Why Are You So Quiet?

2 min read

My best friend in high school ended our friendship in a letter. She was a year older and in her first year of college in a different city. In the letter she listed a number of issues she had with me. Of all the words she wrote me in that two-paged front-and-back handwritten missive, I vividly remember reading: “And you’re too quiet sometimes! It’s like: talk!” The words struck me with as much force as if she’d come back to town just to punch me in my stomach.

Best Friend Friendship Breakup Letter | The Girl Next Door is Black

She isn’t the last person to comment on my quietude, though thankfully others have been less hurtful about it.

Even today, nearly 20 years later, I find that sometimes when I’m with someone one on one I’m overly concerned about whether I’m talking enough to keep them entertained.

I’ve been a quieter type for as long as I can remember. As a child, some chalked it up to shyness. I assumed I must be shy since people said I was. It wasn’t until I discovered a love of performing in junior high that I realized I was far from shy.

“Oh you must be an introvert.”

Why do I have to be something? Why can’t I just be me?

You’ve probably taken one of those “are you introvert or extrovert?” quizzes. I generally fall in the center – an ambivert: not quite introverted, not quite extroverted.

Like extroverts, I often feel charged after hanging out with people whose company I enjoy. It’s being in environments I find tedious and dull that drains my energy. On the other hand, much like introverts, I tend to do my thinking internally rather than aloud to others. I form my thoughts and ideas before expressing them.

But who needs another label?

You know what sometimes happens when I tell people what I’m thinking?

One of my sisters recently told me: “Keisha, you ask these kinds of questions that my professors would ask in class that had my head hurting. They’re good questions, but it’s too early for this intellectual talk.”

I hate small talk. I love a meaty conversation and would prefer jumping into a discussion to having to answer “What do you do? How do you like it?” Gag.

That isn’t to say my brain’s always in the land of deep thoughts. Sometimes I think about things like how to incorporate “Baking soda! I got baking soda!” into regular conversation because that line cracks me up every time I hear it.

I can’t imagine what kind of writer I’d be if I didn’t spend so much time with my thoughts. I view life as a series of stories in one giant book. I weave stories in my head, the output of which you sometimes read in my blog, others I work into conversation with cinematic flair.

I spend a lot of time listening and perhaps as a byproduct, I attract talkers because they need an audience. It certainly takes the pressure off me to be a chatterbox. It’s important though to find a talker who knows when it’s their turn to listen. I find that when I do speak, people are more inclined to listen because they assume I have something to say.

There’s a less obvious way a quieter nature sometimes works in my favor. For instance, when someone incorrectly assumes that quiet equals meek and is surprised to find that I will snap back. Have you heard the phrase, “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for?” Yeah.

Occasionally someone  comments on my silence – usually a person I don’t know very well – trying to cajole me into conversation. It generally has the opposite effect intended; I don’t respond well to demands to speak on command.

I’ve been described as aloof. It’s not intentional, but some take it personally as though I’m quiet because I’m silently appraising them. It’s unfortunate, because unless someone is saying douchtastic things that’s not likely the case.

I can’t explain why I’m quieter than others anymore than my cat can explain why he always chooses to vomit on my rug instead of ANY other spot on the hardwood floor. I shouldn’t have to either. We people come in all kinds. There are those who can’t seem to stop talking, those who won’t waste words and others in between and that’s okay. As the saying I just made up goes: “Accept me as I am, or kick rocks.”

How about you? Do you get told you’re too quiet or too talkative?

47 Comments
  • jboelhower
    September 20, 2015

    I had to laugh in agreement with the example you shared with your sister saying the questions you ask are to deep. I get that same kind of response. I’m quite because small talk is boring. I want to discuss ideas that can make this a better world. I’m fine just listening while people engage in small talk. I’m thinking about deeper issues. Thanks for sharing.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      September 21, 2015

      Lol, right? Sometimes I envy those that can just natter on about nothing for hours.

      • jboelhower
        September 24, 2015

        I do because they seem to connect easily with people. But on the other hand I see the world on a deeper level and wish to connect with people that see it the same way.

  • holley4734
    July 21, 2015

    Me too! I always fall in the middle of being an introvert and extrovert! And also quiet. I’m more ok with it than I used to be. Still, I would like to be louder. I just have a quiet voice. The voice in my head is not but that’s ok too.

