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In defense of quiet people

I am a quiet person.

You would not know this by reading my blog. Here I’m all, “Blah, blah, blah, chocolate, blah, blah, blah, headache,” but when I’m not typing on my laptop, I tend to keep my mouth shut. I tend to keep my mouth shut when I’m typing on my laptop too because talking while typing is weird.

To be a quiet person is to always be defending your right to silence. No, there is nothing wrong with me. If I don’t have anything to say, I don’t say anything, and I’m often thinking things I know better than to say out loud. But to be quiet is to be thought defective or stupid. It’s having a Kindergarten teacher who wants to hold you back because you don’t socialize with the other kids. (Who wants to chat with Kindergarteners anyway?) It’s having a professor tell you, “I always worry about the quiet ones.” It’s riding in elevators, knowing you’re supposed to chat about how cold it’s been but not being able to bring yourself to talk about such inanities. It’s dreading going to the hairdresser because you know she’ll try to talk to you about your plans for the weekend and what movies you like. It is being cornered by loquacious people who talk and talk and talk and you nod and “Uh, huh” and don’t know how to stop the verbal diarrhea spewing out of their mouths. It is being told you are a good listener.

Sometimes my mom calls me and I have nothing to say. I’m not angry, I’m not tired, I just don’t have anything to talk about. Sometimes I visit my brother and would like to just sit at the table and know I don’t need to say anything. It’s the comfortable silences I like. We don’t have to fill up the room with empty talk. Fill it up with undemanding quiet instead.

Perhaps this is why I have developed my “on” personality. I turn that part on when I have to be on stage and entertain and interact. It started out being a fake part of me, but I’ve used it so much that it is more real. I can flip the switch and be outgoing and confident and funny. But I can only power that personality for so long before I need to flip the switch off again and come home and sit on the couch. I like to just sit, to stare. The value of doing nothing is underrated.

I am quiet. I’m not broken or sad. I’m not ignoring you or shy. I just have nothing to say and when I say something I like for it to have meaning. My words should have value. I wish I did not have to defend this.

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114 Comments

Rose • February 26, 2009 at 9:45 am

You just described my life.

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fin • February 26, 2009 at 9:50 am

Hi PastaQueen,

You’re not alone. I tend to be quiet and am constantly nagged by a particularly verbal relative who suffers from diarrhea of the mouth.

I too have an “on” personality. It gets switched on for holidays and such. I get so mentally exhausted after “on” mode that I look forward to quiet weekends at home reading or staring out the window. It’s nice to be able to sit quietly and reflect and not feel that it’s absolutely necessary to fill the void with chatter.

Just because we enjoy quiet doesn’t make us weird. The world is full of noise pollution as it is.

Enjoy the peace and quiet! :)

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Amanda • February 26, 2009 at 9:53 am

I am quiet to. I find that sometimes it makes others uncomfortable and then I turn into someone I’m not, trying to talk about anything to break the silence. I try not to do that very often. I realized I am making others happy and myself left wondering, “what the hell did I just tell them?”

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Anna • February 26, 2009 at 10:10 am

I can relate. The biggest problem I have found with being quiet is that people think you are not friendly or snobby. Although, I’m getting to the point now where I don’t care what people think! Not to mention I justI don’t have it in me to be phony. If I don’t like something or someone, it’s very hard for me to pretend I do.

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Erin • February 26, 2009 at 10:27 am

Yes.

I actually perform on stage fairly often, but I’m naturally quiet. It used to really bother me that I wasn’t more outgoing, but over the last few years I’ve come to terms with that part of my personality. Now, if I need to tell my husband to go out without me because I need some quiet time, I’m ok with that, and don’t feel guilty about it any more.

Also, I hate having to talk to the hairdresser. I don’t know you! Just cut my hair!

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Mary • February 26, 2009 at 10:49 am

@Erin – That’s so funny! I find myself picking a hairdresser depending on my assessment of the need to talk or whether I think I’ll have anything to say to him/her!

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Juliet Colors • February 26, 2009 at 10:50 am

There’s another word for this: introvert. I score pretty highly on the introvert scale, and I can relate to everything you’ve written here. I’m proud of my introvert temperament, but I agree that it is very frustrating to be put on the defensive by people who do not understand this personality type.

You might enjoy reading this book by Marti Laney, The Introvert Advantage: How to thrive in an extrovert world. It helps explain why introverts are the way they are and how to optimize the pros of being introverted. (I have no affiliation with the author.)

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Mary in TX • February 26, 2009 at 10:54 am

I’m one of those “talkers” (however I’m very quiet around my family, hmmm…). I have come to realize that I need to give some space to quieter people. Or just understand that maybe they don’t have anything to say at that moment!

I have a friend from the past who just found me in Facebook (the wife of my husband’s friend actually). I find it much easier to “converse” via computer. I’m learning… bear with those of us who seem to need to fill every silent corner.

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cc • February 26, 2009 at 10:57 am

i am a very chatty person. if i don’t chat it all stays in my head and i go quietly mad. i also really need a quiet hour or two on my very own every day, but that’s more a personal space question than anything.

