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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.
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?