What happened to the phrase ‘Silence is golden’? There are many notions, thoughts, opinions and most importantly misconceptions when it comes to ‘quiet people’. A question we must ask ourselves is why most people look at being silent or quiet as a negative attribute. One of the biggest causes for this could be the media. Most films and TV series, especially in Western culture, portray the shy new girl/guy as a weak target or in most cases as victims of bullying and teasing of all sorts. Thus the current generation grew up with the mentality that it was not normal to be shy or quiet or reserved as this would result in them being looked down upon. Unfortunately this is the current reality of the situation.
If we look further into some research done in this field; In Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, she describes some extremely important research dealing with this issue of culture. The study, conducted by Xinyin Chen and Kenneth Rubin of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and Yuerong Sun of Shanghai Teachers University, compared children in both cities to determine what traits made children popular. Among the group of 480 students in Shanghai, “shy” and “sensitive” children were the most sought-after as friends. In contrast, among the 296 Canadian children, shy and sensitive children were the least desirable. This study clearly indicates that this is more to do with acceptance and cultural norms rather than the personality traits of the students.
What NOT to Do
So fellow UNMCians, if you do have any friends with the above mentioned characteristics grab a pen and paper and make some notes.
Rule number One; NEVER EVER ask a quiet person why they are so quiet. Not only will this make the situation a lot more awkward but it is also the equivalent of asking a person why they are not normal. This can be both harmful not to mention extremely insulting. There may be many reasons as to why one is quiet which cannot be comprehended by outsiders. There may also be times where they wish to be silent simply because they have nothing useful to share in the conversation.
Secondly, repeatedly asking the quiet person if they’re okay or if there’s something wrong may even do further damage and could possibly increase their levels of anxiety.
Thirdly putting a quiet person forcefully into the spotlight and forcing them to come out of their shell is a big NO. Continuously asking that person for their input or ideas and trying to steer the conversation towards them is definitely not the best idea. The reason they could be staying silent as mentioned earlier could be they have nothing to add.
Finally; introducing the person to others as the “quiet” one in the group. By doing this not only are you branding that person before even giving them a chance to meet and get to know the other person but you have also created a false identity and given bad impression which would make life even harder for your friend.
Misconceptions about Silence
To lighten things up we all make these mistakes and 99 percent of the time we do not even realize it, which is why it must be brought to notice. So let us now look at a few misconceptions the world has created with regards to these people.
While in some cases these facts happen to be true, the majority of the time this is the stereotypical image given out to society. Another common mistake or assumption made by people is that a shy/quiet person is also an introvert when in fact these are two completely different situations. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments. The reason we tend to link the two together is because there is a shared bias in society against both traits. Bill Gates, a multi-millionaire has on many occasions described himself to be in introvert. This may be surprising to most people. Broadway legend Barbara Streisand despite having an outgoing personality struggled greatly with a form of paralyzing stage fright. She calls herself a shy extrovert. A shy person would have to deal with much frustration if treated like an introvert and vice versa.
So for those out there who don’t know how to act or feel awkward around such people; some advice to you; JUST BE YOURSELF. This may be easier said than done but by all means everyone should be made to feel comfortable in their own skin and do not need to be influenced by society or their peers to “blend in”. If people cannot accept you for being you then that is their loss to bare. As quoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment
Written by Aneeqah Macan Markar
Featured image from Lifehack
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE.