It sucks sometimes to be introverted
The quiet of the introvert - and what it can mean
Silence is my heart's word. When I think of silence, I immediately feel good, safe, relaxed, satisfied. I feel like myself. The silence is something special for introverted people.
Sometimes it has to be quiet around me to experience this feeling. Sometimes it is enough for me to be quiet myself and watch life around me in silence. Sometimes it's best when both are there and I can listen to the silence.
Silence can be a source of energy, a pleasurable state, it gives space to my thoughts, lets my creativity flow and is, overall, vital for me.
But it can also be a protective shield, a signal that everything is getting too much or that I am not feeling well.
It is a word that can express so much.
Introverts are quiet people. That's in the definition of introversion. (Yes, there are also introverts who can be loud - maybe because they have a lot of extravert personality parts in them, or because they have trained themselves for a long time to better adapt to their surroundings, or ... We are all just individuals, after all. But the majority of introverts will agree with me.) But what our silence means on a certain day, in a certain moment, can be completely different.
We intros are empathetic and have a keen sense for our fellow human beings. Some will find it easier to interpret the silence of another introvert, others less so. Extraverts will have a harder time understanding the importance of silence to us.
I have read that there are 421 (!) Words for snow in the Scottish language (yes, apparently more than in the Inuit!). The word silence is so important and complex for me that I sometimes wish I had a lot more words to better express my respective state of silence.
There are some synonyms for silence in our language, such as peace, silence, silence, harmony, calm, relaxation, unity, harmony, silence. But most of these terms don't really get to the point, I think.
Here's what it can mean when intros are silent:
1. Shyness (although it is not so often)
Introversion is often misunderstood and interpreted as shyness, even equated with it. It's the most common misinterpretation that we struggle with in intros. Shyness is a characteristic of its own. Extraverts can suffer just as much as introverts. Shyness is a social fear of interpersonal relationships. Then being quiet is a consequence of being shy.
You're quiet because you're shy, but you're not necessarily shy just because you're quiet. Silence can mean shyness, but it often doesn't in introverted people. Shy people are silent for different reasons and feel their own silence differently than introverted people. They suffer from it more often, while we intros can rather enjoy our silence.
2. Conscious observation
This is our great strength and (at least for me) often the reason why we are silent. Whether new situations, strangers, new thoughts and ideas - we observe before we act. Unfortunately, we are often perceived as aloof, shy or disinterested in this - a common misunderstanding that we are all familiar with.
We introverts are calm and with ourselves in order to be able to observe our environment (often ourselves) better and more intensively. We equip ourselves with information, weigh up and want to be sure of our cause before we take action and leave our state of silence. Difficult to understand for extros because they react rather impulsively and think while speaking.
This “time to think about it” is one of our most important strengths, I think. As a result, we not only act more carefully, but also need them for our personal feel-good security needs. Unfortunately, it often leads to us being misunderstood.
3. Lack of interest or confidence
When we are bored in a situation, we tend to withdraw into ourselves and become still. Then we are actually as distant as we are often wrongly accused of. In a boring conversation in a group with several people, we do not go briskly and try to change the subject, but withdraw inwardly, remain silent and hope for better times.
It is similar when we don't trust someone (yet). We then feel more confident to keep our communication down to a minimum in order to reveal as little about ourselves as possible.
However, that depends very much on the situation we are in. One should not rashly interpret our silence as disinterest or distrust, because one of the other reasons may just as well prevail! See for example points four and seven!
Similar to No. 3, we internally disengage ourselves from a situation, but not for reasons such as disinterest or distrust. I know it very well from myself that I have been openly and interestedly involved in a conversation for a long time, until suddenly, from one moment to another, I feel the need to withdraw.
There is a very simple reason for this, and it has to do with the great need for rest in intros. My social battery is then simply empty, I hardly have any energy left to absorb and process the many stimuli of verbal and non-verbal communication.
