Never Assume These Things About Quiet People

by Anjali Patel

Talking is just not my thing. Part of the reasons that's true, I assume, is because for six years of my young life, I had a speech impediment and had to be pulled out of class several times a week to attend speech lessons. No one I speak to now realizes that I once had a very strong lisp, but being coaxed out of class with candy and reassurances that I was "special" doesn't exactly do much for your confidence in speaking. Words and music come more easily to me than talking. I'm pretty sure many of my friendships are hinged on me communicating with people via text and Facebook messenger, a habit that began around the time of Xanga and AIM.

All of that considered, I suppose you could say that I'm a quiet woman. That's not a label I would assign myself, but rather one that the world likes to assign to me. It's always jarring to hear someone say, "Are you okay? You're so quiet," when the truth is, I'm perfectly content. I wasn't aware that you were supposed to announce reassurances every few minutes that you are happy, or that you are just enjoying the scenery, or that you like how this breeze feels, or that you are glad you got to go for a swim today, so on and so forth. Sorry, I wasn't aware that not constantly narrating my every thought and feeling to the people around me was some kind of...defect. But apparently, that is the case, or so I've been lead to believe based on people's responses to my quietness. Quietness is never supposed to be a default in this society. It's something you deviate to, and if you go there, something must be wrong.

But it's all about how you process. When I'm quiet, I'm taking in the world around me. I can't multitask well, so unfortunately it's extremely difficult to absorb and contribute at the same time. It's almost like a switch I need to flick: When I'm ready to contribute, especially to a large group, all engines are go and it expends an enormous amount of energy. A lot of people work like that, but others just hide it better than others. I don't understand why we should have to hide it at all. Here are eight things you shouldn't assume about quiet people:

1. That we're waiting for an invitation to say something

Though the offer is appreciated, we aren't waiting for an invitation to speak up. We know how to speak. Some of us even feel quite comfortable doing so. (Others of us, admittedly, do not; Shyness often accompanies quietness, although not always.) We'll do it when we feel ready. There's nothing more off-putting than saying to someone, "Feel free to contribute." Well, I was initially going to, but now that you passive-aggressively told me I was obligated to say something, I might as well just stay silent.

2. That we're not confident

LET ME TELL YOU. I don't need to exclaim my love of self and body to the high heavens to be a confident person. In fact, that's something I don't feel the need to express out loud at all. My confidence comes within, and if you can't see that in how I carry myself, then honestly, that's you're loss.

3. That we're upset about something

I'm hardly ever upset, to be honest. I'm like Grumpy Cat: Though my face indicates eternal displeasure, I have a dynamic range of emotions going on in the inside. Granted, I don't suffer from feline dwarfism, but still. This is why I always try to go by people's vibes and not their exterior — usually they align, but as I know from personal experience that isn't always the case.

4. That we can't be assertive

Being quiet doesn't mean I let people walk all over me. Being quiet also doesn't conflict with me getting what I want when I feel like I deserve to have it. As a woman, and especially as a woman of color, people like to make assumptions about what I can and cannot handle, and when I'm perceived as someone who might be shy or insecure? Forget it. I might not be a naturally forward person, but for the purposes of survival, I am capable of speaking up and doing what I need to do.

5. That we don't have many friends

This is just entirely false. In fact, quiet people probably have the truest friends. I can only speak for myself, but I'm not comfortable opening up to that many people, so if you make it into my circle? CONGRATULATIONS. Seriously, though, you deserve a prize. Also, I like to think we're like jelly donuts—the more you get to know us, the closer you get to our gooey centers. Maybe not, but you know.

6. That we are shy

I'm quiet, and there are times where I am definitely shy. However, when push comes to shove, I am perfectly okay with approaching strangers, yelling down cabs, and being assertive, especially when it comes to defending myself, my friends, and things that I am very passionate about. Granted, it doesn't necessarily come naturally but that doesn't mean it doesn't come at all.

7. That we don't have any thoughts or opinions

Dear world, this just in: Just because you don't offer everyone around you a running commentary of what happens in your brain doesn't mean there's not important stuff going on in there. I didn't know I signed a contract to provide everyone around me a live feed of everything I'm thinking. "Oh you're into politics? I didn't know, you are just so quiet..." Puh-lease! What a completely random and weird assumption to even make.

8. That we need you to speak up for us

I find that especially as an introverted woman, people love to do things like order for me or ask questions for me in stores. Stop. Just because I am selective about how I use my voice doesn't mean I forfeit my right to it. Though I appreciate the effort, I am a capable young women who can speak for herself when required to do so. In short, respect me so I can properly WERK IT.

Images: Inessa Akhmedova/Flickr; Giphy(8)