Yes. Thank you, I’m fine.
No really, nothing’s wrong.
I’m not unhappy. Not upset. Not in a mood.
I’m just quiet.
I know you don’t understand because we’re different, you and I.
So it’s easy for both of us to misunderstand each other.
Let’s try not to though, because we can get on great if we only understood each other better.
You see, some people might call me ‘introverted,’ like they might say you’re ‘extroverted’ but I don’t like labels. Labels put you in a box and people don’t fit well in boxes, labeled or not. Everyone sees the label and interprets it differently. But they never see the person inside the box.
Perhaps if I explain it’ll help…
You see, well, maybe I should start with words. Because as a ‘quiet’ person, most days there are far too many of them.
Words tire me out.
Not your words particularly, it’s everybody’s. Lots of chatter, serious talk, fun banter – T.V. too – too many words.
I need a lot of quiet, otherwise I get frazzled.
And I think that probably makes me frown, or at least not smile so much. So it looks like I’m in a grump, or a mood, or not happy about something.
But I’m not. Not at all.
I’m just trying to block out the whirlwind of words so my head shuts up and the world stops spinning.
Hmm, I know it sounds lame. After all, it’s only words. You’re thinking ‘Just learn to tune them out’ or ‘Hey, try talking more yourself!’
Because that’s another thing that gives the wrong impression about us ‘quiet’ people.
I know it already. Not saying much makes it awkward for everyone else. For you. You don’t even know why I’m not joining in, why I bothered to show up in the first place.
That’s fair. I can see that.
Because to a chatty person, someone who’s the heart of the party, quiet can be a drag. A dull, slightly irritating drag.
It makes you feel uncomfortable. It seems weird someone sitting and watching, more than joining in.
In truth it seems a little rude that someone can come along and not make as much of a contribution. At least on the surface I can see that’s maybe how it looks.
I mean, are am I just there for the food? The drink? The kudos of being able to say I was at the party? What one earth is the point of getting all dressed up, coming all that way and then saying so little!
And then leaving early.
Oh yes, I haven’t mentioned that…
You know it catches me by surprise sometimes too. When I get excited about going out and genuinely look forward to it. And it’s all going well and it’s interesting and fun.
And then suddenly, I want to be at home. In pajamas.
It’s not that there’s anything I have to do. Or that there’s anything wrong with the party, it’s just that suddenly I want to be at home.
And yes, I feel awkward saying I need to go. And feeling that I need to have a more plausible explanation than ‘I just want to leave’.
It sounds a strange thing to say. In fact, it can sound downright rude.
So why do I suddenly have to leave? I’m not sure myself, but I have a theory about quiet people. It could be absolute nonsense for others, but I think it’s absolutely true for me.
You see, I have a tolerance level, an inner switch that kicks in after a certain amount of external things… maybe forces, no, I think stimuli is correct but that sound like a psychology textbook.
Anyway, after a certain amount of external stimuli – chatter, faces, noise – I kind of shut down.
At least that’s probably how it seems, if you’re the loudest person in the room.
It looks like I’ve suddenly gone weird. A sudden shift of mood. ‘ What’s her problem? She just sort of clammed up and then left. Did I upset her?’
Maybe ‘loud’ people need to shout and wave their arms about and get everyone’s attention to let off steam. Me, I need quiet to charge my batteries.
It’s not at all like shutting down. There’s no retreating into some dark, silent space.
Quiet is bright, it’s happy. In fact…
Quiet is my happy place and sometimes that means being alone.
Not like some lonely loner hero that Hollywood action flicks try to make out as cool or sexy. Uhuh.
Seriously, that’s not the self-image I have at all.
And it’s not personal.
We’re significantly different yes – your qualities that make others swoon don’t always shine so brightly to me. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re great. I do genuinely like you.
I don’t however want to be like you.
It looks so tiring. Being you.
Exhausting. Stressful. Full-time.
Your stamina for loud, lively, life and soul amazes me.
