact with them – Ivo Beckers Jul 30 at 11:46
13

The problem is that, much of the time, such behavior is seen as a sign of introversion, so the available expressions like wallflower denote shyness rather than something more productive like working contentedly in a busy coffee shop.

Meanwhile, a word like bystander emphasizes nonengagement, but in no way addresses the state of the person doing it. Are they content? Scared? Furthermore, a bystander suggests an activity or event: it doesn't make much sense to be a bystander in your own home when friends are over. As for its synonyms, onlooker and other options suggest a kind of observation that need not be present. You're not necessarily looking or listening all the time; you're playing video games or watching Netflix.

So because the direct options are imperfect, I suggest going more general and then specifying what you mean: you companion or accompany (verb) or you are companionate (adj). The verb usage of the word companion is fairly unusual, but it is attested in dictionaries like Merriam-Webster:

transitive verb

: accompany

He is companioned on the trip by his wife.

intransitive verb :

to keep company

fellows that he'd companioned with many years ago

Keeping company can entail a broad range of activity, from direct interaction to having people in the same space as you. Hence you are companionate: you suitably or harmoniously accompany others. You would need to specify how these terms should be understood through context, but in the context of your sentence with its gloss the phrasing would make sense:

She was truly companionate; always happy with people around but never feeling the need to join the conversation."

Or, with the verb and some modification:

She accompanies rather than participates; she is happy with people around but doesn't feel the need to join the conversation

  • Thank you for your answer. I like this one, much like the comment from A_S00, yet a little closer to the target of what I'm looking for. I may have to settle for this if there is no direct option for word choice. I appreciate your answer. :) – Cody Patterson Jul 29 at 23:04
  • Hi, T. I usually really like your answers for their precision. This feels too broad to me. – Cascabel Jul 29 at 23:44
  • Neverthe less...I gave it a +1 – Cascabel Jul 30 at 0:07
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    @Cascabel that's fair. I think companionable silence was what I tried and failed to get at. – TaliesinMerlin Jul 30 at 0:25
15

English has better options for describing the ongoing state of "comfort without interaction" than it does for describing a person who is habitually comfortable this way.

The phrases "companionable silence" and "comfortable silence" are commonly used to describe this state of affairs:

My husband and I can often be found together in companionable silence, whether out at dinner or at home, for which I am truly grateful.

(Joanna Rawbone, The joy of companionable silence)

If you can maintain a comfortable silence with someone and enjoy their company without fidgeting or worrying about what they are thinking, your relationship will stand the test of time.

(Arohie Chopra, How To Use Silence To Put Your Relationship To The Test)

These phrases contrast with "awkward silence."


However, I don't have a good term for a person who has the trait of finding such silences comfortable.

Informally, I would probably describe such a person as "chill," but this is much less specific than what you're asking for; it just means someone who is pleasantly non-stressful to be around. If I wanted to be more specific, I would have to bust out a whole sentence, like "Tom is usually pretty quiet, but he's good company."

  • 1
    I like this answer as well, however, it's not quite what I'm searching for. Silence is not what I'm really describing. In fact, usually the opposite would be surrounding the subject who, themselves, are silent. Perhaps not silent themselves, too. There could be the occasional victorious outburst after winning an intense match of video games! Again though, I appreciate your answer! :) – Cody Patterson Jul 29 at 23:02
  • Actually, companionable is the first word that came to my mind. After all, true companions don't feel the need to fill every moment with conversation. – Gnawme Jul 31 at 4:53
5

The nearest I can find is self-effacing.

"He found himself in a state of bliss knowing all his friends were okay. As a__self-effacing man.___, he thought this very comforting."

"She was truly ___self-effacing____ ; always happy with people around but never feeling the need to join the conversation."

self-effacing: adjective UK; not making yourself noticeable, or not trying to get the attention of other people:

Somehow this seems appropriate for such a self-effacing man. Link C.E.D.

