What does it mean to have a reserved personality?

By Olivia Guy-Evans, published June 22, 2022 | Fact Checked by Saul Mcleod, PhD


Having a reserved personality means that you tend to not be open with others and prefer to remain in your own space. Essentially, reserved people like to ‘reserve’ their specific personality traits for themselves. 

Being reserved is thought to be a preference since reserved people prefer to keep their thoughts and ideas to themselves. They may prefer not to share too much information about themselves, hold back on their opinions and emotions, and may only share information when it is meaningful. 

Someone who is reserved may not necessarily be shy but instead like to take their time to think things through before speaking impulsively. They tend to be very self-aware and speak when they feel it matters or contributes something valuable to the conversation. 

Since they keep things to themselves, they may be less likely to treat others poorly and can be more respectful of others. They take the time to consider whether negative thoughts they have are worthy of being shared, or whether they are unnecessary. 

What are the characteristics of having a reserved personality?

Below are some of the characteristics that can describe someone with a reserved personality.

  1. Calm temperament 

Someone who is reserved may be described as calm and collected. This means that they do not get concerned about things which others may find stressful. They are not likely to get angry and will rarely have arguments or get aggressive. They tend to take their time to process things and do not rush into their feelings or actions without careful consideration. 

  1. Can be shy 

While not all reserved people are shy, it can be one of their personality traits. Some reserved people may be shy because they are not overly confident or self-assured.

As they keep a lot of things to themselves, they may have a hard time making friends and socialising with others. Instead, they often value close, intimate relationships rather than having many connections with various people they may not trust as much. 

  1. Solitary 

Being reserved does not mean that someone dislikes socialising, rather being reserved can make it harder to socialise. Oftentimes, a reserved person will choose to spend time on their own, meaning that everything is on their terms, and they are in control of their time.

This is important to reserved people as they do not enjoy the pressure or unpredictable nature of socialising. 

  1. Emotionally stable 

Reserved people are normally good at maintaining a steady mood. They are not likely to express intense emotions, especially in public, being efficient at managing their emotions.

Rather than experiencing the highs and lows of people who have a lot of energy, reserved people are able to keep things level. 

  1. Appreciative

Everything is less overwhelming for those who are reserved and so they make enough room for appreciation in their lives. Their expectations of others and situations tends to be lower so they are likely to take things for what they are and make the most of them. 

They can also be very reflective as they are able to take a step back and analyse what is going on. This helps them to appreciate the moment rather than rushing through experiences or constantly seeking short-term pleasures. 

  1. Dislike being popular 

Someone who is reserved does not like to be the centre of attention or be in the spotlight. This does not mean that they do not want to be appreciated for their achievements, but that they do not need or want special attention for them. 

They may distance themselves from the main event and remain in the shadows of others. Those who are reserved may be underestimated by others because they stay out of the spotlight. Others may be surprised at their hidden talents and knowledge on something when they do choose to reveal this. 

  1. Deep thinkers

As they keep things to themselves, a reserved person can spend hours reflecting on things without realising where the time has gone. They are not surface level thinkers and are able to think deeply on topics and use their self-awareness skills to help them see things differently. 

They are usually thinkers rather than doers, meaning they may spend a lot of time planning things out but do not feel the need to rush into action. They may follow through on their thoughts, but they get a lot of satisfaction from thinking things over. 


Is being reserved a bad thing?

A lot of cultures tend to favour those who are more extroverted and so being reserved is often seen as a negative personality trait. If someone is quiet and reserved due to their insecurities and lack of confidence, then this may be something that needs to be addressed and improved upon. 

If a reserved person works in a job which requires a lot of networking or being in crowded places, this can be exhausting for them. Likewise, they may be less likely to work as a member of a team, especially if they do not give attention to networking and building relationships with co-workers. 

Being reserved does not always have to be negative

Being reserved can have multiple benefits and people can thrive in life with this personality trait. Those with reserved personalities know that they prefer to give input in conversations when they feel it is necessary or useful. They don’t like to waste time on chatter which is not serving a purpose. This can mean that when someone reserved speaks up, others are more likely to listen and value their input. 

While there may be some jobs which are not suited to reserved people, such as those where teamwork and networking are important, there are many jobs where reserved people can thrive where non-reserved people often don’t do so well. Some jobs include programming, accounting, writing, and research. 