But in high school i got to know a quiet girl really well. she had a reputation all through middle school of being “nice” and i had also always assumed she was a really nice person. however as our friendship developed i discovered that what she was really doing was quietly keeping her critical and judgmental thoughts to herself. we’ve been great friends ever since but i’m also a little afraid of quiet people ever since. So PQ you don’t have to defend yourself, but remember that your quiet thoughts can be intimidating to some :-)

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Cathy • February 26, 2009 at 11:00 am

I know what you mean. Normally I am very outgoing and talk a lot, probably more than I should. (My youngest daughter takes after me which is why she keeps getting in trouble at school…pair likes to talk with immaturity about knowing when NOT to talk and you have a problem) But there are those days where I just don’t feel like talking. When I”m mad I don’t really want to talk. When I’m sick I don’t really want to talk. But people just find it impossible to believe that GASP, there are other days I just don’t want to talk too. My parents are the worst about it…if I”m not talking then supposedly I’m mad or have an “attitude” and then have to defend the idea that its neither of the above, which they still don’t believe.

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K. • February 26, 2009 at 11:04 am

I can soooooo relate to this post. I attribute it to having been an only child for the first 10 years or so of my life – and even when my sibs came along they were so much younger than me that it was still almost like being an only child.

I have friends and family that I love to death but sometimes avoid b/c they are so dang chatty. No such thing as a brief “I just called to say hello” with them. Just go on and block out 30 mins or more!

I sit comfortably in silence while other people act like something is wrong w/ that. I don’t get that AT ALL.

I HATE HATE HATE when people talk just to talk. I have a couple of coworkers like that and sometimes I’m tempted to say “shut the hell up you just like to hear yourself talk.”

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Sarah • February 26, 2009 at 11:13 am

Ditto.

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Shari • February 26, 2009 at 11:15 am

I’ve never heard anyone else describe this so well! I’m forever telling people, I’m not shy, I’m just quiet. My ideal mate (who i haven’t found yet) will be someone who is as comfortable with my quietness as I am.

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JCap • February 26, 2009 at 11:18 am

Pasta Queen,

Thank you so much for writing this. This is an issue I’ve been struggling a lot with lately, and it’s great to read that I’m not the only one!

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AquaMarine • February 26, 2009 at 11:33 am

I couldn’t have said it better myself! If I’d only had a dollar every time I heard “you’re so quiet” or “don’t you ever talk?”, I’d be living on St. Barts (in a quiet, humble abode) by now.

I too have now developed the “on” mode and when “on” has been on for too long I get mentally fatigued and irritated.

One bad thing, when I do have something to say, I usually never get a word in edgewise with all the chatterboxes.

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Jamie • February 26, 2009 at 11:43 am

I completely understand. I’d like to add that there’s nothing wrong with a person who likes spending time alone, either. You’d think I’m a serial killer, or something.

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Foodie McBody • February 26, 2009 at 11:56 am

Thanks for the really helpful insight into quiet people. I am not one myself, and QP tend to make me nervous, yes because I think they don’t like me. And.. isn’t there ALways something to talk about??? I hate stupid chatter about the weather etc but I always really appreciate people who will talk about things that really Matter to them.

The only quiet people who don’t make me nervous are Buddhists because I just assume they’re being contemplative. :-)

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Chrissie • February 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Not only am I quiet but I’m also fairly somber which a lot of people mistake for sadness. I’ve been like this for about forever, at least since childhood according to my mother. I get so tired of people telling me to cheer up because I’m not chatty or smiling all the time.

I’m so grateful that most of my family and close friends understand that I’m a fairly quiet person. They don’t expect much from me in the way of conversation and seem content to let me sit and just be there.

It’s interesting though to note that where I am very introverted my sister is very extroverted. If she isn’t texting a million people she’s on the phone talking. She seems to thrive on constant conversation. It’s kind of fascinating (though exhausting) to watch.

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Lynn • February 26, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Very well said. I’d rather be quiet and comfortable with someone. It’s much more telling about the relationship, I think.

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Wendy • February 26, 2009 at 12:25 pm

@Juliet Colors – YES! I highly recommend the Introvert Advantage! I’ve heard that roughly 75% of the population is extrovert, and 25% is introvert, so that is why there is so much pressure to be outgoing. BTW, introvert does not necessarily equal shy. It just means you need alone time to reenergize. We talk to say something with meaning, not just think out loud. And we actually use different brain pathways and chemistry to think! The book is so illuminating, and really helps with acceptance of self, as well as giving us language to discuss the issue with others.

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Lori • February 26, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I think we’re twins.

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cloudy • February 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

The best haircuts are done in complete silence.

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Sheila • February 26, 2009 at 12:51 pm

It’s too bad that being quiet is judged as being on a par with being an axe murderer, rather than accepted as being within the range of normal human behavior. I’m contemplative, I keep negative thoughts to myself, and yes, I’m even shy! So shoot me already, or better yet, leave me in peace to live and let live.

