Today, for the umpteenth time in a million encounters with people I’ve barely met, I was asked the following question:
Are you always this quiet?
And even though I am always preparing myself, subconsciously, for this moment, I haven’t come up with a snarky answer yet. Maybe it’s because I really am this quiet. But in all actual fact, what am I supposed to say? Yes, I am this quiet, but now I’m sort of not because, you know, I’m speaking.
Except, today, I finally had a sort of rebuttal for the world: what is wrong with silence that everyone is so uncomfortable with it? Headphones and cellphones are in our ears more than sound itself. Doesn’t anyone notice that someone has to do the listening while others do the talking? Why do we encourage people to speak when they have nothing to say? What, I ask you in my loudest voice possible, is wrong with being quiet?
Personally, I have never been one for small talk, and it seems to have run in the family. My grandfather, an incredibly successful and powerful man, was incredibly irritated by talk of the weather or of nothing in particular. And so am I. Why try to fill the silence with words that don’t mean anything when you can wait a few more seconds and craft something profound? Why be loud when you can be quiet? Has the Internet, with its pleas and encouragements to divulge what we’re thinking, completely ruined silence for us all?
Without commenting on these greater societal ills, I can only make a stand for my own issues. I am quite aware that my silence stems from a small word that can cause big problems: shyness.
This, mind you, is not the same thing as being introverted (although I am introverted as well). Introverts have been recently championed online as the underrated counterpart of the extrovert. To be an introvert, one simply needs to seek alone time to feel “recharged” and “energized,” whereas extroverts seek people to fill that need. Two sides of the same coin, really.
Shyness, however, is a horse of a different color. (Although, not a loud color because the horse does not want others to notice him, because, you see, he is shy.)
Shyness is simply believing that what you have to say is not meaningful to the conversation. Or, shyness is the general feeling of anxiety when one thinks about speaking in a conversation. Essentially, you would prefer to let other people talk.
Of course, shy people’s lives are punctuated by others encouraging them to “speak up,” when they’d prefer to dig their own grave and lie in it right then and there than draw any more attention to themselves.
All I can say is that there are many, many, many types of people in this world. And there is, and always will be, a place for shy people. When everyone else is too concerned with hearing themselves talk, we will keep the silence golden.
And actually, I encourage everyone to be a little quieter. You may hear something you’ve never heard before because you were too busy talking. In fact, you may hear a shy person trying to finally speak.