Some workplaces actually prefer to hire reserved people since they are more likely to stay focused on their tasks and get on with the job, rather than wasting time chatting to others. They may also be more likely to stay loyal to the company as time goes on. Further, they will carefully analyse their tasks before proceeding or making choices, and often will avoid any workplace drama. 

Being reserved means that you don’t allow people or society to influence how you should be. Being independent of what others think of you can make you confident in yourself. Likewise, being reserved comes with many other positive qualities such as being modest, thoughtful, and a good observer.

Is a reserved personality the same as being introverted?

Often, being reserved is confused as being the same as introverted. Someone who is introverted gains their energy from being in their own company, does not like special attention or social engagement, and may become exhausted from social interactions.

Being reserved is thought to be a trait of introversion but not all reserved people are introverts. There are also ambiverts and extroverts who are reserved who can enjoy socialising and working in teams but have a preference for processing things internally.

Why would someone have a reserved personality?

High self-awareness

Someone who has a reserved personality may have learned to develop a strong sense of self-awareness which makes them more reserved.

They may have learned that if they are more reserved then they do not give anyone the opportunity to judge them and that they are less likely to have negative interactions with others if they consider their thoughts before acting. 

Someone can develop self-awareness on their own, after experiencing negativity from not being self-aware, or through the support of therapy. 

Introverted personality

Often, being reserved is a trait of the introverted personality. Although not all reserved people are introverts, the two traits often go hand in hand.

Being introverted is a part of someone’s temperament and is not likely to change – it would feel unnatural for many introverts to not also be reserved. 

Prefer safe choices

People who are reserved may feel like the world is too dangerous and chaotic and so they believe they need to make their choices carefully and take everything in before making decisions.

Taking time to process and analyse situations can feel comforting to a reserved person and make situations easier to control. 

Childhood upbringing

How a child is raised, and society as a whole can play an important role in the shaping of their personality.

For instance, a child who is criticised by their parents for talking too much, or if their parents did not react well when they shared their thoughts or opinions, may learn to keep their thoughts to themselves.

This is not to say that all reserved people had critical parents, but it can explain why these children then go on to have reserved personalities.  

Need for simplicity

Some people may be reserved as a way to keep life simple and to not over-complicate things. They may be content with keeping their thoughts and opinions internal and do not want to complicate things by sharing these thoughts with others.

They may also want to just get on with whatever they are working on without including any outside forces. They want to focus on what they are working on until they master or become skilled and do not need to get distracted by anything external.

Don’t compare yourself to others

While reserved people are goal-oriented and disciplined, they may not have competitive traits compared to ambitious people who are not reserved. It can be hard not to compare yourself to others who are outgoing and achieve their goals. 

However, try not to measure your success based on what other people are doing as what may work for them may not work for you and your personality.

Instead, try to compare yourself to your past self and how far you have come since you started working on your goals. This will help you to remain focused on your own achievements and less on what others are doing. 

Embrace yourself

If you are reserved, then this is likely to stay stable throughout your life, so try not to resist your personality type. If you try to change your personality, it may work for a small amount of time, but after a while, you may become unhappy as you are not being your authentic self.

Embracing your reserved personality can lead to more success and growth as your focus will be on the goals that matter to you rather than on becoming someone you are not. 

Find what motivates you

Many people with reserved personalities find they are not motivated by the traditional measures of success. You may have to discover for yourself what works for you and design your life around this. 

This may also involve finding what your barriers are that are holding you back from being motivated. For instance, if you are in a career which focuses on motivating people with team spirit, and this does not work for you, you may have to consider finding a career which is better suited to you.

Focus on your strengths

As a reserved person, you may feel disadvantaged when you are in a room full of outgoing, talkative people. However, you can use situations like these to your advantage. You can use your skills of observation to analyse group dynamics, quickly absorb information, and notice key features that others may miss. 

You may be able to point things out or explain to people things that they may have missed which you have noticed from your unique perspective. Others are likely to value your point of view and may seek you out in future instances where they seek your perception of things. 

Surround yourself with other reserved people

It can feel lonely if you feel like the only person who is reserved. Try to surround yourself with like-minded people to balance your personality. You may find you can develop strong, intimate connections with people who think in a similar way to you.

This can also help you to stop comparing yourself to others as competitors and instead see them as a group of people with the same ambitions and goals as you. It may take a while to find other reserved individuals but once you find them, you will know. 

Find a job that suits you

Try to find a job that suits your reserved personality as this is likely to align with your goals and make you more content than trying to fit in with a job that contrasts your personality. 

