Misconceptions of the Quiet Mind

I am not shy, I just hate chit-chats.

My boyfriend is always amazed by my complicated social skills. Complicated in the sense that I do not always seem to have them. When I do, I seem to master them. Recently we met up with his friend and his new fiancé. The girl turned out to be different from what we expected. What you would call a very nice cheerful energetic person. My expectation, a typical dutch blond girl who does not know how to hold a proper conversation and only sticks to social standards set some time ago during her upbringing.

Least to say, I loved meeting her. We ended up talking more than half of the time. Something my boyfriend was later bragging about to his parents. “She spoke so much! And all in dutch! You should have seen her.”

So what happened? Why me, a seemly shy person with a lack of skills for the art of conversation suddendly end up talking in a language which is not her own, endlessly, with an up-until- then total stranger?

How are you?

Let me tell you a secret. I am not shy. I once was. Long ago as any shy kid. When the time came to break out of my shell I decided to keep my distance from dishonest conversations. At school people loved gossip and judging others. I kept my distance. When I moved to this country I encountered another type of strange dishonest talk, chit-chat. A skill I thought only people like my extra-extrovert sister had (who was honestly interested in such things.) A skill which was mainly necessary in business, was the norm here. A forced conversation between two who rather be doing something else. I will hear the same “how are you” many times through the day from the same people. Only a handful actually listens. I decided never to ask “how are you” unless I actually mean it. And I only have a handful of people who I know deserve it.

With this girl, I felt comfortable due to her enthusiasm to talk and meet us. Due to her random manners at the table. The random stories she told. She comes from a big family, so this also helped. In other words, I was comfortable at the fact that she was honest and enthusiastic and never did she asked anything which was expected of a social conversation. So I opened up.

I work in hospitality. Our teams are composed of more shy people than you could possibly imagine for such positions. What makes us shine is the fact that we know we are like that. We are all looking for honest human connections. But sadly, I realized the world does not work like this, and it only makes me more grateful for having the job I have. Everytime I commute to work, I do it with pride and enthusiasm, because they are worth it.

I can have hour long conversations with anyone there. Because I know they care and I care about them. Because we are all used to weird random questions, as we were trained to use them for our guests. When I started we would play games to get the funniest story from a guest and share it at the end of the shift. Or the most touching one. Or the most interesting one. We would gather stories and told stories. We are storytellers. I realized with this job that I am not actually shy in the proper environment. I found out what true conversations are and that chit-chat is overrated. I will talk about the weather, as I have an honest interest in it (I used to read a lot on meteorology when I was a kid). People often find funny my enthusiastic weather talk. I fell in love with conversations, true spontaneous exchanges of minds.

Confession of a Quiet Mind

I have not read Quiet by Susan Cain. I saw the tedX talk and soon after trying to read the book I realize it was the same kind of information. Made to inspire introverts to come out and don’t be afraid to be quiet. A very powerful statement in a world where being charismatic and forward will bring you the best. Stating that these people are often hiding behind a mask of anxiety by the use of their so called “extrovert nature”. Something I have experience first hand.

Though it is greatly true and awfully inspiring. Once I got tired of people believing I am an anxious person in crowds, I began to dig in more. I realized, though I greatly tilt to the introvert side, with the right people, I am greatly extrovert to the point of being a nuisance.

During this summer I had a bonding week with my mother in law. She is one of the sweetest persons I’ve met and I am glad to be considered like another daughter in their family. But I always felt misunderstood due to my “lack” of social skills. Why I do not ask silly questions such as “how were your holidays?” to someone who is certainly tired of hearing and retelling their story after 30 times (it is a big family). Why I do not ask question of interest such as “how is your job doing?” to someone in a group where I am mostly not heard or when I notice it is used as courtesy question being asked repeatedly during the course of a five hour family gathering.

Instead, I do ask strangers “tell me a funny story.” I ask strangers, “what kind of music do you like?” I ask strangers, “what kind of things you truly love doing outside of work?” “What kind of books do you read?” “What was the last dream you had?” (That last one beginning with a dream retelling of my own so they feel more comfortable about the weirdness of it all.)

So no, I am not shy to ask questions. I am not hidden in a shell. I am open to the world and I love and crave meaningful interaction. I want to know more about someone in a way that most don’t bother to try. I will never ask, “How are you?” if I know you are feeling down or if there is a great smile upon your face. With something in between I rather ask, “what is the matter?” “What’s wrong?” or “Why are you so happy?” I will never ask, “how is the family or how is work?” as those are outside yourself and I want to know more about you. I rather ask, “are you having fun doing the things you do?”

After that week, I hope she understands me better. That I am interested in others in a way which does not fit big gatherings. A way which most would feel uncomfortable if I ask these questions and thus only ask them to those who I see are open to them. I am happy every time someone tells me, I am one of those persons who they can talk about literally anything without fear of being judge. I am happy, because that is exactly who I am thriving to be. You want to talk about puppies? About your love or hate for them? I will ask why do you hate them so much and what I possibly do not like about them, though I still love them. You want to talk about the boxing movie? I will talk about how I never watch them and why. And though we never agree on either, you can be sure I am listening and I am interested to know why you like them so much, or why would you ever hate a puppy in the first place. Out of curiosity, never out of judgement.

Many things combined

We are many things combined. We are weird and kind. We are open and shy. I have my extrovert moments just as I have my shy ones (mostly out of the ‘I feel like I’m bothering’ feeling). We have confident moments and moments of defeat. It is not fair to put people like me in a box. As in the end, those whom you call introverts, in truth, are highly complex individuals with a rich world and even more complex personality. We are those who want to stay true to ourselves and not be confined to society’s expectations. We are those who scream and later retreat to a silent meditation. We observe both the inner and the outer world. All in it’s right time. Some are shy, some are not. But we are all finding a way through a jungle of 7 billion just like us.

Don’t call me shy. I am not. I am quiet and loud. Just ask my colleagues. Don’t be offended if I do not return the automatic question with the same.

A typical call from the US to our office:

Bob: Hello! This is Bob, how are you?
Me: I’m good, how can I help you?
Bob: I’m good thank you-

This always makes me roll my eyes.