As something of an introvert, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years justifying myself and my communication skills to people who believe that being ‘quiet’ is a failing. I’ve come to hate the word as a description of character, because it implies a lot but actually reveals very little.
There are many kinds of quiet, but being quiet doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is shy or struggles to communicate effectively. Unfortunately, the two words still have a close relationship in many people’s eyes.
Being quiet could mean any of the following:
Many quiet people are very good listeners and prefer to focus on the person who is speaking, rather than trying to join in the conversation by talking over them or forcing their opinions on others.
I’m showing consideration
Not everyone will naturally shove themselves forward to reach the front of the queue before anyone else. The same applies to conversation. Someone may be quiet because they are polite and want to make sure you have finished speaking before they take their turn.
They say still waters run deep. Well just because someone doesn’t give a detailed verbal response doesn’t mean they aren’t giving your idea or comment a lot of thought before they answer. They might even prefer to go away and think about something in-depth so they can give the best reply.
I’m softly spoken
Just because someone has a soft voice doesn’t mean they aren’t eager to chat or be noticed.
If you’re not prepared for a meeting or a particular chat, you could end up saying the wrong thing, perhaps even something you’ll regret. But we don’t always have the opportunity to prepare fully, we might only have chance to run through ideas in our head while someone else is speaking.
I’m showing restraint
There are some people are happy to say anything that comes into their head, regardless of how it may affect those around them. Others prefer to filter. They might listen to you ramble on about your relationship troubles for hours, but they know you’ll be upset by an honest opinion so they choose to hold back.
Some people are just naturally reticent and don’t feel the need to talk for the sake of filling the silence. This might make them the epitome of cool, or it might make them a total dick who thinks they are above other people.
I’m a perfectionist
No one wants to look like a fool. That might mean staying silent until you have something to say that you really believe in or feel passionate about, so that people will remember you for your profound contribution to the conversation rather than the flippant remark about last night’s episode of Big Brother.
I’m exploring my imagination
Many creative people have vivid imaginations; they can create whole stories, concepts or worlds inside their head. Their silence isn’t a sign of ignorance or disinterest; they’re simply engaged in their own thoughts and may have turned inward and blocked out what is going on around them.
You might be the most verbose person in the world, but if you’ve had a long day and you’re tired, it can take a lot of effort to summon up the will to talk. Good conversation requires mental stimulation.
Of course, this list deals in generalisations, although the whole point of the post is to avoid them. The point I’m trying to make is that people can be quiet for a multitude of reasons, whether they struggle in social situations or they’re a natural communicator.
Just don’t judge a person harshly because they didn’t speak as much as you would like. We’re all different and inclined to thrive in different ways.