Publications, Reflections

Conversational Silence

To whom it may concern:

One day, while I was attending a meeting at work, my boss looked at me and said, “You’re staying incredibly quiet about this. What do you think?”

This has often been a theme in my life; the perception that I am too quiet. This is also, perhaps, not necessarily untrue. Often times, I will be involved in a conversation and spend most of the time observing and listening to the people around me while saying very little. Sometimes I won’t say anything at all. Unfortunately, this has led people to the conclusion that I am disengaged, not interested, or bored. Sadly, there was a time I believed them.

I have long contemplated why I am the way I am. Is there something wrong with me? Am I shy? I don’t understand. Everybody around me seems to have no problem speaking up and out. Why am I so different? My own mind had become one giant puzzle for me to solve. Is there anything more frustrating than a logic brain trying to figure itself out?

It had never really dawned on me that there is nothing wrong with me at all.

I have had a considerable amount of time to think about who I am and how I work. The world we exist in is moving at a faster pace every day; social media and television, for example, have made it so that we get information almost instantly. There is a danger there, however, that we choose to ignore. Many of us seem so eager to be heard that we forget to take a moment to breathe.

Armed with the knowledge that everybody thinks and works differently, I have come to realize that my brain absorbs information and tries to figure things out by piecing things together. Most importantly, it takes time to process what it has heard, what it has learned and what it has experienced. And just so we’re clear, I’m not arguing against impassioned speeches or intelligent debate and I understand that there are times where snappy decisions are necessary. I’m just wondering if it would really kill us to pause for a moment and consider what we are about to say before we say it? For the sake of my sanity, would it do us any harm to think an action through before we commit to that course of action? If what I’m saying is making sense to you as you read this, then maybe you are like me. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone and that you have an important role to play in this talkative world. I truly believe that the quiet ones change the world while the loud ones have a tendency to take the credit.

I maintain that I have nothing to add simply by talking and there are most likely enough voices around me that I don’t need to add to the noise. And let’s be honest with each other, a good portion of the chatter is simply that – noise. To this day, if I don’t believe I have anything important or intelligent to say, I may not say anything at all. The important part is that, now, I’m ok with that.

And so, to answer the original question asked by my boss, that is what I think.

Sincerely yours,

A quiet person who has something to say


Published in NorthWord Magazine – Issue 21 – September 2019
Photo Credit: Alex Cherry

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