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Kyle • February 26, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I can relate since I too was almost held back for being quiet. But you knew that already.

I guess you could say I grew out of that. I’m probably now on a sliding scale of quiet to verbal diarrhea, just a little too chatty. Or maybe a lot too chatty, I really don’t know how much people hate talking with me.

I know it feels like I’m constantly trying to convince you to move to Chile, but seriously. You’d love it here, people don’t make small talk. Ever.

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MISS M • February 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Thank You and that’s all I have to say!

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Jodi • February 26, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Wow, you just posted exactly what I was thinking last night! I have to flip on my chatty switch at work in order to get anywhere in the company, I dread going to the hairdresser and actually plan out stories before I go to cover the bases, and I just get tired of having to be that person. Just let me sit in my corner, observe, and I’ll talk if I feel like I have something to contribute.

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asithi • February 26, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I am an introvert. I like doing things by myself and spending time just thinking or reading. But you can never tell when you meet me.

I love chatting with people. You can say that I spew “verbal diarrhea” on a regular basis. But I find that you start with the small things and work your way up. I see small talk as a chance to get to know people and find common ground.

But I still need a couple hours each day where I can sit quietly and not have to talk. That is why I love my exercise time.

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deanna • February 26, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Why are you defending it? I don’t think anyone should feel the need to defend who they are… you are what you are, and you are wonderful !

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Jennifer • February 26, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I’m also an introvert-I need my alone time to re-energize. I do enjoy being around people, that is people whom I know and like. But small talk with strangers? No thank you. Needless to say, the semester I spent waiting tables was one of the worst times of my life!

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Susan • February 26, 2009 at 1:48 pm

It’s dreading going to the hairdresser because you know she’ll try to talk to you about your plans for the weekend and what movies you like.

OMG this is so me! I HATE going to the hairdresser because I feel totally trapped in the battle between inane chatter vs. akward silence. Glad I’m not the only one who feels that way.

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Brandi • February 26, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Thank you SO much for this. I’ve spent a large portion of my life dealing with it. Oh, and don’t forget that if you’re quiet, you must be aloof or rude or something unpleasant.

I’ve got two extremely noisy, outgoing children and I struggle with the quiet thing daily. I think it adds to my insomnia. After a day of interacting with that level of noise and chatter, it takes quite a while to wind back down.

Anyway, thank you for letting me know I’m not a freak for actually enjoying silence and quiet.

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nicole • February 26, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I couldn’t have said it any better, I am exactly like this post except I’m a little more socially retarded than you and I’m still trying to perfect my “on” switch.

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Liza • February 26, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Totally agree, if one more person says to me “Boy can’t get a word in edge whys with you, haha.” I will smack them. I also hate the people who think that you are sad or depressed just cause you do not need to fill empty space. It’s like read more, or spend more time alone and then maybe you could shut up too.

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Nancy V. • February 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I could totally copy paste this on my blog (don’t worry I won’t!!) You are totally me!

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KateG • February 26, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Hear, hear. I relate to this post because I am generally quiet too. I like it when I can have comfortable silences. Unfortunately, my current roommate is a big talker and I am trying to find a nice way to say, yes I like talking some of the time, but often I just want to read. Sigh.

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Jen • February 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Holy wow…

Do you care if I print this out and show it to my coworkers and friends?

Quietly high fiving you…

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Dinah Soar • February 26, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I’m somewhat like you..can be on–but must have my off time. I have to be careful though…I can be garrulous as well if in the mood. When I am, I get on my own nerves, pity the poor people around me. I hate that, being garrulous…I’m married to a quiet man..it took me a good long time to understand that when he is quiet he is not mad or whatever..he also prefers not to make inane small talk, although he can when he must.

Thank God for the quiet people!! Can you imagine what it would be like to live in India where they are almost, at least in my experience, non-existent??… and where the call to temple music blares over the loudspeakers for hours???.yikes..no can do. Don’t get me wrong..I have nothing against India or Indians..in fact I have an affectation for India…just saying.

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nolafwug • February 26, 2009 at 2:38 pm

A thousand times yes! I’m right there with you.

I can perform well socially but it exhausts me and I don’t prefer to spend my time that way as much as your average person does.

It does get easier with practice and over time however. Having kids has forced me to get better at it so that I can chat comfortably with their teachers, their friends’ parents, etc. These relationships are so important (if superficial) that I want to make a good impression. Small talk is your friend here.

My partner is as extroverted as they come and this has been a huge challenge to our relationship. Since he’s in the majority he can sometimes act like there’s something wrong with me and that makes me very angry. But over time he’s come to understand and work around my need to be alone. And I’ve come to understand his need to be around people all the time.

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Dee • February 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Wow, you put that so well.

I feel the same way, and am so often irritated that others (try to) force me to defend my need for quiet re-charging.

I’ve realized it’s best to go Zen about it, realize it’s their problem that they don’t understand, and don’t try to explain.

But it is so relieving to hear that there are others out there who get it!