Instead of a job which focuses on frequent group projects, constant interactions with others, or a company that has a drive culture, look for positions that have elements of lone working or independent working with more time for focus and fewer interruptions. 

Look for options to work from home as this can allow you to be in control of your work environment. Alternatively, working in your own office space or in a quieter setting with a small team may work best for you. 

Use writing to your advantage

People with reserved personalities often feel more comfortable communicating via written word than face to face. You can use writing to your advantage to gather your thoughts and select the information you want to share with others. 

When attending meetings, it can be useful to write down your thoughts in note form so you can discuss what you want to be highlighted. Writing can also be good to clear the mind of a reserved person if they have a lot of thoughts to work through and analyse. 

Develop self-awareness

As a reserved person you can thrive by nurturing your self-growth. Evaluate yourself regularly and take into account the positive and negative aspects of your personality. This does not mean to ignore the negative aspects but to constantly be working on them and improving them.

Consider the possible consequences of your actions and gain a better understanding of when it is best to stay quiet and when your voice needs to be heard. 

While being reserved is not always a negative thing, if you are reserved due to fears of social situations and being yourself, then it may be helpful to consider some steps to being more social. 

Some people may also want to become more sociable since they want to improve their career or personal relationships. You could try the following:

  • Practising eye contact with others and having open body language

  • Spending more time with people you want to form relationships with

  • Having a goal of initiating at least one conversation per day

  • Holding social events such as inviting people to dinner

  • Taking breaks from analysing everything and trying to relax and just enjoy other’s company

How to deal with someone who is reserved

Don’t take their quietness personally 

If you are in the company of a reserved person who is not speaking much, this does not mean they do not like you or you have done something to upset them. It is simply more natural for them to sit back and observe what is going on or being in their own thoughts. 

A lot of reserved people have had the experience of other people getting annoyed at them because they are untalkative and accused of being snobby.

However, they often just need time to warm up to the people they are with before they feel comfortable sharing more about themselves. 

Don’t comment on how shy or quiet they are

Sometimes people will call out reserved people for being quiet, either in a confrontational way or well-intentioned and matter of fact. However, they usually find this observation frustrating and thoughtless to hear. 

Telling someone how quiet they are can make them feel ashamed, self-conscious, and that they need to be louder, which is not natural to them. 

Give them time to warm up to you

Don’t take it personally if a reserved person does not seem warm and friendly at first. When they speak to someone new, they can often feel anxious and put in the spotlight. This can be defensive and put barriers up. 

After a while, you may notice that they become more comfortable with you and may open up to you. People with a reserved personality just prefer to have close intimate relationships with few people so don’t expect too much from them when you are still acquaintances. 

Give them time to respond 

Reserved people often like to take their time when considering the right response for someone they are talking to.

When there is a gap in conversation, you may be tempted to fill in the silence with more chatter. However, the reserved person may be using that quiet time to think about what they are going to say.

Ensure you give them some processing time to respond to you. If you continue to talk through their thoughts, they may begin to feel dismissed and steamrolled. 

Be wary of topics they may not want to discuss 

Often, reserved people may not have a big social circle or even much of an active social or dating life, so be way of having conversations with them about certain things that can make them feel socially inept.

For instance, asking them questions such as ‘What bars do you like to go to?’ or ‘What is the best date you have been on?’ may make them feel uncomfortable if they do not have an answer.

They may not have considered that they are missing out on social opportunities and should not be made to feel embarrassed for preferring not to socialise. 

Avoid small talk

A lot of reserved people may dread the idea of having to make small talk with people. This is not because they do not want to have a conversation, but they prefer to discuss deeper, more interesting topics rather than having meaningless chatter for the sake of speaking. 

They may come across as rude for not initiating small talk, but this is just because they do not see the need for it.

Instead, if you start a conversation with them about something that interests them, you are likely to have more meaningful and engaging conversations with them.

Fact Checking

Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication.

This article has been fact checked by Saul Mcleod, PhD, a qualified psychology teacher with over 17 years' experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in psychology journals including Clinical Psychology, Social and Personal Relationships, and Social Psychology.

About the Author

Olivia Guy-Evans obtained her undergraduate degree in Educational Psychology at Edge Hill University in 2015. She then received her master’s degree in Psychology of Education from the University of Bristol in 2019. Olivia has been working as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities in Bristol for the last four years.

Cite this Article (APA Style)

Guy-Evans, O. (2022, June 22. What does it mean to have a reserved personality?. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/reserved-personality.html

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