  • Jayne
    July 20, 2015

    I talk a lot. Whether that’s too much is up to the listener. My husband would listen to me talk for hours when we first met. I kept asking him if I should be quiet (he’s VERY quiet. like extreme) and he said no. He liked listening to me. So, I obliged him.

    People get annoyed because he doesn’t talk a lot but really, it’s not up to him (or you) to lessen someone else’s anxiety by making himself anxious for trying to have a conversation he didn’t desire in the first place.

    I like weighty conversations, too.

  • Emily
    July 19, 2015

    Great article, I’m also a quiet person often confused with being shy.

  • Emily
    July 19, 2015

    Loved this article, I sometimes get told I’m too quiet but I’m just happy being in my own thoughts sometimes and small talk doesn’t interest me. I love to just have a one to one talk with someone.

  • Linda Manns Linneman
    July 18, 2015

    I think I am probably alot like you and I think that is OK. God made us who we are and some things are just hard to change and don’t really need to be changed. I actually we need more people in the world who are willing to listen. Continue to be who you are. God made you perfect. Thank you so much for sharing

  • Alina Conn
    July 8, 2015

    Labels SUCK! There is no other way to put it. Be the silent type, you know why?!!!? I love that you said you’re a good listener. We need more listeners in this world than folks just talking because they love the sound of their own voice.

  • denise low
    June 28, 2015

    Thank you for sharing. Very interesting.

  • itsshellyscabaret
    April 20, 2015

    Agh, I would love to be able to chat with you in the flesh. I’m not big on small talk either. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes. Let’s get existential up in here! 🙂 Over the years I’ve learned that it can be off-putting to folks to want to dive into deep territory. But I just feel like ‘why not? I want to talk about things that mattttterrrrrr!’

    At the same time, I’m comfortable with silence. I learned in my Buddhism days that we don’t always have to talk to connect.

    …so pretty much for me, it’s all or nothing. haha.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 20, 2015

      Over the years I’ve learned that it can be off-putting to folks to want to dive into deep territory. But I just feel like ‘why not? I want to talk about things that mattttterrrrrr!’

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought this! Then when you don’t engage because you’re bored or feel like you have nothing to add, some take it as arrogance. Gah.

      One day we’ll meet and we can talk about things that matter and then sit in comfortable silence. 😉

  • BritishMumUSA
    April 19, 2015

    My BFF and I can sit and chat, sit and listen, and sit and be. I am going to be lost when she leaves for NC. I love being with people that listen, and observe and take it all in. That is what I do as well, when you listen you learn… Jumping in and spouting off is just poor etiquette. Just being you is AWESOME. Who else or what else would you be??? Be YOU! Putting thought into action through words, is a beautiful thing. I can’t stand small talk either, I like interesting deep and meaningful. Let’s discuss with some passion. Remember college days when we all thought we could fix the world, if we just talked and discussed hard enough… 🙂

    xoxoxo

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 23, 2015

      I am sorry your BF is moving. That’s tough. At least NC isn’t too, too far from where you are.

      “Remember college days when we all thought we could fix the world, if we just talked and discussed hard enough…”

      Haha yes. One of the first things I did my Freshman year was join a student group centered on improving multi-cultural harmony. Young, passionate students of all colors hoping to make the world a better place at a university where one of the all white frats threw an Old South party. Ah good times.

  • Jarret Ruminski
    April 19, 2015

    “Why do I have to be something? Why can’t I just be me?” This. A thousand times, this. If I had a dime for every time someone asked me, “Do you ever talk,” I’d be very well-off. The thing is, people who talk all the time are usually the ones who have nothing important to say.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 20, 2015

      It doesn’t surprise me to learn you aren’t a big talker Jarret. The way you write suggests someone who spends quite a bit of time in his thoughts – in a good way.

      “The thing is, people who talk all the time are usually the ones who have nothing important to say.”

      You said it, I didn’t! Haha. I find that those are also usually the types who are terrible listeners. I don’t dislike talkativeness, but you gotta be willing to listen to others when it’s their turn, you know?

  • Savvy
    April 19, 2015

    I had a friend send me a letter discussing our friendship once too. She had been upset because I chose to study for my upcoming CPA exam rather than attend her costumed Halloween party which was an hour away. (Every year she dressed up as a playboy bunny.) I could catch it next year. I didn’t read the letter in its entirety. I didn’t need any more negativity or criticism in my life at that time. It was the end of our friendship, but mostly because I never responded to discuss my former friend’s issues with me.