For the possibility that the best fitting word is an adverb:

"She sat quietly, happily in the state of ____self-effacingly______ reading her book while her friends splashed about in the pool."

"Feeling somewhat _____self-effacingly_____, he was perfectly okay with playing his video games while remaining somewhat aloof from his friends who were drinking and being rowdy."

  • To me, self-effacing means that you don't like to toot your own horn. It doesn't say anything about not joining in at a pool party. – aparente001 Jul 31 at 14:05
  • @aparente001 Your quite right but if you look at the question I answered, as opposed to the one now shown you will see why, There were only 2 option then. Answering questions on this site is like walking on quick sand. it's always shifting under your feet, – Brad Jul 31 at 14:15
  • It is hard to be sure quite what OP is looking for with this question! I myself proposed two words that I thought fit the description, but then when I looked again today I discovered that the example sentences called for a different approach.... – aparente001 Jul 31 at 14:20
4

Hank is reserved. Or, a sentence: Hank doesn't mix -- don't take it personally.

Now, the definitions:

reserved: 2. avoiding familiarity or intimacy with others; formal or self-restrained. (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)

mix: 10. to associate or mingle, as in company: to mix with other guests. (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)

For your specific example sentences:

  • (Here, the protagonist's special nonparticipatory quality is irrelevant)

  • "She was a quiet person; happy with people around but not feeling a need to join the conversation."

  • "She sat reading her book, happy with her quiet companionship, while the others splashed about in the pool."

  • "Feeling somewhat detached, he was perfectly okay with playing his video games while remaining somewhat aloof from his friends who were drinking and being rowdy."

3

I have seen the term "lurker" being used although in some contexts it might have negative connotations.

  • Would you please supply more details? Sorry, but his isn't really an adequate answer. Where have you seen it? What was the context? Do you have any quotes? – Peter Jennings Jul 30 at 9:17
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    I think lurker implies observing unseen or at least unnoticed. At least the only use I have seen is for web forums, group chats and such, where there may be readers who are entirely invisible, or who are shown in participant list but it is not clear if they are online or observing. In "real life" situation this would be akin to spying or eavesdropping, so yeah, quite negative. – hyde Jul 30 at 9:50
  • @DSamson - Thanks for your contribution! I see you are a new contributor, and you might not realize yet that when you post an answer to a "single word request" question, you're supposed to provide a dictionary definition, a usage example, and a link when possible. – aparente001 Jul 31 at 13:29
2

Very often there is not a single word to describe a complex idea or human state of being. Many of the answers above are interesting descriptions of personality traits or behaviors. But the original question uses dozens of words to describe the feelings, actions, attitudes and behaviors that are impossible to distill into a single term.

People could use a single word to describe the behaviors and attitudes in the question -- but they are unlikely to be the positive, affirmative descriptions that such a person would want to hear. While you may say the person is happy and content to be quiet while others are having fun, the descriptions that this behavior would generate may be negative.

People could describe this person's behavior using these words: quiet reserved recalcitrant contemplative introverted sullen withdrawn solitary silent watcher (not a participant)

1

I'd use self-contained - indicating a person capable of enjoying the company of others, but not needing it.

  • I like it! You can strengthen your answer by providing a link to a definition. – aparente001 Jul 31 at 14:03
1

The expression 'fly on the wall', a common idiom. Not necessarily negative, pretty neutral.

0

English does have a common phrase for asking if you could join someone who wants to be in such a state: "Would you like company?" This has the implication of sharing in an activity without necessarily having much direct interaction between the two people.

For example, if I mention that I'm going shopping and a friend asks me, "would you like company?" that carries no implication to me that my friend would converse extensively with me, help me shop or that she would do any shopping herself. (Perhaps she instead wants to run other errands that can be done in that area, or just get a look at the area.) However, she would probably, but not necessarily, be available for me to converse with should I want to.

I also would not expect that she stay with me for the entire duration of the activity; her purpose might also be just to kill a little time with a companion before going on to do other things.

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