I feel the need for alone time, but out of politeness I don't say goodbye immediately (or for some other reason I can't leave the situation). It is purely a protective measure of my body to become still in order to use the remaining energies to process the inevitable external stimuli.
5. Avoid or defuse conflicts
Avoiding conflict has nothing to do with being shy. A conflict means high energy consumption - energy that we normally need for everyday external stimuli. That is why we introverts are very much in need of harmony.
Silence helps us connect with our thoughts and intuition, evaluate situations and search for solutions. We strive to deal with a conflict in a well thought-out and solution-oriented manner, not to argue thoughtlessly. That is why it is sometimes better to remain silent than to utter thoughtless words that further exacerbate a conflict or allow it to arise in the first place.
6. Recharge your batteries - as important as the “daily bread” for intros
Energy is always the big topic of introverts: How do I find the right amount of time out to fill up my energy sources and reduce over-stimulation - without isolating myself too much from social contacts and "missing out on life"?
The quiet moments are our gas stations. Each of us has to go to it more or less often and for a long time, but always regularly. Then we can plunge back into everyday life, open up to new encounters and gain new experiences.
7. Silence as a sign of great interest or enjoyment
This point seems to be contradicting No. 3 at first. Well what now, disinterest or interest? But that's exactly how it is: the silence can mean a lot! We like to think hard about interesting topics - and that doesn't work so well when you're chatting.
When we get to know something new that arouses our interest, regardless of whether it is a text, a person, a country, a demonstration - whatever - then we literally absorb or soak up all of it. We don't want to miss out on even the smallest detail, we are fully focused on it - and are silent so that we can really take in everything.
The same applies to moments that we want to enjoy to the fullest. Imagine a sunset that two people watch together and talk non-stop - they deprive themselves of the true enjoyment of the experience. Enjoyment is closely related to silence.
8. Listen to your own thoughts
The brains of introverted people work differently than those of extroverted people. Information loops more loops through the nerve tracts until it is processed. When we think about a topic, we trigger complex streams of thought and associations. If you don't know that, you can't understand how you feel about it.
On the one hand, it can be quite exhausting, sometimes even annoying, slowing down or even nerve-wracking. On the other hand, it's just amazing! Most intros love their deep thought processes and discover what new ideas and insights are developing.
I love to think about my day in the evening, to sort and evaluate my experiences, maybe to look at them again from a different perspective and to collect suggestions for the next few days. This is one of my most important quiet moments of the day.
The vast majority of people who are sad are quiet and withdrawn (unless the sadness triggers anger). This is no different with intros than with extros. Extros are less likely to have other occasions to be quiet and are more likely to associate silence with sadness or other negative feelings. That is why they often assume intros with us that we are sad because we are "so quiet". In doing so, they forget (or don't know better) that there are many more reasons to be quiet with intros. (But if you have read this article, you now know what else can be behind it!)
Nevertheless: as with all people, sadness can of course be a reason for silence and seclusion.
Conclusion: The quiet of introverts can have many reasons!
Don't make secret guesses when you're in the company of a quiet, introverted person. There is a good chance you are wrong.
The diverse meanings of silence by introverts leave plenty of room for misunderstandings and misinterpretations. For us intros it is by no means always the best option. For example, some conflicts should be dealt with better (No. 5), or we lose ourselves too much in unsightly carousels of thought that are not good for us either (No. 8). But silence is an important part of us and not infrequently our way of dealing with things.
Silence is a Multifunction tool for introverts! Take a close look at an introvert when they're quiet. Then you can see whether he is comfortable, maybe even concentrated or fascinated, whether he just needs a break, feels uncomfortable or even has grief. If in doubt, you can also ask briefly - but please do not disturb our silence for too long 😉.
How is it with you? Can you agree with the meanings of silence? Do you know maybe more? Write me your experiences in the comments!
All the best
For further reading:
16 common prejudices against introverts (and what's really behind them)
I wrote a guest article about your inner silence in the yoga & lifestyle magazine Ganzwunderbar - you can read it here.
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