    I am quiet too. My husband who I met at a previous job said he and my co-workers had initially thought I was stuck-up. I was learning a new job and was focusing on that. I am also an introvert and shy if you are into labels. Love that you are not. I do attend (or used to I’ve scaled back) a lot of networking events and have participated in a lot of small talk. And it seems so phony. Some of it has led to some great conversations and new friendships. I guess it is one of those tasks you have to do to get where you want to be.

    On another note, my job at times completely drains me. On Friday nights I just want to chill and relax by reading a book. My husband wants to have a drink and talk. I do sometimes force myself but find some of the conversation is so-o-o repetitive. I have recently told him I just need to chill tonight then have the conversation Saturday night when I am more rested. It is still sometimes repetitive, but I am usually a better conversationalist.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 20, 2015

      Haha! I like that you didn’t finish reading that letter. Good for you!

      I get the stuck up thing. I had a former co-worker tell me he thought I was a “bitch” because he thought I was too serious about my work when I first started that job. He is very much a talker so he didn’t understand why I was so reserved (aside from the fact that I don’t mess with my money and I was at that job to get paid).

      It’s great that you have an understanding partner you can talk to about your needs!

      Thanks for your comment!

  • LaKita
    April 18, 2015

    She really sent you a 2 page letter on the issues she had with your friendship…that’s really interesting. I would have to be quiet and think deeply about that one too. I can be both talkative and quiet so I totally understand how you feel…well that and also the line ‘baking soda, I got baking soda’ cracks me up as well.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 19, 2015

      Haha, that song is so terrible, but that one line…

      The letter hurt at the time, but I’m definitely unbothered by the loss of that friendship now.

  • Leslie
    April 18, 2015

    I’m the same as you. I also have social anxiety though. It almost ruined my life but i’ve sort of got a hold on it now. The mind is a power thing & if I could have anything, i’m glad it’s that. Wow, that is sad she ended the friendship with a note. I’m stopping by from SITS, happy Saturday!

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 19, 2015

      I know some people with social anxiety and their behavior is often misinterpreted for the worse. If only we knew what other people are going through, we might be a lot kinder to each other.

      Today, people are ending relationships via text message, but I got a handwritten letter, so I guess there’s that. :p

  • Monika (@violetrootsblog)
    April 18, 2015

    I’ve noticed that when I say something people either immediately give me their attention or they just try to brush it aside and talk over me because they think my being quiet means I’m a doormat. Not the case at all! I remember when I was in school I would get so annoyed with the people who would constantly raise their hands with the sole purpose of just wanting to hear themselves speak. I’ve always been able to better articulate myself in writing and I used to only raise my hand if I had something of value to add. I’m quiet and that’s just me. I think it’s constantly misunderstood though and I wish it wasn’t. Still I never apologize for being me and I appreciate those close to me that don’t make me feel weird about who I am.

    Also, that letter sounds awful. You certainly are much better off.

    -M

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 19, 2015

      Writing is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? I am comfortable expressing myself verbally, but I love that writing enables different forms of expression – and an added benefit is you don’t get interrupted mid-thought!

      It’s so important to have people around you who accept you for who you are, rather than feeling like you need to adapt yourself. Great that you have that!

      And yes, the letter was awful!

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  • Heidi Miner
    April 18, 2015

    hahaha. Had a great laugh about the cat throwing up on the carpet only… mine does that too. One thing I love about the UK is the lack of small talk. People actually just sit in silence here and it’s ok. It was hard to get used to, coming from the US where small talk is enforced. But here you can have lunch with a friend and not be talking the whole time and still be enjoying each other. It’s refreshing. I used to be very much a talker, but in changing my culture, I think I’ve changed too… or perhaps I’ve just gotten old….

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 18, 2015

      I don’t know if that changes with age. It’s a small sample size, of course, but the older people I know who are talkers, have always been that way. If anything, I think they may talk more now than ever!

      It’s interesting what you say about the differences between the UK and US. I want to think about that some more. I’ve heard/read some non-Americans say that we sometimes come across as fake with our empty greetings and chit-chat.

      And the cat thing? Ugh! WHY THE RUUUUUUG?

  • Pierced Wonderings
    April 18, 2015

    All the time. *sigh*

    I’ve always been a listener too, and I have found that folks rarely listen when I do have something to say (who has had those awkward moments where you’re telling a story & right in the middle, just about at the good spot, and then those other folks start having another conversation? Yup) so I just don’t much bother any more.

