All my life, I’ve been told I’m a quiet person. I’ve heard it from strangers, work colleagues, and even close friends. I don’t worry about it most of the time. It’s simply who I am and I can find myself filling up with regret when I feel I talk too much. As if I’ve shared too much of myself, realized how much attention I’ve had on me, or taken up too much space in a room.
There have also been times where I wished I would have fought against my silence and said something. But I’m not always great with speaking in general and it can feel like the moment rushes by. Then it’s too late for me to express myself, which leads to a bit if regret. I often consider what it is I want to say and how to say it.
I’m used to seeing my friends’ faces filled with disappointment as I meet them with unenthusiastic silence instead of sharing stories with them. Or the surprised faces they make when they find something out about me because I didn’t tell them straight away. I’m happy to talk about things in an objective way, but my mind seems to draw the line when it becomes too personal as I’m naturally quite guarded with what I share about myself. Perhaps it’d be fun to be the one with all the stories, but I’m more comfortable with things being this way. I won’t share things to please others; that’s simply something they have to accept.
There are times when I genuinely wish I could get words out though, but they simply don’t come out. This happens to me particularly in conflicts and risks of confrontation. I’m not a person who raises my voice, but my sister (aka my best friend and previous flatmate of several years) for example, needs to let it all out in a loud, shouting battle to get rid of the tension and bad energy. However, that doesn’t work so well with me. When we got into arguments I would go quiet, shut down and/or leave the room. And she’d sit on the couch ready to explode without anyone to release it on.
I just didn’t want to fight with her because, in my mind, that spread more bad energy. I wanted to protect us and give us time to collect our thoughts to be able to have a rational, honest conversation about it at a later time. No yelling needed, just peacefully explaining our point of views.
Once, however, when we were both speaking past the lumps in our throats after a period of not getting along so well, I was able to explain that I cared so much about her and our relationship that I couldn’t admit that we weren’t getting along. We did everything together, she was my best friend, and yet we struggled through everyday life, but I wouldn’t give into a big destructive fight with her.
And then she told me, with a trembling voice, that when I shut down like that, it made her feel like I didn’t care. At all. Like our issues weren’t important enough for me to even dwell on.
Her words blew my mind and broke my heart simultaneously. I had unknowingly hurt the person closest to me by just wanting to protect our relationship. It was a hard pill to swallow and something for me to be more aware of. In hindsight, I realized my way wasn’t the greatest way to deal with things, and I know now that not everyone will interpret my silence the same way I do.
Fast forward a year or two. We had gone on a trip and had traveled for 24 hours straight. On our way back, she suddenly turned towards me, sighed, and said: “You are the quietest person on Earth”. She almost laughed at her own statement.
According to her, she would initiate all the conversations and I would only reply with a few words or an “hmm”.
Really? I thought back to see if it was true. If it was, why did I do that? What did that say about me? How did it make her feel? Was she upset about it? Or had it gone past that to the point of mere annoyance? Should I apologize? Or explain myself? But what was the explanation? Should I just start talking about something instead? What should I say then? I don’t want to say something just for the sake of it now that she’s pointed it out! Or would that show her I’m trying to improve? Or am I in a bad mood and that’s why I’m not talking? No, I’m fine. Tired? Well, it has been a long trip. But no, I feel quite normal. Content even. The flights have been good, I’ve been getting enough sleep and the movies I watched-
“See!” she exclaimed, springing me from my thoughts. “Even now you don’t have anything to say about what I just told you!”
Oh, okay. I see now.
So what did I do then? I said “hmm” and we ended up laughing about it and then she spent the rest of the trip home talking to the guy next to her. She got a new friend and I got some time to… well, think. Ponder. Get lost in my own world. (Seriously, sometimes I don’t even know where my mind goes, time has just flown by all of a sudden). For someone who can get as restless as her, I understand it doesn’t exactly improve the situation having a quiet travel mate. Whereas for me, I needed to process everything that was going on in my surroundings, because there’s so much of it when you travel.
Other times, I feel upset with myself for all the potentially missed opportunities of events, people and jobs. I don’t want to miss out, but sometimes my silence holds me back in a way I can’t control in the heat of the moment. I try not to think about all the what if’s, but they occasionally do arise in the back of my head, making me wonder how different things could have been. But I guess everyone has those thoughts, right?
All in all, I’m fine with being quiet. I like taking the back seat to observe what’s around me. Just by doing that, I feel like I’m a part of a conversation. If someone’s complaining I never share things with them (this is usually people I’m not that close with), it doesn’t really affect me as I’m not going to do it just to please others. I try my best not to be too quiet so that I’m not being rude, hurtful, or missing out on opportunities I would like to go for… once I’ve thought them through of course.
Have you ever experienced a time when you struggled with your silence? Share below!
Edited by Viveca Shearin