And exhausts me.
Yes, I could spend twenty-four hours alone, without talking, without any worries at all.
In fact, that sounds like bliss. A few times a year.
My battery pack would be so super charged after that I could conquer the world.
Ever so quietly.
Which is another thing…
There’s another misconception about quiet people that, well, I can see where it’s come from, it’s an easy mistake to make.
It’s the idea that conquering anything takes bravado, bluff, charisma.
And that takes ‘loud’ people.
Because as the loudest person in the room, quiet charisma might seem a total contradiction.
After all, where am I hiding that charisma? And why the hell would I hide it anyway?
First up, hey I’m allowed to be a little self-deluded. But only a little deluded, because everyone has charisma, loud or quiet. It’s just that mine might not resonate with you, that’s all.
Because quiet doesn’t mean not having dreams – or charisma – as big, or bigger, than any ‘loud’ person.
Take the Dalai Lama, a quiet guy, big on dreams and charisma.
Quiet doesn’t mean I want to do nothing. To be nothing.
Not at all.
It means I’m happy to quietly conquer. To achieve whatever adventures my heart desires without talking about it much, if at all. Without involving a great load of people. Without a big farewell party when I set off, or much of congratulations parade when I get back.
I’m happy just to get on with it. Quietly.
Any additional complication or attention from others is extra noise. And I need quiet. I need space.
But it’s hard to see that the quietest person in the room has got the balls or courage to go and do ballsy or courageous things, I understand that.
‘She’s as quiet as a church mouse’– maybe, but that doesn’t mean she’s as nervous as one.
In fact, the quieter she is, often the more confident she is.
Because confidence can manifest in different ways. But we’ve mostly been told that confidence is about hustling, ‘faking it till you make it’, shouting till you’re heard above the crowd. Being a human bull horn.
Which can be one way to be confident. But there are others…
- Feeling self-assured enough to let others take the limelight.
- Feeling secure enough about who you are to follow your own path.
- Not being upset that your contribution might not be heard at first.
- Using fewer words. So when you do speak, others listen.
- And using them quietly. So those people ‘lean in’ to hear what you’re saying.
Because someone who speaks quietly and only when they have something to say, can command greater attention than the loudest, most vocal person in the room.
Now I confess these signs of confidence aren’t always so evident because they’re, well… quieter.
They’re not better or worse than your ways of being confident. They’re just what they are.
Try them sometimes. If you’re confident enough.
We could get on great, you and I. Both being confident. Both going after our goals. Both happy to be at this party.
So if I’m going to use up the words I did bring tonight, please turn the music down. Just a little.
Because shouting over all that noise is just too much effort.
But I probably won’t ask you to, because I’m not a kill joy. Instead I’ll probably use up less words, and take some home with me.
Now that sounds like defeat, I absolutely see that. It sounds like being weak, like avoiding conflict.
Maybe. To you. To others.
But to me, those of us who are quiet, it’s just that peace is more important than joining in, being part of it all. Even more important than not being thought of as a little rude.
It’s more important than anything except oxygen – and it’s a close second.
Because if there isn’t peace, then there’s going to be more words, more interactions, more discussion, more negotiation. It will be totally overwhelming. All those words. All that noise.
I would love to wave a magic wand and spend a year not being quiet, you know.
Just to see if I’m wrong about how much easier you find it all. Life I mean.
Because from over here in the quiet corner, it looks like disagreements don’t bother you too much. A few words exchanged, maybe heatedly, but then it’s gone, forgotten. That’s wonderful.
It looks like being twirled into a room filled with loads of new faces, seems like just fun. That’s fantastic.
It looks like if things ever get you down, you can chat them through with a room full of people. That’s really helpful.
Quiet isn’t perfect. It isn’t better than being the loudest person in the room. And it isn’t always easy for others to understand.
It is however, who I am.
And loud and quiet can do great together.
It just needs a little understanding, a little give and take.
Fancy a quiet night in sometime?