Why is it wrong to be quiet?
I spent many years asking my child, what was wrong, why are you quiet. I just knew there was something, some struggle that I needed to fix. Yet, I have always felt there is something wrong with me, and have been labeled by other well-meaning people. I struggled to fit in, wanting everyone to like me. I didn’t understand why people labeled me some not so nice things. And here I was trying to “fix” my child. It took a very close friend of mine to open my eyes. She shared an article in a magazine that enlightened me. I decided to buy the book by the author of that article, “Quiet” by Susan Cain. Although she gave me the piece so I could better understand my children (not all of them, just a few), I was better understanding myself in the process. As I read the book, I saw not only my children but I saw myself. I finally realized and accepted that I am an introvert.
Most of you probably know an introvert, or you are an introvert. Studies suggest that every two or three people are introverts. Individuals who are not introverts are either extroverts or they fall in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, what is called “ambiverts” But I am only focusing on introverts in this blog. What is an introvert? I think that Susan Cain says it best on her website, Quiet Revolution: (I have summarized it for you) an introvert if given the choice will devote their social energy to a small group of people they care about, preferring a glass of wine with close friends to a party full of strangers. They think before they speak, have a more deliberate approach to risk, and enjoy solitude. An introvert feels energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests them. When in overly stimulating environments (too loud, too crowded, etc…) they tend to feel overwhelmed. They seek environments of peace, sanctuary, and beauty. They have an active inner life and are at their best when they tap into its riches.
So no I am not rude, shy or arrogant. I am an introvert! Some of you might say that shyness and introversion go hand in hand but as Susan Cain said in her “Ted Talk” : “Shyness is about fear of social judgment” and “Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation”.
There are many misconceptions about introverts, and I have been a victim of many of them. Here are ten misconceptions, some that I have experienced and a few others I found through my research:
- Introverts are shy. I talked about this already and yes introverts can be shy, but it doesn’t mean all introverts are shy. I actually labeled myself shy for many many years before I realized it wasn’t shyness but introversion.
- Introverts don’t like people. Needing to be alone so you can recharge doesn’t mean you don’t like people.
- Introverts don’t like to talk. Introverts can be less talkative in a large group or with individuals they don’t know, but I know that introverts are as talkative as others when one on one or in a small group situation.
- Something is wrong with introverts. I even thought this myself before I read the book “Quiet”. We all need different environments from time to time, just as an extrovert thrives being with people and the life of the party, introverts need alone time, solitude.
- Introverts want isolation. True we need alone time, but we don’t always want to be alone.
- Introversion is a choice. Ugh really, I used to think there was a need to force myself to be different than what I truly am, that I could change or needed to change. It is not a choice, it is who we are, we are all different and need to embrace that in each other.
- You know if someone is an introvert. I know from my experience that is not true. It’s not that simple to see.
- Introverts over analyze. We do like to analyze situations and consider the possibilities before making a decision, but this is a positive trait that allows introverts to make tough decisions in a rational way.
- Introverts are rude. I have been labeled this. Introverts don’t show emotion like an extrovert does. People misunderstand and mistake an introverts stone-faced manner for rudeness which just isn’t a fact.
- Introverts are not fun people. Introverts are all about having fun. They just prefer a quieter more low-key atmosphere. Introverts prefer to socialize in their inner circle of friends.
“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”
― Susan Cain
So with that realization, I now own my introversion and respect my needs. The need to have plenty of alone time, do the things I love and enjoy that recharge me, like reading a book, playing solitaire or backgammon on my iPad, watching my favorite TV shows, sharing a lovely relaxed evening talking with my spouse, my children or my closest friends. Realizing that these are things I need makes my life even better, more comfortable and easier than when I felt that they were somehow not normal, that they were wrong. Pushing against what is natural to me only left me stressed and burnt out. I do work hard at putting myself out there to go to gatherings, and push outside my comfort zone for my family and friends, but I know when I start feeling overwhelmed it’s time to retreat and recharge. I need that quiet time and space to refresh. I am okay with that.
I do hope that if you see some of these qualities in people you know or in yourself that you embrace their needs and don’t label them. The world is hard enough, accepting introverts for who they are can only strengthen us all.
“Whatever kind of introvert you are, some people will find you “too much” in some ways and “not enough” in others.” –Laurie A. Helgoe