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CYFN • February 26, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing. -William S. Burroughs

Blessed are they who have nothing to say, and who cannot be persuaded to say it. -James Russell Lowe

He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know. -Lao Tzu

My fav. is the last. I have always been the diarrhea of the mouth kind of girl, and then I learned a thing or two about quiet contemplation and being ok with silence. It is not so scary now, to be silent.

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Dee • February 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm

@Foodie McBody – Exactly! Quiet people are doing the same!

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Dee • February 26, 2009 at 3:01 pm

@Liza – i laughed out loud at my desk at work (twice) with this one!

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Katharine • February 26, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Thank you, PQ! Silence is definitely beautiful.

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Julie • February 26, 2009 at 3:23 pm

@Juliet Colors -

Right on! This was an excellent book. It made me feel OK about myself for the first time. I spend a lot of time “processing” information, so am not outwardly vocal. I’ve always been misunderstood by others.

Bravo!

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sara • February 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Your first few sentences really made me laugh.

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Minze • February 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm

IMO this is culturally influenced. Not that this will be of any immediate help to you. But somewhere, very far away, there could be a country where introversion is the norm. Have you ever been to Finland? Apparently, they’re all rather quiet around there. A Finnish friend told me that it’s pretty usual for a room full of Finnish girls to go silent for minutes on end.

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Merry • February 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm

“__________________________.”

[I have nothing to say about this post, so have just posted a silent comment.]

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crazylady • February 26, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I totally identify with you on this one. The more I feel that I should be talking in a situation the quieter I get… my mind just goes blank. My mum has a good saying for my quietness:

“Still waters run deep”. I love it! Makes me feel intellectual even if I’m not very :)

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Katie • February 26, 2009 at 4:05 pm

PQ, I think we’re twins separated at birth! This is just another in a long list of your entries that I’ve read and thought, “Wow! That is exactly what I would have written had I written an entry about this.” That then makes me want to write an entry about it, but then I don’t because I don’t want everyone to think I was copying you.

My dad, who never shuts up, is always asking me if something is wrong or why I’m so upset because I don’t talk. I sometimes feel like screaming, “NOTHING IS WRONG!! I just don’t feel the need to yammer on and on endlessly like you.”

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Emily • February 26, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I can relate. When someone says I am too quiet or don’t talk enough, I feel annoyed. If the tables were turned, how would that person feel if I just came out and said, “you’re loud and you talk to much.” It would be considered rude, I’m sure.

Thanks for your post. I enjoy your writing.

And since I have never commented before, I wanted to say, I am very impressed with your weight loss achievements. I struggle with my weight, but i am trying to make some lifestyle changes and so I think of your story often.

Thanks

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Amy • February 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I am exactly the same way and I really wouldn’t want to be any other way.

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Rebecca • February 26, 2009 at 4:30 pm

As another one who rates high on the introvert scale, I can understand what you’re saying (although I tend toward the talkative side myself). It’s like smiling. I don’t have a naturally smiling face, OK? Apparently it’s not OK, because of all the times I’ve been told “Smile!” I usually give them a grimace/smile that shows them it could be worse.

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Rebecca • February 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm

@Juliet Colors – My library doesn’t carry this book, so I plugged “Introvert Advantage” into Amazon, which came up with 66 choices! Seems there are a lot of us out there.

Unfortunately, on the first page was “Introvert to Extrovert”, but there are more books FOR introverts.

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Rebecca • February 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I forgot to add my two bits about other cultures. The Japanese have an advantage in negotiations with Americans, because they are more comfortable with silence. They can just sit not saying anything, and Americans rush to fill the silence.

Perhaps you can put your natural reticence to use?

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Dana • February 26, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Thank you!

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z. • February 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Thank you so much for this! I love knowing that there are others like me–especially others who are as witty and articulate as you are. At a recent holiday with my significant other’s family I was singled out by a relative as being “too quiet”–as though this would bring me out of my so-called shell! It was agonizing, because I *am* shy in addition to being quiet. I wish our society had more respect for silence.

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Ang • February 26, 2009 at 5:53 pm

I once had a coworker tell me I was being selfish because I was keeping my thoughts to myself. As if I am morally required to share what I am thinking!

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she shrinks • February 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Thank you so, so much for posting this.

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anji • February 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Amen sistah! I didn’t talk for the first two years of school… and, when I did? All the kids cried because they thought I couldn’t speak and I scared the shit out of them.

I hated school, I hated being the center of any attention, I hated making small talk….

But now? I’m now the freakin’ teacher and have to talk and explain my thoughts as part of my job… granted, I’m not a chatterbox but I no longer get bowled over or let my shyness take over…. I still love having quiet moments at home, I enjoy my peace that I can find at any time… I love being able to entertain myself and I also loved never getting into trouble because I was talking too much in class or anything.

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cindy • February 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm

@Emily – yes, I hate it when people say that in such a rude way, usually. I always struggle with being shy, I hate it, I feel so uncomfortable cause I feel like a social retard, but thanks Pasta queen and all the commenters, it feels GOOD to know there are others like me and that this is a natural personality. WOOHOO! BIG TIME!

also, someone also told me still waters run deep one time, made me feel so GOOD! yipee!

