I hadn’t realized how much it bothers me until today. The Curse of the Quiet People, that is. Let me explain.
A friend invited me to participate in a project she is undertaking, called Women Under the Big Sky. She is photographing and interviewing a variety of women who live in Montana, and her interview questions are fantastic. She is asking questions that allow a person to share real insights into who she is, what she has experienced and what is important to her.
For someone like me, generally a Quiet Person, it was spectacularly refreshing and I was grateful for the opportunity. Because for the most part, the Quiet People don’t get asked a lot of questions about themselves. And because they don’t typically feel inclined to insert themselves into conversations with assertiveness or persistence, they often sit on the sidelines in group settings – observing, listening, wishing someone would bring them in and give them a chance to contribute.
This project allowed me to share myself and some of my story with people who have never thought to ask, or have never had the opportunity to ask, about my life and experiences before knowing them.
I try to be an interested inquirer – I haven’t always been very good at it, but I’m trying to be better – someone who probes into people’s lives and backgrounds to know more about them, their interests, and where they’ve been. My husband is exceedingly good at this (he is a Quiet Person, too). He can tell you a tidbit (but usually much more than a tidbit) about all manner of interests, hobbies, or obscure subjects because he has spent a lot of time asking and listening to people through the years.
Recently, we had a fine visit with friends from back east. After sitting down to tea, within minutes, our friend turned to my husband and said “Now, Duane, I’ve been thinking about something and I want to hear your thoughts about it.” We enjoyed a second visit with them a couple of days later, as we all needed more time to hash out the issue. I was heartened by these visits, because a Quiet Person had a chance to be probed and heard. At the same time, I was bummed out because these friends live so far away and our visits are limited to once a year.
Today, as I thought about this, I realized that there are people whom I spend a good deal of time with socially who really don’t know much about me or what I might have to offer to a conversation because of my background and experiences.
And now I turn it back on myself and ask, Which of my friends have I not taken time to probe, discover their stories, experiences and ideas? As a Quiet Person and introvert, I am challenged by this.
I suppose my lot in life as a Quiet Person is to enjoy and appreciate the deeper friendships I have with the people who do listen and probe, while hoping that the Outgoing People in the periphery of my life will perhaps see that even us Quiet People have experiences, life stories, opinions, and ideas that are waiting to be probed, heard and valued.
If you would like to read my interview, you can find it here.