You know how sometimes an idea keeps presenting itself to you in various ways until you feel it’s a sign of something? That’s how this post came about. In a couple of other blog posts I’ve read lately, the idea of silence as a negative kept popping up. So here’s an open letter to all extroverts on the topic of introverts and silence.
We know it’s of great concern to you that introverts are sometimes — or often — quiet. For some reason, this kind of freaks you out. I think you have some misconceptions about what it means to be quiet.
We aren’t upset. Or angry. Or depressed. Or scared. Or nervous. Or any other negative emotion you can think of. We aren’t talking because we’re probably doing something else. We’re thinking. Or listening. Or watching. Sometimes we just don’t have anything to say (which may be hard for you to believe, but it’s true). We need to take in an enormous amount of data before we can output any data. Please don’t mistake silence for problem. That’s almost never the case.
It’s not a reflection on you. I know some extroverts who seem to think that introverts being quiet means something is wrong with them (the extroverts). Please don’t take it personally. We aren’t being quiet to offend you. It’s just the way we are.
We’re thinking about what to say next. Sounds silly to you, probably, but our brain pathways are much longer than yours. It literally takes us longer to come up with a thought and then put it out into the world. Here’s your process:
Here’s the process for introverts:
2. Is this what I really think?
3. Is this something I really want to say out loud?
4. How should I say it?
5. Waiting for a lull in the conversation to get a word in.
6. Wait, maybe I should rephrase that.
7. Okay, now I’m ready.
We know you have the best intentions when you are worried about us. You are genuinely concerned and we love you for that. But when you start asking questions like “Are you okay?” you imply that something is wrong. And sometimes — when we lack a little bit of confidence or are in a new or unfamiliar situation — we might start to believe you.
Imagine what an introvert child will think when parents or teachers are constantly asking, “Why are you so quiet?” The child may grow up thinking that there is truly something wrong with them. In fact, quiet is a natural state for introverts.
So — don’t worry. We’re fine. When we fall quiet, just let there be silence for a moment. Experience it. Observe yourself in silence and see what it’s like. You might learn to like it (well, at least a little bit.)
Image credit: dirkercken / 123RF Stock Photo