1st time commenter, long time reader, these discussions are great! and comforting to ppl like me. :)

from sunny cali

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G.G. • February 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I’m a serious introvert, but a high-functioning one in situations where casual conversation is required. I’ve had to learn a lot of coping skills to do my job, so a lot of people I meet now have no idea.

The best coping skill I learned was to ask people questions about themselves, and then ask follow-up questions. I usually don’t have to talk much when I do that.

What I think is interesting about you is that you’re very economical with your words in an online setting, too. I’m not talking about your blogs, but about your comments. I don’t say a lot in person, but I go on-and-on when I’m writing things down. Your personality seems more consistent!

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Lauren P • February 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm

It’s like reading the story of my life…my kindergarten teacher wanted to hold me back because I was quiet and shy, yet I was one of the only 5 who could read.

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Mary Jean • February 26, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I so totally agree! I do talk to people I am very close to but before I walk into any type of gathering I have to stop and prepare myself to become what I call the “pubic” me. The private me is verrrry quiet and can go an entire evening without speaking a word. Luckily, I marrid a quiet man! I do talk to my hairdresser. But she’s been doing my hair for 20 years!!

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Denise • February 26, 2009 at 7:13 pm

That is totally me! Thank you!

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Camevil • February 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm

You like to talk, just on your own terms. I’m kind of the same way, which is why I prefer writing over annoying cell phone calls.

The most annoying person in my life right now is the lobby attendant in my building who INSISTS on saying Hello to me every morning. I do not “good morning” back to him and it has now turned tense. His “hellos” and “good mornings” followed by hard stares are downright creepy.

We all need our personal space. Especially now with cell phones, twitter, etc. we make ourselves too available, too accessible to other people. People expect you to take the calls, return the emails, and constantly update. It is/it’s going to make people psychotic.

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Amy • February 26, 2009 at 8:55 pm

@cc – I agree! As a natural chatterbox, who knows MANY kind, quiet people. But I think there is definitely the tendency to automatically equate “quiet” with “sweet” and “shy” and “demure.” I have met and befriended people like your friend too… and there are many, many quiet people who are also tough as nails, in a great way!

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Marshmallow • February 26, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Oh my gosh, I am on the verge of making out with you right now.

And I’m a quiet person n’all, so that’s saying something.

{{HUGS}}

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baretta • February 26, 2009 at 9:15 pm

thank you!

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Carol • February 26, 2009 at 9:24 pm

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Wise words from my wise Father.

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Becky B. • February 26, 2009 at 10:53 pm

I am so glad that there are other people that dread going to the hairdresser for that reason!

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PastaQueen • February 26, 2009 at 10:56 pm

You know, for quiet people y’all are rather chatty :)

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Osa Morena • February 27, 2009 at 12:53 am

What she said. Thank you sooo much!

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Sandy • February 27, 2009 at 1:18 am

I have always been very comfortable in my introverted skin because it was a clear topic of conversation in my family.

My maternal grandfather was quiet to the extreme – the story is that it was mentioned to him in one large gathering that he was not talking and participating and his answer was “I think my share.” Made it all more comfortable for me.

This was growing up in a very extroverted family (he who talks the loudest and fastest gets what he wants), but at least they understood I was just like grandpa.

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julie • February 27, 2009 at 6:36 am

Pick up a copy of The Introvert Advantage. Both my husband and youngest son are introverts. Sounds like you are one too and you are right – there is nothing wrong with being introverted, but we value extroversion in our culture, thereby making introverts feel bad about their way of being. Hence your professor “worrying” about the quiet ones. Seriously, pick up the book, it will be a very confirming read for you.

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Hallie • February 27, 2009 at 9:00 am

My husband is just like you. It’s taken me a lot of years to accept that but now I appreciate how he is.

Thank God though, as a huge extrovert that could talk to a wall, I have 2 wieners that are forced to listen to me babble!!

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musajen • February 27, 2009 at 10:08 am

I’m definitely the introvert and get to listen to a lot of verbal diarrhea. Lucky me (sarcastic me).

A quote I like … “constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.” (Charlie Kaufman)

I love being with people whom I can just sit with quietly and enjoy their presence … no pressure to add vocals. So soothing.

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13reboot • February 27, 2009 at 1:05 pm

De-lurking to thank you for this post!

I used to think I was shy – but realized that when I’m part of a group of people that I feel “safe” with, I’m actually quite talkative and opinionated.

But I do need to come home and just have the blessed quiet envelope me after being social.

I think my version of hell would be a cocktail party. >>

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KBH • February 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm

You all may be interested in the great article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic from March 2003: “Caring for Your Introvert.” It is apparently the most visited article on their site.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200303/rauch

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Conny • February 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm

There are lots of “quiet ones” out there, myself included. It’s the first item I’d put on my “25 Random Things About Me” on my Facebook profile:

1. I’m an observer. While it may look like I have little to say, I’m taking everything in first and then contributing to the conversation.

