Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Quiet" People Problems

It’s not easy being green.  At least, that is how I have felt most of my life.  I have been labeled “quiet” since adolescence.   I have been described as boring, stuck up, aloof, and a void…to my face.  I have been told being a loner is the greatest of all evils.  People have asked me, “Why don’t you say something?” “Talk!”.   At one time I had the same question.  I didn’t understand what made me so different from everyone else.  I had the same thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears as other people.  I just didn’t process or express them in the same way.

I found my people by accident when I happened to pick up the book “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney.  It was the first time I realized there were other people like me.  Until then, I really thought God had made a mistake.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being an introvert, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it was hard feeling like I spoke a different language than everybody else.  Being a non-chatterer in a society whose main social currency is chatter felt, well feels, like being a Martian who never quite fits into any Earthling cliques. 
I don’t see non-chatter as being quiet, although I understand why other people do.  I speak when I have something to say. I know a couple of people who would swear that I never shut up.  That is probably because they have never tried to engage me in chatter or small talk.  My brain is not wired for either.  I’m not knocking it.  I sometimes enjoy listening to other people do it, but I can’t do it myself.  I am much more comfortable in purpose-driven one on one or small group conversations.  Talk to me about an issue or an idea and I can go on forever, but witty banter is beyond my understanding.  I think that, as Sheldon Cooper says, I have fun different that most people.  I might seem serious, but inside I’m cracking myself up.
Introverts tend to keep to themselves, which makes it kind of hard to form a supportive community of introverts.  Another book was published just a few years ago called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.  Pinterest has a treasure trove of quotes and jokes that only a true introvert would understand.  These are the things that remind me I’m not alone on the days when I am feeling particularly Martian.  There are a lot of us out there.
A few thoughts in case you ever encounter one of us:    
  • People who only speak when they have something to say are not quiet, they are thinking.  If you ask them a friendly question or engage them in a focused conversation, they might surprise you. 
  • Saying “you are so quiet, why don’t you talk more”, doesn’t make us talk more.  It’s kind of like telling the average person to “just talk” about string theory.  We don’t know how to “just talk”.  We usually just get angry or quietly kick ourselves for feeling like a fish who can’t climb a tree.

  • The fact that we are not speaking does not mean we are judging you.  In fact, we are probably empathizing with you. 

  • We might seem boring and serious at first, but once we warm up to you, you might be surprised by our sense of humor.