Some persons talk simply because they think sound is more manageable than silence.Margaret Halsey
Lately it seems that many of us are trying to classify ourselves, and others, as an introvert or an extrovert when in reality it’s not always distinctly one, or the other. Yet, all too often introversion comes with a negative connotation. Frequently we judge, criticize, or label ourselves, or others, as snobbish, pretentious, unfriendly, antisocial, or just downright disconnected for being quiet, or not talking and interacting enough. When the reality may be that we, or others, are either introverted, or simply too scared and anxious to interact. There isn’t always a simple explanation for someone who is quiet. The reason behind the silence may actually be complex. Introversion is certainly misunderstood, and often, criticized.
What’s So Bad About Being Quiet?
What may be misconstrued as shy, may be more about feeling comfortable observing and listening, without talking, yet still enabling us to fully experience the interaction and feel connected. Although we are not overtly participating in an active, observable way. “People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation”, according to Kendra Cherry. Our natural rhythm may be that we are quiet, and like to listen as opposed to talk. We prefer enjoying quality relationships to a large quantity of them. We may enjoy interacting with others but find ourselves drained afterward and need time to recharge alone. Then there are some of us who are truly shy and afraid of sharing or speaking up. We may feel uncomfortable in social situations and just withdraw because it feels too anxiety provoking to do anything else.
So often we misinterpret someone else’s lack of spontaneity, or their expression, or lack of greeting, as unfriendly. We might say to ourselves, “What’s wrong with them?” When the truth may be that the other person may really feel anxious and too uncomfortable to say hello, or smile, or to even look us in the eye. Often what happens then is that we label that person and don’t extend ourselves to them because of our judgment. Thus, creating a cycle of disconnection.
The Silent Struggle Is Real
It is all too common that we, or others, judge and criticize those who tend to be on the quiet side. Often they may be labeled as rude, unfriendly or antisocial, because their behavior doesn’t match our cultural idea. Our culture often sees the extroverted, outgoing, social personality type as the ideal.
Perhaps it would be kinder for us to not make these assumptions because of how we perceive others outward behavior. Seldom do we ask ourselves, “Might that quiet person feel uncomfortable or shy about saying hello or interacting in a conversation?” Or “Might this person fear rejection because of one’s unresolved history?” If they were reaching out to other people, for example, and then someone did not reach back they might hesitate to approach others. Perhaps if we took the time to provide quiet company and encouragement instead of making a quick judgment we might discover more about ourselves as well as others.
For more tips on the struggles of shyness, or introversion, please click on the link below for my complete article.
My wish for you today is that you are able to embrace your authentic self rather than succumb to the pressure to change to please others.
-Kathleen Dwyer-Blair, LCSW, BCD
Director Nassau Guidance and Counseling