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Lydia • February 27, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I can relate to everything you wrote.

I’m a homeschooling mom of 3. I used to be a classroom teacher and a radio host. I sometimes get so sick of the sound of my own voice I want to run screaming out of the room. Not having to talk at the end of the day is a huge relief.

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RG • February 27, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I love this article’s reaction to the kinds of issues you raise:

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/09/how-to-go-from-introvert-to-extrovert/

In my summary, his point is that being an extrovert is not equivalent to being shallow; having social skills doesn’t rule out chosing to do quiet things; and being social is a learnable and valuable skill.

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RG • February 27, 2009 at 9:08 pm

@RG – PS – I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly many years ago. When I was 21, I started taking dance classes. Not because I was naturally graceful, but the contrary, that, according to a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “That which we think we cannot do is the thing which we must do.” And, you know, it’s this amazing thing to me to be comfortable with my body, to be comfortable moving to music.

Talking is the same thing; there are social games and verbal diarhhea but you can also talk poetry or whatever matters to you. It’s a skill, sure, to learn how to extemporize. But if someone wants to talk to you, if they’re open to hearing what you have to say, why negate that? You’re thinking anyway; unless the issue is that you’re trying to hear something else (music or TV) or that you think that talking slows your brain down too much or you’re trying to sleep.

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Julie • February 28, 2009 at 3:25 am

love of my life and i spend whole weekends not saying anything to each other cos we have nothing to say! i deal with the public a lot in my job and it’s lovely when i get home to be silent. i know what you mean.

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Nikki • February 28, 2009 at 5:51 am

Have you ever looked at any Myers Briggs quizzes or analysis? It’s very interesting, as I am an introvert too but it was only when I started looking into this that I realised why I think and act differently to a lot of people. It’s all about how people have different preferences. I think if everyone in the world was made to learn about MB then we would all understand ourselves and each other and get on a lot better!

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Kate • February 28, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Good lord, yes.

I remember attending a conference a few years back. It was one of those ‘group workshop’ types, where you break off into small groups and ‘brainstorm’ ideas. What usually happened is 5 people would bring up the same idea over and over again, convinced that their idea was unique. Because of this, I didn’t feel the need to repeat the same concept-it was redundant. So, I simply listened until I felt I had a fresh idea contribute.

It was at this point that a kindly older woman (I was probably the youngest in the group. I find age has a lot to do with this) gently put her hand on my arm and said, ‘it’s ok, dear. Don’t be shy. You can speak up whenever you feel like it.’

When I told her that I was fine, she said that I just ‘looked uncomfortable’. This was a shock to me, as I felt just fine until that moment. Of course, now I felt self-conscious. And I never thought of myself as shy, either.

I felt this huge wave of rage sweep over me, and I couldn’t understand it. Why would I be angry at this woman who was just trying to be helpful?

It wasn’t until I got a little older that I understood that it wasn’t me that ‘looked uncomfortable’. It was her. My silence had made her uncomfortable. So she wanted to change it.

Quiet ones are ‘sneaky’. You gotta watch out for the quiet ones. You never know what they are plotting…all of these phrases are the result of how uncomfortable people are with silence.

This is something that happens to me over and over again. Under the guise of kindliness, people subtlety express their discomfort with silence, often by making it ‘our’ fault. (i.e. you don’t HAVE to be shy…)

We’re not shy. We’re just quiet. And yes, we’re probably plotting against you.

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Andy Lee • March 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Lol – fake’d it till you make’d it!!

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Christine • March 3, 2009 at 8:42 am

You may be interested in Brian Little’s work on “Second Natures”. Basically, he says that everyone has a first nature, which is their unaltered state. Yours would be that of someone who is introverted. But he says that people have an ability to cultivate a second nature, which is for you someone who is extroverted. It’s not your normal, unaltered state, but it’s still just as much you.

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Robby Slaughter • March 3, 2009 at 9:01 am

I have the greatest respect for people who choose when to speak and when not to speak. Opening your mouth should be reserved for when you have something to say, not when your brain produces any thought.

The problem, however, is that our society rewards talkers. In fact, studies have shown that leadership positions are awarded for speaking up, not for having good ideas. Calvin Coolidge is the last president who was elected while being known as a “man of few words.” We have covered this pheonomenon on a recent post on our corporate website. Since Jeanette prefers that we leave URLs out, you can Google around if you want to read it: “Leadership Competence: An Oxymoron?”

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Melissa • March 3, 2009 at 11:45 am

When you’re truly comfortable with someone, silence can beautiful. And if that person happens to be yourself, more power to you!

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Sarah • March 3, 2009 at 8:42 pm

I feel ya on almost this whole post. My best friend is a very, very quiet person, and people always think she’s upset about something, to which my response is always “No, she’s just a quiet person. She doesn’t talk unless she has something majorly thoughtful to impart. She’s quiet, and that’s who she is!”

