For most of my life, I believed that being "quiet" was a personality flaw. Something to "grow out of." Something to fight against.
And if you're a fellow quiet person, I'm sure you've gotten this question before by someone with their face all scrunched up and frustration in their voice:
"Why are you SO quiet?!"
Like it's a problem.
Yes, I am quiet - at least upon first impression, and especially in big groups. I listen more than I speak. I observe. And I'm terrible at small talk.
So, how are you?
I'm good... good. How about this weather we're having?
I know, crazy right? Can't wait for summer.
Yeah, same here...
On the other hand, if you ask my family or close friends, they would have a different view completely. Because I'm actually pretty damn loud. I'm opinionated, I can't shut up about the things that interest me, and I laugh like a hyena.
So, there are a lot of sides to me - as there are for every other person in the world. This is not to say that outgoing people are better than or worse than quiet people or vice versa. Some of my best friends are extroverts! However, personally, the most consistent criticism I've gotten throughout my life was that I was "too quiet." Including this getting me negative comments about it on report cards. Rude!
And so, for years, I hated this about myself. I would look to the high heavens and shake my fists. "GOD, WHY DID YOU MAKE ME LIKE THIS? I'D LIKE A REFUND." I would kick myself every time I thought I was being too quiet. The "gift of gab" is just that - a gift. And I don't have it.
But, oh, a couple of years ago I read a book by Susan Cain: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" and I tell ya... this book CHANGED EVERYTHING for me. It finally clicked.
Quiet is not a defect that needs to be fixed
Quiet is not a character flaw
Quiet does not mean fear
Quiet is not lack
Quiet is not fragility
Quiet is not weakness
Quiet is not useless
Quietness actually produces clarity
I could go on. But with that book, and other articles and research and blogs, I found my tribe. I wish I had known this stuff when I was 13 or 16 or 21 or 25. It would have helped me navigate some things much better. But I'm happy to know it now. And I fully embrace it. BISH, MY QUIET ASS IS AWESOME.
And yours is, too. If you struggle with your "quietness" in any regard, I highly recommend you give that book a read.
Or check out Susan Cain's TED Talk for a snippet.
Now, if anybody has tips on making small talk at networking events, holler at a G. The kermit head-nod struggle is real.