I want to talk about “the quiet ones”

I want to talk about quiet people. Because some things just need to be talked about. I’ve been devouring bits of information across the web these last few weeks; I find it fascinating reading up on introverts and highly sensitive people aka known as “the quiet ones.”

So many AHA light bulb moments… Goodness, what I would have given to have had these little tidbits of knowledge in my hands during school. Actually, had I known all this in my 20s, I think I would have understood that insatiable desire to job hop the moment I felt bored or “caged in.” It makes SO much sense now.

The more I read up about my personality, the more I realise how many other similar people are out there.

Turns out, I’m actually not so weird after all. Ha!

I could go on for days about how victimised I felt growing up; how picked on I was in school because I was the shy one. How my mom was called in to find out why I was so quiet — was there abuse in the family? How one teacher chose, to sum up my sneaking off to bed one night at a prefect camp, as being rude and disinterested in a project — something he announced to the entire camp the next morning.

There’s a LOT of misunderstanding around these personality types. So I thought I’d write a post and share some things that I’ve picked up along the way and read about in the hopes that it will shed some light. Maybe inspire someone to ASK if everything is okay, instead of just assuming the worst.

Snobby, stuck up and rude

Here’s the thing about being quiet: we tend to rub some people up the wrong way. I’ve done it plenty of times. I’ve been called stuck up and snobby. We seem aloof, often rude for not jumping into conversations, standing back and checking out the scene, leaving a social event early, or not going at all.

In Western society especially, being introverted or highly sensitive (will get to this in a sec), is seen as a weakness, as different and weird, as something that you need to “fix.” But, it just comes down to a lack of knowledge in most cases, I think. Hell, growing up I didn’t know why I felt this overwhelming need to be on my own so much. Or why I got anxious in big social situations (school was rough), why I hated team sports or thought the world would end because I got reprimanded for not doing my homework — horror of horrors!

I constantly lived in fear that I would do or say the wrong thing; I felt like everyone was watching and judging me ALL the time.

Why are you SO quiet?

What irks me the most, whether people understand it or not, is this outcast sort of attitude from so many others. I can’t even count how many times in my 33 years I’ve been asked, “Why are you so quiet?”

I loathe that question. Apparently, this is really common, though. And people can be really mean about it too. When I was in my early 20s, at a temp data capturing job for a major retailer, I still remember the trainer telling all of us how much she hated “quiet people” and that she didn’t understand why they just don’t TALK. Another girl piped up in agreement. I remember sitting there with a blood red face in complete shock; my eardrums thundering — I just couldn’t believe someone would victimise and single out someone else for being quiet. I swear, if that happened today, I’d get up and walk out. Or say something. But, back then I was a quiet little girl eager for a job out of high school.

Asking someone why they’re so quiet, or sarcastically why they’re being so “loud” is not funny.

This isn’t an “oh shame, poor you” kind of post. I promise you, I am 100% happy with the person I am today; it’s taken a while, but there’s a certain kind of quiet strength to this personality and I LOVE it. (Will get to that now). I wouldn’t change it for the world. This post though, really, it’s just putting it out there and speaking about something that a lot of people tend to brush under the carpet like it’s not a big deal. When in fact, it should be talked about, A LOT. And often.

Did you know that highly sensitive people are most likely to suffer from depression?

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to that word until Robin Williams took his life. I thought depression was something to just “get over” — like stop moaning and just be happy, dammit. See? Lots of misunderstanding about so many things. Mental health guys is a big flipping deal.

What I wanted to write about here, was to create more awareness. To highlight some of the cool bits of information I’ve discovered about these personalities (and if you Google, you’ll find a TON of info) — it puts a lot of stuff into perspective and explains why some people are the way they are.

What’s what?

  • Shyness. Feeling like you’re always in the spotlight; afraid to say the wrong thing.
  • Introverted. Enjoy spending time alone, don’t like small talk, often creative, like to “jump in at the deep end.”
  • Highly sensitive. A sponge for all the vibes, emotions, and super deep stuff.