But then you say: “It is being cornered by loquacious people who talk and talk and talk and you nod and “Uh, huh” and don’t know how to stop the verbal diarrhea spewing out of their mouths.”

I find that slightly insulting- as a loquacious person myself, I KNOW that I talk a lot, but- aren’t you just condemning people who talk a lot, in much/exactly the same way that you feel you yourself are condemned for being quiet? I don’t see anything in that sentence/paragraph in which you say that we talkative folks are condemning you for not responding. : / I certainly don’t feel that way about either quiet or talkative people- people are who they are, and I don’t judge them for it. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my talkative personality, the same way that I never think there is anything wrong with my quiet friend. That’s just who she is, but I am who I am- and who I am talks a LOT. I can’t help the way I am, any more than I can help that my friend keeps silent most of the time (and I wouldn’t want to change her- that’s who she is).

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Amber • March 3, 2009 at 11:11 pm

I have always felt this way! Look how many of us there are! We’re not alone!

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Amber • March 3, 2009 at 11:49 pm

@Chrissie – I can totally relate. I sometimes love to talk a lot, but those times are pretty rare. I have always been a “somber” person. But I’m not shy or snobby or sad (I used to be shy but as an adult I am totally comfortable talking to people. I got called “snob” a lot in school). The wheels in my silly brain are just always turning. I like peace and silence! Is that so wrong? :)

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Amber • March 3, 2009 at 11:53 pm

@Nancy V. – I did! But I did say I didn’t write it and I did provide linkage. I used to wish I were more like other people, but notsomuch anymore!

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PastaQueen • March 4, 2009 at 11:22 am

@Sarah – It’s the cornering part. The way that I can’t leave without being rude. For example, I put off reading this comment for half a day because it was long. I got to make a choice. But when a talkative person corners me, I don’t know how to escape without being rude. I’ve never seen a quiet person corner someone like that.

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Laura Brandon • March 6, 2009 at 11:38 pm

My God, Jennette, get out of my quiet person head.

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laura • March 14, 2009 at 11:51 am

What is really missing there with the excuses for being quiet is that when you are extreamly quiet you are not giving. It is giving to the others in the room, in the conversation, in life. I am around someone all the time who dosent talk. It is in my mind very very selfish. All the pressure is on me and others to decied everything. Where to go eat, what to do, what bills to pay. He never has anything to say about anything. He is suffed up in his own head not talking oblivious to others around him. At parties it is awkward to be around. I feel if you dont want to participate than stay home, buy a house or rent an apartment and stay by yourself. If you dont want to talk why do you want to be around others? They give to you, why dont you want to give to them? It is pride and selfishness to not talk at all, to sit there silently and not add anything. It would be like Joining a football team and sitting on the bench and not giving at all. I mean I am not saying a person has to talk and talk the whole time, but at least some conversatioin. Feel obligated to participate, make some comments or than STAY HOME!

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PuertoRican Dude • March 24, 2009 at 9:34 pm

You described many aspects of my personality, and doing nothing and just siting there staring somewere is one of my fav past times especially when it is staring at the sky.

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Roisin • May 21, 2009 at 3:04 pm

@anji – i can relate to this. the first time i spoke in school was the middle of 3rd yer and when i did everyone went immediatly silent and looked at me like i had two heads. onestly i dont know how some people can yammer on for ages.

silence is a language understood by few.

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Emily Roberts • August 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm

I too am remarkably introverted and quiet. I prefer to spend most of my time alone thinking, and even spending excessive amounts of time with a single person can be draining. As taciturn people we are regarded as strange and peculiar, because we are misunderstood, which is a pity really. I know I hear from my very verbal family constantly that I “never get excited about anything, never say anything.” It’s not that I’m not excited, or uninterested, it’s just that I don’t have it in me to make a huge deal about everything so that people can see it, I prefer to keep my “happy vibes” to myself, and no one in the extroverted world understands that.

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Karen • December 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Thanks i needed to read this . I just got ridiculed today because I am a quiet person-boring yada, yada yada….. We are special people and i am glad to know that I am not alone out here. :-)

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karen • December 4, 2009 at 5:15 pm

@anji – that is so cute. :) Made my day to read this.

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Eva • February 4, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I found this after searching “tired of not being able to get a word in edgewise” while the caller on my cell chatted away, the same person that actually yelled at me recently for not having anything to talk about. The irony kills me. Everything you mentioned is familiar and yes, meaningful. THANK YOU for communicating.

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Eva • February 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Oh… and I HATE when I have to be “on” so long Ischmoozing for work, etc.) that my “on” button gets stuck there because I’m SO overtired that I’m numbly chattering just like the ones that so often corner me, and have to find a way to retreat until I can recenter. I feel like the “Girl in the Red Shoes”…soul-less dancing mouth… I don’t get how people can do that all day!

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Derek • February 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I so glad that I’m not the only quiet person who has dealt with some extroverts misinformation about quiet people. We love people like eveyone else. We are not better or worse (morally). We have a quiet spirit that we cannot change (in my opinion). I think the reason why some extroverts have a problem with us is because of envy. Some of them need people to validate their self worth. Alot of quiet people dont.

