Why is Silence so Unnerving

When I was a child I barely answered when people spoke to me, or so I have been told. Personally, I think I was so much in my own head that when someone spoke to me they invaded my world – and it wasn’t welcome. I’ve never perceived myself as shy so there must have been another reason why I didn’t reply.

As an adult, who firmly believe in always trying to be polite, I’ve learnt to small talk even when I would prefer to stay quiet. That doesn’t mean it comes naturally, but when required, I do and few people who got to know me as an adult would guess that I’m an introvert.

I recently read on My Little Piece of Quiet’s blog about being “reprimanded” for being quiet (link below). There have been many moments in my life when I have been told I’m too quiet but perhaps most notable, my silence made someone else uncomfortable. As an introvert I think we are so comfortable with silence that we find it difficult to understand that the same restful silence we are experiencing is very unnerving to someone else, which prompts the question “why are you so quiet?”

Perhaps as an introvert it’s worth remembering that sometimes a little goes a long way. A few acknowledging phrases will suffice to keep the other person at ease. As an extrovert, perhaps learn that silence can be ok. Take a few deep breathes; take advantage of the fact that there are few moments in our daily lives that are quiet.





Follow Your Heart

Happy New Year everyone!

New year, new adventures and new possibilities. Did you make any new year’s resolutions? If you are an introvert you probably have your sight set further afield than just the next year. You’re working on long-term goals, and slowly but steadily are making your way there. What’s a new year when you’re working on a 10 year plan or a life goal? I have been re-reading Quiet over Christmas and I’m really fascinated by the concept of the personal core project. I’m starting a quest to find mine.

Core personal projects is a concept that Professor Brian Little has developed and which is explained in Quiet as part of how introverts can live and thrive in an extroverted world. Basically, anything we truly consider important, or people we love, or something we value highly, will enable us to take on traits we normally don’t identify with as a means to an end. Introverts can be right out extroverted when pursuing a goal that matters to them. If it is a core personal project, it also doesn’t steal as much energy as other situations might do when we feel forced to take on extroverted traits.

It’s funny looking back over your life, I’m now firmly part of the middle-aged, and realize that certain things have always been in your life. A lot of them are typical introvert activities too, like reading. I loved listening to mum reading stories to me as a child. I then grew to be an avid reader myself, devouring pretty much anything that came my way. Later I started writing stories myself. Even a lot of my other activities over the years have their base in story-telling. Other things are not so obviously introverted but I guess that is to be expected, to create some sort of balance.

What’s most important is to stay true to yourself. I believe we are much more likely to be happy and to succeed if there is a connection between the heart and the things we pursue.


Happiness vs Contentment

I’ve started to re-read Quiet – The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain. As I read through the chapter about how our society have gone from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality it reminded me of my own recent journey to recover from a near burn-out.

The chapter describes how, in this case the American society, went from a more balanced society of integrity, manners and duty to a society where charisma, charm and ability to entertain are our ideals. Basically, society went from where introverts with their quieter ways were respected, to extroverted ideals where there is little room for shyness, timidity and deep thought.

While healing my body and mind from the effects of long-term stress, I have countless times been told that “you will be happy again.” The emphasis also seems to be on the outward signs like laughing, going out more, expressing joy; it has almost been a new form of stress that I have to be smiling all the time and never find life frustrating.

I can’t help wondering, if this is another form of our focus on extroverted ideals. What is wrong with contentment? What’s wrong with just feeling at ease with yourself and your situation? Why is it not alright to feel quiet bliss? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good laugh, but I also love little things like finding adorable Paddington sketches in the newspaper, the beautiful sunset we could watch from our hotel by Garda Lake, getting a message from someone I haven’t heard from in a long time, or holding hands while watching a movie.

It doesn’t have to come with pomp and circumstance to bring you joy. Often collapsing in the sofa with a cup of tea brings just as much contentment as a night out with a group of friends.

Introverts Prepare

Today I’m supposed to do a reading of my poetry or flash-fiction at a poetry and spoken words event. I do this every so often, this event is monthly and I’m a member of the organisation that holds the event, but today I opted out.

I have two reasons for withdrawing my participation at tonight’s event and both of them relate to being introvert. Last time, I wrote about performing with my dance group and pushing yourself out of your introvert persona. What I didn’t mention then, is that most performances I do, I do them in a group. Whether it’s singing or dancing (or even acting) it has always been with a choir or with a dance troupe. I like that no one is necessarily going to focus on me the entire performance. Just like you can disappear in a crowd, so you can in a group performance. The exception is doing a reading. The whole purpose is me reading my writing… I don’t enjoy these readings but I have accepted that it’s part of becoming an author.

The second reason is that, like most introverts, I want to be sufficiently prepared. If you are an extrovert you probably think that I over-prepare but how much is too much really is relative to each person. If I’m going to read, or do any other performance, ideally I would know my pieces enough that someone could wake me in the middle of the night and I could stumble through it. I would mark up my notes for where to stress certain words and make notes for what to say between pieces. I’d even like to pick out clothes, hairstyle and make-up that are comfortable and goes with my personality and the event.