    I find that I’m one of those people who likes to be with folks – among the crowd but not a part of the crowd – and then I need a whole bunch of down-time to recover. It gets difficult with a social butterfly husband. Most of the time I send him on his own. Occasionally I’ll go. Sometimes I go when I know I shouldn’t – like tonight – and things don’t go well.

    *sigh*

    Just *sigh*

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 19, 2015

      I have found that folks rarely listen when I do have something to say (who has had those awkward moments where you’re telling a story & right in the middle, just about at the good spot, and then those other folks start having another conversation? Yup)

      That’s so rude. I hope it’s not people close to you doing this. I figure anyone who values your company will value what you have to say. Interesting that your husband is a social butterfly. Is that something that attracted you to him?

      • Pierced Wonderings
        April 19, 2015

        I don’t know if it is what I was attracted to about him. To be honest, at the beginning it was the feeling of safety & security that he gave me. He’s a big physical presence, and he’s pretty old school Southern when it comes to notions of womanhood and his duty/responsibility that goes along with that – very protective but not smothering. & then I was attracted to his kindness and his ability to make me laugh.

        He forces me outside of my comfort zone, which is good for me, but he also recognizes that I know where my limits are (most of the time) and doesn’t push me when I am done. A lot of the time I’m content to join a little of the party and then leave. His friends have come to accept that I’m good for about an hour and then I disappear.

        • The Girl Next Door is Black
          April 23, 2015

          “I don’t know if it is what I was attracted to about him. To be honest, at the beginning it was the feeling of safety & security that he gave me. He’s a big physical presence, and he’s pretty old school Southern when it comes to notions of womanhood and his duty/responsibility that goes along with that – very protective but not smothering. & then I was attracted to his kindness and his ability to make me laugh.”

          Aw, I smiled while reading this. Your feelings for him shine through this paragraph. He sounds like a wonderful man who understands your needs. 🙂

  • Baydian Girl
    April 17, 2015

    Um…first can I say ‘What the hell?’ Why would someone send you a letter listing all the issues they have with you –> childish. Moving on, though, I am like you – I’m the quiet one. I generally appreciate those who talk and find myself surrounded by those who love to talk but sometimes it gets draining. Nevertheless, as the quiet one, I’ve responded in every way you mentioned in this post. I used to be quiet and shy so I’d say I was an introvert to explain why I didn’t speak up but now, I will snap back. In addition, the biggest pet peeve of mine is when someone assumes that being quiet/reserved equals rude or heartless. How does silence define my character?

    Great post and thank you for writing this! I’m very sure many people will identify with your story.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 18, 2015

      I am happy to say I’ve never gotten a letter like that since! That was some mess.

      I understand now that silence makes some people uncomfortable for various reasons – including assuming your rude or heartless (wow, really?).

      I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who goes through this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, T!

      • Baydian Girl
        April 20, 2015

        Yes, thank God! I don’t think anyone deserves that kind of treatment. And yes, people are uncomfortable with calm reactions and personas lol. Anyway, you’re welcome! Keep your head up beautiful!

  • Lisa
    April 16, 2015

    It’s the quiet ones who know EVERYTHING. While other people are busy with their small talk, we are listening, watching, and absorbing. Beware…

  • mojoshawn
    April 16, 2015

    I’m a talker and people seem to enjoy banter back and forth because I’m silly most of the time. However, when I speak about a serious topic they tend to listen. I’m not sure what that means. Probably, “he’s trying to be serious but still sounds like a cut up.” After listening to your radio interview (still impressed here) it’s easy to see that you enjoy a more serious, mind stimulating topic. I’m not a chit-chatter. I just like to make people laugh. I don’t have many friends I can talk to about science topics I love like Quantum Mechanics, Physics, etc. (Dork alert “gggeeeeEEEEKKK”) I’m not even close to understanding most of that stuff, but do enjoy getting a headache from it. Great read as always, Keisha.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 17, 2015

      Quantum mechanics and physics, huh? You got me there. When I think of physics, I think of my high school physics teacher who sweat through his shirts all the time. Poor guy.

      Actually, I do recall having a discussion with a friend about quantum physics and the law of attraction. I imagine that’s not quite the stuff you read up on though? 😉

      Thanks for your comment, Shawn!

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