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S • February 28, 2010 at 7:47 am

I used to be very shy as a child. I still am slightly, but since I started work I have gradually started to overcome this. I am not suddenly going to change the way I am because it bothers other people.

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KristiLis • April 24, 2010 at 2:48 am

Um… now that I’ve read this, I am totally going to be following your blog. This has struck a chord with me.

Also, you call yourself the “PastaQueen”? That is enough in and of itself…

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jo • June 11, 2010 at 3:29 am

I find it unusual that such a “quiet” person would even start a blog. Clearly you have things to say? So is it just the act of speaking aloud that you dislike? Or you are just that enamored with silence? You are often thinking things you know better than to say aloud? Does that imply that you are constantly thinking inappropriate or rude things? Being judgmental? What does that really say about your personality? All conversations are meaningful, even small talk. Communication is the most important thing we have. Its how we send and receive information, impart knowledge, express emotions, build relationships…you know….all those things life is all about?

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Kiwi • June 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm

WOW, that’s totally me!
I found this blog after having a fight with my mom…. she’s the queen of small talks with strangers, and she thinks that there is something wrong with me being silent.
It pisses me off that I always have to defend myself (with her and other people too), I am NOT a freak, I just don’t have things to say all the time!

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Lisa • August 14, 2010 at 12:36 am

My boss ask me one day, do I think that most quiet people have low self-esteems. At the same time she made a comment about her and her family being loud mouths. As if she were proud of that fact. Anyway, it’s clear she thinks I have a self-esteem issue, because now she is acting like a bully towards me. Thank goodness I don’t have to see her everyday. I don’t know what to do to solve the problem shot of quitting my job, which I do like. I have always being quite outgoing and really talkative as a child, as a matter a fact I got into trouble constantly for talking. My third grade teacher could not sit me next to anyone, because I’d find something to talk about. He made the comment it wasn’t worth moving me anymore. Maybe I grew up and realized that was not the way to act, or maybe I just don’t want to talk as much. Either way, I don’t feel that being quiet reflects ones self worth. I don’t really like people who have verbal diarrhea. They usually repeat themselves, end up saying something that has already been said or they say something that is extremely stupid. II think this type of person is generally the one with lower self-esteems because they have the compelling need to be heard and or to hear themselves think.

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Lisa • August 14, 2010 at 12:40 am

P.S. I like what Derek wrote ” Some of them need people to validate their self worth. Alot of quiet people dont.” This will posted at my workplace.

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Penny • September 14, 2010 at 3:45 am

Well, I am late to the discussion but I did bring my thoughts, :) First, wow. Thank you for this post. I think this needs to be posted and seen by numerous individuals that I know of. Second, I have two responses to laura and jo:

@ laura, it isn’t so much about the whole “giving” aspect. I feel that a lot of individuals who are “quiet” are told by different people in his or her life that something is wrong with you and the pressure to change in order to fit in with everyone else is the real crux of the problem. A person should be respected for his or her traits and personality instead of judged for his or her perceived lack of contribution to a particular conversation. I believe that real social skills involve awareness of other individuals’ temperament and not on trying to “fix” them as if they are a project.

@jo I don’t find it unusual at all that a quiet person would start a blog, so unless I am misreading your comment, I don’t understand it. While communication is vital to life, silence and reflection are also necessary. Communication has a wide range of variation so why can’t individuals communicate in different ways whether it be through talking or through silence?

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Pat • December 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

@Anna –
I too am extremely quiet. It’s very very hard to deal with society. I understand completely about how everyone talks like it’s absolutely a necessity. I don’t get it. Why? People also like to talk as much as possible because it’s a skill and they use it to dominate or just take advantage of others or to manipulate.
I have alot of depression because I feel I don’t fit in. Don’t know if my email shows up here, but you can write me if you like at manatee36@yahoo.com anytime!
Pat

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Pat • December 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm

@Emily Roberts –
Hi Emily,
I too am extremely introverted. It’s nice to know others still exist like me in this crazy world of non stop talkers. I feel like everyone is against me because they think I’m trying to avoid being social like everyone else or maybe I think I’m something special. But the thing is…they don’t know how much it bothers me feeling like I don’t fit in and feel left out. I feel like I’m against everyone because of them talking and socializing and I’m on the other side opposed to society. YET…they probably think I’m something special in my head. It’s painful.
You can write me if you like..my email is manatee36@yahoo.com
Pat

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Kelly • March 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Oh thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.

Aaaand thank you.

I’ve posted about this before. I hate having to defend myself to people. I like being quiet. Occasionally I can be boisterous and even outgoing, but it’s not my “natural” self. People assume I’m not happy, when actually I’m RIDICULOUSLY happy, as long as I’m allowed to just….be. The biggest hurdle for me is most of my friends are extremely extroverted. And I love them for it, but they exhaust me. I have very few quiet friends. I need more of them.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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