Traits of introverts and highly sensitive people — aka “the quiet ones”

  1. We feel ALL the feels. It’s a curse and a secret power at the same time. Walking into work or a room full of people, we instantly pick up all kinds of vibes. If there’s a hint of tension, we feel it. If someone’s in a bad mood, it’s harder to switch off because we tend to “adopt” other people’s energies. Open offices are not our friend.
  2. We’re emotionally reactive. Things hit us harder. I’ve had to unsubscribe from well-meaning animal groups on Facebook because I’d feel traumatised seeing a photo of an abused animal. I’m in tears if I see a dead dog on the side of the road going to work. I’ve read that having this kind of emotional empathy can be a good thing; a strength even. I just haven’t found out how to use this properly yet.
  3. We take things personally. Oh this one… Two things: People pleaser and a perfectionist. Growing up, these seemed like awesome traits. But, when you get older, you realise how much stress you put on yourself trying to do everything “just right” and make EVERYONE happy. It’s impossible. What isn’t impossible is learning how to almost “undo” this mindset. It’s definitely a work in progress, but it is possible.
  4. We think the world is ending when we get criticised. Refer to #3 about perfectionism. My first year of being a writer was HARD. There I was putting all my love and creativity into writing, only for it to be ripped to shreds by an editor. Man, I was crushed. Nowadays, I can happily say I roll with the punches (and thankfully, as my writing has improved — there are way fewer “red squigglies”).
  5. We cry more easily. Refer to #2. It doesn’t even have to be that time of the month, either. A sad song, an emotionally-driven commercial, a heartwarming story of an animal being saved, a bonding moment with a good friend = waterworks.
  6. Open offices drive us crazy. Because we soak up all the feelings and vibes and noise. There’s too much stimulation and it’s literally a daily struggle to hunker down and focus with all that other stuff going on. Earphones, small offices or working from home are happiness.
  7. When we feel overwhelmed, we withdraw. Prefect camp = perfect example. I know… this comes across as super rude, especially if you’re hanging out with friends in a group and all of a sudden you “need” to leave NOW. I can’t tell you the number of times this has happened — Geoff didn’t understand years ago, my friends even less. I’d cancel on social things literally an hour before and upset everyone. But it wasn’t me going, “Ag, whatever, let’s just chill at home – don’t feel like going… nope!” I literally felt this overwhelming anxiety; it was weird. I have to admit, this is pretty embarrassing to be writing this kind of thing here (we always want to be seen in the best light, don’t we?), but hey — it’s not something to be ashamed about. (So the experts keep saying). Thankfully, over the last 10 years, this hardly ever happens and I’ve found lots of great ways to deal with it. I’ve started telling my friends. I’ve started to stop feeling bad about it. I now know that 3–4 hours is pretty much my limit for being around a lot of people so I make sure that I plan for it ahead of time. Quiet personalities just need more time to recharge the energy batteries, that’s all.
  8. We crave quiet time. I could spend hours by myself at home and find a gazillion things to do. I love it. A lot of extroverts hate it — they need the social interaction and business constantly. Something cool I read recently; introverts and extroverts make great friends… it’s the whole “opposites attract” thing. I have a few extroverted friends and I love it. Because I’m an outgoing introvert, I feed off this outgoing personality — but only for a while. After a couple of hours, I need to retreat. These days, I don’t feel bad for saying so. I don’t put myself in situations where I’m at a braai for eight hours, for example, because I know I’ll withdraw about four hours in and be completely miserable wanting to go home (and come across as aloof or whatever). It’s okay to need that time. Good friends and family understand that — and if they don’t, it’s a convo that needs to happen.
  9.  We think more deeply. Imaginative. Creative. Distracted… Daydreamer? Yup. Thinking about things years from now? Yup. Wondering what life will be like in 10 years time or the future of the earth and all humanity? YUP.

highly sensitive people

Introverts or highly sensitive people or “the quiet ones” are misunderstood a lot. From what I’ve read and what I’ve experienced. We’re told to not take things so personally, to “get out of our shells”, to not be so sensitive, to stop being so shy or quiet. It’s almost seen as a weakness by a lot of western standards, whereas being loud and extroverted is seen as a strength. I find this so strange. Some of the biggest leaders in the world today are introverts.