It’s fare to say that I’m rarely as prepared as described above but this time, life has caught up with me with all it’s demands and I would have had to wing it. No, thanks!

Stepping Out of Your Introverted Self

Being introvert or extrovert is one of many ways to describe people. At least 30 percent of humans are introverts. This seems to be true of many other species as well. Any kind of classification has its limits. So does introvert/extrovert definitions. According to Quiet… by Susan Cain (see a previous blog post) we can step out of our natural persona, especially if we are motivated to achieve a heartfelt goal.

One of the reasons why I like writing this blog is that I have started thinking more about these things surrounding my daily life. I have always loved dancing…and believe it or not, I have always loved performing. There is nothing about dancing that goes against being introvert but performing is not an introverted activity.

While I was discussing an upcoming dance performance with a friend (who is about to perform in a play), he said: ‘Why do we do this to ourselves?’ It’s a valid question. It takes dedication, practice, and nerves to perform. While the dedication and practice might come naturally, the rest, certainly doesn’t. Which made me really think about that question. Especially when my dance teacher asked me for the umpteenth time to ‘smile’ and ‘enjoy’ while I was dancing.

There are reasons why I don’t ‘smile’ and ‘enjoy’ while practicing for a performance. One is that I’m still focused on learning the routine as well as I can possibly learn it. Another is perfecting that routine; I don’t have time to smile. But I also have to confess that my introverted persona makes it taxing to perform. I prefer to ‘save’ that for the actual performance. As stated previously, learning, practicing, preparing – all of that comes natural, but to performing – put on a smile, projecting to the audience, that doesn’t come natural. I can step out of myself to do it, but not all of the time.

But why do I perform despite it going against my nature. I spend a lot of my life exploring other ways of being, through books, music, film etc. and I love the idea of giving that back. To give other people a chance to escape their everyday life and experience something that hopefully gives them joy.

How do you spot a introvert?

How DO you spot an introvert? Chances are that you don’t. Most of us learn early on to blend in with the crowd and therefore, it might not be obvious who is an introvert and who is an extrovert. It’s not clear cut either, as it moves on a spectrum where most of us are probably near the middle, not one of the extremes.

For instance, I would describe myself as an social introvert. Although I was very quiet as a child (didn’t always respond when spoken to), I can come across as talkative. Most people probably don’t notice that I rarely start a conversation, I only become chatty if you start talking to me. You will find me at a corner table at the pub with a few friends or alone but never centre stage. I can be very engaging and opinionated when talking to you one-on-one but if you’re trying to get to know me don’t do so in a large group where I’m likely to be unfocused and quiet. The more ad-hock stuff you throw at me the more stressed I’ll become.

Perceptions can be deceiving. Even if the nuances of introverted and extroverted people can be fine, there is one clear difference. We all need alone time but introverts need more time alone to recharge our batteries. To navigate an extroverted world can be draining to our souls. We also have different needs when going about our days. Your boss putting more pressure on you thinking it will make you perform better, when actually achieving the opposite; the radio playing at the office, although pleasant, is tiring the mind; when being asked to talk on the phone all day, it makes you avoid talking to anyone once you leave the office.

Some days feel like a battle to keep my sanity, or to step thru a minefield to stay in balance. I do wonder if extroverts perceive their days the same?

What do you do on your own?

Does having no one to join you, stop you from doing things you’d really want to do? Do you go to see your favourite band by yourself, the long awaited movie, a dinner on your own or go for a walk in the park? Do you join that yoga class or local gym? Do you travel solo?

Chances are that if you are happy to do things by yourself that are not normally seen as solitary activities, you’re likely an introvert. Introverts are much more comfortable in their own company and therefore, I would think, less likely to opt out of doing something because they don’t have someone to go with. Possibly with the apprehension of having to talk to people they don’t know. Extrovert on the other hand might see going somewhere solo as an opportunity to get to know new people, much more likely to interact with the new set of people.

Yes, we all read in our own quiet corner, or even to put a barrier between us and the rest of the world, such as communting on an overcrowded tube train. We watch TV in our own favourite chair at home. We have a coffee or maybe even a beer at our local cafe or pub. Most will go for walks in the park when the weather is warm without needing company. But how far are you willing to push yourself?

When I moved to London, on my own, which I’m sure many would see as a brave step, I was quite aware that if I wasn’t prepared to go places by myself, I would spend my entire time in London confined to my rented room. Not much fun! I believe I already had this ability, to do things solo. I went seight-seeing, to the museums, to photo exhibitions etcetera by myself and I still do. Sometimes prefereing to experience things without anyone else’s opinion.

