The In-Between: Quiet
I am not a loud person.
I am talkative. I am generally able to talk to most people, albeit often awkwardly and completely incapable of small-talk as I tend to jump right for the deep and meaningful questions even when I don’t know people well, but I am not loud. I often have to apologise for interrupting people. I tend to blurt out whatever thought has occurred to me mid-conversation, and have consequently been told that conversations with me can sometimes be hard to follow, yet I am not loud. This can be tricky to navigate, given I am a member of two very loud families. I also tend to gravitate towards friends who much louder than me. It’s not a bad situation to be in, most of the time. However, I certainly appreciate moments of quiet. I definitely work better in the quiet, which is why I often work late into the night when all of my family is sleeping, or get up before everyone else in order to enjoy the peace of early morning when the rest of my house is still quiet and the day hasn’t yet begun.
At work, I talk to my students about everyone having sensory cups as a way of teaching about the value of everyone’s differences. I explain how we each tolerate varying amounts of sensory input and use the metaphor of different size cups to help them understand: I have a supersized cup when it comes to visual sensory information. I can handle lots of words, colours, shapes, flickering images, and so on and don’t seem to get overwhelmed by this at all, but as soon as there is too much noise, I find myself getting agitated very quickly. I have a tiny auditory sensory information cup. Students learn to appreciate this and it makes for a quieter classroom (generally) once they understand that part of the reason I ask them to work quietly is to limit the auditory input I have to try and manage in my day. Outside of my classroom, I find myself shutting down in order to cope with excess noise, which generally looks like burying my nose in a book to help drown it out by activating other sensory cups instead, or at its worst, walking away from the source of the noise until I am able to control the overwhelm. (If only my four year old could understand this concept already as it’s not so easy to walk off on a toddler-tantrum!)
I am not shy. I am happy to put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable, such as attending events alone or going places I’ve never been before. I’m not afraid of asking questions of people or seeking help when unsure of what is expected of me even if it sometimes means standing awkwardly at someone’s side because they haven’t heard my question due to a louder person speaking over me, or having to repeat myself numerous times because my normal speaking volume is lower than people generally seem to expect. Generally, these are things I can fix. Yet being a quiet person in a loud world can be complicated. The world often seems geared towards extroverts and I sometimes find myself overwhelmed. I need time to process, to gather my thoughts and then respond, and often that’s not an option when the pace is fast and responses are expected immediately. I keep reminding myself that it’s okay to take time to process, but that I need to remember to tell people that’s what I’m doing!
A friend loaned me the book Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and I am looking forward to diving into it and seeing what she has to say about this. Have you read it before? I’d love to know your thoughts, so please share in the comments below! I’ll share mine once I finish reading it, so stay tuned.