Look at Richard Branson, for example. That man is my idol. He was a shy kid and his mom encouraged him to follow his dreams. Look at him now. Living each day as if it was his last. Going for life, running multi-billion dollar businesses. Being himself and not apologising for it.

Instead of putting people down for being different from each other (isn’t this what makes us all so unique and interesting though?), we should be encouraging those things that make us who we are. Listening to people, noticing the things that often go unnoticed, being creative, having empathy… there are a lot of strengths to being quiet. There are a lot of strengths to being loud, too. One is not better than the other.

16 Personalities — which one are you?

I found the most awesome personality site last year and it’s pretty much changed the way I look at life.

This isn’t one of those click-bait sites either; it’s the real deal. There are 16 main types of personalities among people, and with so many misunderstandings and dealings with loud people and quiet people, extroverts and introverts; this kind of thing puts a LOT into perspective. Imagine how great teamwork in companies would be if everyone did something like this? Even in your group of friends. It’s pretty interesting to see why people are they way they are.

I discovered that I’m an INFJ. In other words, the “advocate.”  It explains SO MUCH about the way I live, what’s important to me, what’s not.

INFJ’s:

  • Make up less than 1% of the population.
  • Have an overwhelming desire/need to want to help people and get to the heart of the issue.
  • Use their creativity and imagination to restore a sense of balance.
  • Have a fluid, inspirational writing style.
  • Are determined and passionate about things they really care about.
  • Tend to burn out easily.
  • Don’t like routine.
  • Don’t have a lot of patience.
  • Always need to have a cause that’s close to their heart. “INFJs like to know that they are taking concrete steps towards their goals, and if routine tasks feel like they are getting in the way, or worse yet, there is no goal at all, they will feel restless and disappointed.”
  • Are unlikely to go for friendships of circumstance, like workplace friends or chatting to the local coffee shop barista. INFJ’s seek out people who share their passions, ideologies, and interests. They see quality over quantity, and would rather have a few deep friendships than a huge social circle.
  • Need to find meaning in their work; the corporate ladder doesn’t appeal to them.
  • Like to follow their own hearts with their own set of rules. They don’t like conformity and prefer their own independence.
  • Encourage a positive work environment.

This was a bit of a mouthful — but I put it here because when I first read this, I literally almost fell off my chair. It was like someone had just written and published my entire personality.

Head over to the 16 Personalities website and do the test if you want. It’s free and really insightful.

Signing off now — the point of this post wasn’t to splurge my past (although I fear that’s what came across a bit; if only to highlight some examples), it was to try and shed some light on why some people are the way they are. There’s SO much misunderstanding these days, we’re so quick to judge (myself included). Interesting stuff — introverts, extroverts, the quiet ones, the loud ones. We’re all just living and trying to find our purpose and make this little thing called life “click.”

Over and out.

More good sites to check out:

Introvert Dear

The Highly Sensitive Person (the book of this author is amazing)

Podcast: Types of jobs for highly sensitive people

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14 Comment

  1. My childhood personality was very different from who I am today. Because of my ADD, most people mistook me for an arrogant extrovert, including my parents, because I was always talking. But that’s how ADD presents in preteen girls. I have always loved my alone time. But as I’ve gotten older, I need much more of it, and I need it to be completely alone, which my husband, a more extroverted introvert, doesn’t quite understand. I’m actually an INTJ and an HSP, but I don’t pick up on the emotional vibes as much as you would. I’m more sensitive to the noise, light and even the heat produced by lots of people and I despise being touched, which does wonders for my marriage let me tell you. And small talk? It infuriates me. Its pointless, but apparently necessary and I have become better at it (which is absolutely necessary when you work with patients!). But once my work day is over, I’m done. So if the cashier at Publix wants to make small talk with me as I pay for my groceries, she’s going to think I’m rude and arrogant because it’s just not happening! But at 37 years old, I’m totally OK with that! 😁 Great post Mel, and definitely something that needs to be talked about more frequently!! If you haven’t already, you may want to check out a show called Doc Martin on Netflix. It’s about a very introverted surgeon who becomes the GP for a small town. It’s a British show that we’ve fallen in love with! 😁
    Melissa recently posted…Fitbit Charge HR ReviewMy Profile

