Contemplative Introvert Guide for Going to Lunch With Colleagues

By Maria Jacob,

So I’m sitting at my desk and enjoying The Chainsmokers on my airpods, replying to emails, minding my own business and enjoying the solitude of not responding to in-house chatter, when The Man walks in and says “We have a new joinee today, her name is something something and such … “ (fading in the distance) as my brain says “Yay! Good for you” and switches off. Until such a time when he says “Let’s do a team lunch  to welcome our new friend” and my insides shrivel up. The small talk – loud people – can’t hear myself think – be-polite-and- smile moment as opposed to my quiet time with a book and a snack.

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Having lunch with colleagues can be a real challenge for introverts. It’s not that we don’t like our colleagues, it’s just that we enjoy our own company on most days because it allows us to space out and goof off quietly with no eye-witnesses. Small talk is a challenge. While extroverts enjoy good banter and find that replenishing, introverts have a hard time chatting up stuff that we don’t really care about (like the weather or the latest news in football) and it drains us.

 There’s also the issue when a bunch of work people get together, all of a sudden the speaking decibels go up by 10 notches and everyone else around you think you are a bunch of boisterous drunken monkeys while your group thinks they own the place and it’s ok to cause noise pollution for everyone else who is eating at that joint. Then the stares happen.

How To Make Lunch Time Tolerable

You’ve got to own the decision of the lunch destination (philosophical much :)). 

So here’s a few tips for my fellow introverts when you are caught in a no-escape situation for a lunch outing. 


  1. Quickly raise your hand to suggest a place that has really fast service

  2. The ambience of the restaurant should be relatively loud to drown out the crazy noise that’s about to happen (bonus if they have in-house music)

  3. Keep it moderately priced. Choose a pay-at-the-counter type of place so splitting the bill is a non-issue.

  4. Go with a place that has a high table turn around. When your colleagues see people getting up and going back to work, hopefully they get the hint that they can’t sit there all day and get back to the office quickly.

Suggest These Kind of Places

So you’ve put up your hand for suggestions, now what do you say? Here’s a list of deli’s cafes’ that would meet the criteria above and has outlets in malls (typically)

1. Dave's Deli

Image:@yuhsayang (Instagram)

Ambience: Working crowd in groups & relatively loud – 4 / 5

Price: Average cost (Roast chicken and a drink cost RM 24+) – 3 / 5


High turn-around: Approximately 30 minutes per table – 5 / 5

2. Teh Tarik Place

Image: @tehtarikplace (instagram)

Ambience: Working crowd in groups & loud – 4 / 5

Price: Average cost: Ranges from RM 6 – RM 204 / 5

Pay-at-the-counter: depending on the location (eg. Starling Mall)

High turn-around: Approximately 30 minutes per table – 5 / 5

3. Mall Food Court

Image: @Simon Lau (Google Maps)

Ambience: Generally Loud – 4 / 5

Price: Average cost: Ranges from Rm6 – Rm20 – 4 / 5


High turn-around: Approximately 20 minutes per table – 5 / 5


Sushi joints such as Sushi King are good too since you can pretend to analyse the food on the conveyor belt and be in deep thought over what to choose. Kills time and avoids small talk. However it didn’t make this list since they usually combine the bill and the turn-around could be low. Slightly risky with this one.


So there you have it. In a forced situation to dine with you colleagues, suggest one of these places and you should be able to come out of the luncheon without busting a nerve on small talk or smiling at something you don’t know about.

Happy eating!

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