Later I started going to the movies by myself, went out to dinner as a treat, attended events that are local to my community. I confess that there are still things I don’t do by myself. It’s more about feeling vulnerable than that I care about whether it’s socially acceptable or not. Medium-to-big concerts, dancing, late-night pubs, travelling, are things where I don’t feel comfortable. But, even smaller concerts, I love sitting in my own corner listening to a really talented musician.

So how solo are you prepared to go? Or are you dependent on having someone with you to share the things you love doing?

To See Your Friends or to Not See Your Friends

Today’s topic is a tricky one. Perhaps I will get myself into trouble writing this but here we go.

Everyone needs to spend time alone. For extroverts I imagine it can be a challenge since they tend to thrive on interactions. For introverts it’s a necessity and the more of an introvert you are the more alone-time you need to recharge your batteries.

Introverts are not hermits because of this. I love meeting up with friends for a coffee or going out for dinner. Outdoor markets and festivals are great for lazy days in the sun together with friends.

I must confess though that I prefer a smaller circle and a calmer environment where you can have proper conversations. A large party or going to a club with loud blip-iti-blop music can be draining and that has not come from growing older.

Just as much as I enjoy seeing friends, I love going for a walk in the park, to the movies or reading a book in a coffee place ALL BY MYSELF. I have had many coffee dates with my books in half empty cafés and had a really nice time.

Finding that balans can be tricky. I often forget to ask friends if they want to come to the park, or the movies, or to see an exhibition, even to do things that I prefer to do together with friends, such as a live concert.

And this is where it gets really tricky. Even spending time with a few close friends in the right setting can leave me drained. It can be like going on an intense holiday. You come back happy with so many impressions and ideas but also feeling that you need a holiday to recover from your holiday.

In the end only you know how much time you need by yourself. If you’re an extrovert, don’t forget to spend time alone. It’s good to find out who you are when no one else is around.

Quiet – a book review

One reason why I started writing this blog about being introvert was that I recently read the book Quiet – the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain. As I mentioned in my first blog post, I have always known I’m an introvert. This book however made me reflect on what that means for my life. I sometimes feel that there is not space in society for me and when I read the beginning of Quiet, that outlines how extroversion has become the ideal in today’s society, I started to understand this feeling more. Most places from schools, to work places, to social activities are targeted to extroverts. No wonder that introverts like me sometimes feel like there isn’t space to breath.

I liked this book a lot for its throughout explanation of how our society is working from an extrovert/introvert perspective, the different strenghts and weaknesses of being one or the other, but also how we can make use of these differences. How do we find that space to breath when we struggle as introverts to find our place in this extroverted society?

It has also helped me understand why some of the advise and some of the situations I have ordealed over the years, haven’t work for me at all. For instance, I worked in a very noisy open plan office for a while. Music was on all day, everyone (although we were a small team) kept talking over your head while you tried to do your job. I was irritable, frustrated and sometimes felt like I couldn’t get anything done. To quote Quiet: “Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory.” On top of that introverts prefer to work independently and in solitude where they can concentrate on one task at hand. I have since changed my job. It has it’s own challenges but now there’s just two of us in a smaller office space with no music. I enjoy work more now that I can concentrate on what I’m doing with fewer distruptions. In worse case, I stay late, and do the important details when everyone else has gone home.

Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert or, perhaps you’re not sure where you fit in, this book is worth a read. It’s an eye-opener and you will find yourself trying to figure out to which category you belong as well as all other people around you.



Being an Introvert

Why a blog about being introvert?

I’ve always known I’m an introvert. All my life I’ve been happiest when by myself. Only recently have I started exploring how this impacts my life.

Supposedly 1/3 of the world population is introvert, and the same goes for most other species. That’s 1/3 that think, act and perceive the world differently, a bit like whether you’re a man or woman. It’s not better or worse being an introvert or an extrovert, or man or woman for that matter. It’s simply different strenghts and challenges.

It also means that, just like growing up in a minority, being introvert in a predominantly extrovert society can leave you feeling misunderstood and marginalized.

So here is an atempt at giving insight in to what it’s like living life introverted. I’ll start with an anecdote:

A few weekends ago, I went to Greenwich Market. It can be a bit busy if you’re a reclusive kind of introvert but I’m quite social for an introvert and I like disappearing in the crowd, watching people, finding fun and interesting products, odd figures and patterns etcetera.

After a while I wanted lunch – I found a little cafe on a side street and ordered my lunch at the counter. There was only one other couple there apart from me but I had seen a sign that they had upstairs seating and so asked if there was.

“Yes, but you might be a bit lonely there,” the cashier observed jokingly.

“Mm, I might like that,” I joked back and then went up the stairs to sit by myself in a parlour-size room.

Introverts will recognize this behaviour and understand it. Extroverts might find it a bit bonkers. But this is what we like –  a quiet corner to ourselves. I was very comfortable watching the street below, eating my lunch in silence and observing the room. I could let thoughts and reflections from the day come and go. That’s how I recharge my batteries.

By the time the room started to fill up with other customers, I was ready to go on – with renewed energy.