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Hey Mel! I didn’t even know there was such a thing as sensitivity to light and noise until recently. As for small talk? Yup, I don’t get it either. I’d MUCH rather talk to someone about their life story than all the other superficial stuff. Completely with you on the alone time 🙂 I’ve started sharing the articles I read about introverts with my husband – I think it’s helped quite a bit as far as understanding why I am the way I am sometimes. Have you tried that? Introvert, Dear is a great site, full of HSP articles. I haven’t heard of Doc Martin yet – what a cool theme for a show. Will have to check it out, thanks! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I am a “quiet one” and have a similar life story to you. Thank you for putting it all into words. It has helped me a lot. And I am sharing it in hope to shed some light on “the quiet ones” and to also help others who feel the same!

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Thank you Taryn! 🙂 I’m so glad this post helped you, that’s awesome!! If it touched one person and made them feel good about who they are, then I am happy! It makes me so glad that I hit that publish button because it’s really one of the most personal posts I’ve ever written. Thanks for your comment and for sharing – I will keep doing the same; there’s no shame in being quiet. x

  3. Yes, yes, yes. You hit the nail on the head with this one. I am sort of the wall flower when it comes to crowds or even small gathering. I tened to think that I was a people watcher. I don’t want to say or do something wrong.

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      I know exactly what you mean, Debbie. It feels like there’s this gigantic spotlight on you the whole time hey? I like being a wallflower in most big crowds, though… less pressure. Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂

  4. Excellent! As an introvert I found this to be familiar and helpful.

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Thanks so much Tammy! I’m so glad you found it helpful. It’s just great to know there are so many introverts out there who feel the same way 🙂

  5. William Holland says: Reply

    Well, Mel, you know which personality I am. LOL You just described my life story to a tee.

    I’ll tell you what other reaction I often see when people are “judging” me, or trying to figure me out….they think I’m quiet because I’m sitting in judgment of them….when in truth I’m just observing and enjoying the observations. Everything you described growing up I’ve lived.

    It isn’t easy being an introvert and yet you know what? I love who I am.

    And I know you feel the same!!!

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Hey Bill! Oh gosh, the people watching… yes!!! I’m the same; I usually sit back in big conversations and just listen. Funny how people take that as being stand-offish or rude sometimes, when in fact, you’re just observing.

      You’re right my friend, I wouldn’t change being an introvert for anything in the world. Imagine getting frustrated and bored after being alone for half an hour? No thanks! I think we love our “me time” too much 😀

  6. You are speaking my language, Melanie!! And hi, Amy!
    I job hop. I’ve always been told I’m way too sensitive. That I take things too personally.
    I burn out easily (I’m so experiencing that with my current job…hope I can make it, lol).
    Open office layouts drive me insane and have left jobs, in part, because of that.
    *sigh*
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    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Oh yes, ditto there >> “too sensitive”, take things “too personally.” What the people who say those things don’t realise is, there’s a major reason behind all of those emotions. And it’s not something that can be turned on and off like a lightbulb. Open plan offices? Yug. I think I’ve also left a few jobs because of that – or it played a huge role in leaving. I know you’re going through a crazy time at work – hang in there friend. xxx

  7. This is a wonderful post Melanie! You are definitely not alone. I said “yes” to every point on your list above. I’m a job hopper too, because I get bored and feel trapped in certain environments. It took me a very long time to embrace my highly sensitive tendencies rather then try to overcome them, as the extroverts in my life always seemed to demand. (I don’t allow that anymore) I’m an INFP. 🙂

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Hi Amy! You have no idea how good it is to read your comment – I had no idea you were also a job hopper and an HSP. Embrace instead of trying to overcome, yes! I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, that I must just “get over it.” Writing this post and seeing all the comments here has made me realise that this kind of personality trait is quite common, and if anything, like you say – something to embrace, not be ashamed of. So good that you don’t allow that anymore – you are a GREAT role model to your girls! 🙂 x

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