Written by Brianna Krueger
Quiet [kwahy-it] adjective
- making no noise or sound, especially no disturbing sound
- free, or comparatively free, from noise
Loud [loud] adjective
- (of sound) strongly audible; having exceptional volume or intensity
- making, emitting, or uttering strongly audible sounds
- clamorous, vociferous, or blatant; noisy
Somewhere along the way from Dictionary’s meaning ‘quiet’ has turned into an insult. As if not disturbing your neighbors or surroundings is a bad thing. As if being noisy is a good thing. As if silence isn’t a golden virtue.
From a young age, I’ve been told that I’m quiet. I never quite understood what the problem was when teachers said, “but she’s quiet.” I was attentive in class, received good grades, friendly with other kids, participated in class, and politely raised my hand, waiting to be called on. But I was quiet.
Somehow all my positive qualities weren’t good enough because I didn’t talk enough. Which was rather confusing because students got in trouble for talking too much and being too loud. How could I get in trouble for being too quiet?! I wasn’t causing trouble, and it wasn’t like I was mute (though some first impressions may lead you to believe that), and yet I received that dreaded ‘but.’ “But she’s quiet.”
For most of my life, I didn’t let it bother me because it was just me. I was used to being quiet, and other than teachers at parent-teacher meetings, no one said anything to me about it. Why would I be concerned? I was a good kid, having fun, and running free in the cul-de-sac. I was smart and eager to learn. I had an amazing group of friends who made me laugh so hard we all peed from the hysterics.
But, still, I was quiet. So apparently none of that mattered.
It certainly felt that way at my one year review at my first job. My boss praised my work and growth, gave me constructive criticism, said he was happy with how I progressed. Then he added that dreaded ‘but.’ “But you’re quiet. That’s the only thing I would change.”
I cried my entire way home from work. And I had an hour commute.
What was so wrong with being quiet? He’d just commended me on how quickly I learned the technical field and my ability to multi-task and meet deadlines. He’d said he liked my work and enjoyed working with me. I couldn’t comprehend why it wasn’t good enough. I was friendly with co-workers – on and off my team. I was into work early every day. I did everything expected of me and worked hard to correct any mistakes.
Why wasn’t I good enough the way I was?
I’d like to take a second to side track. Being quiet doesn’t mean we don’t talk or aren’t friendly or aren’t outgoing. We can be quiet and friendly and outgoing – don’t get shy or introvert or extrovert confused with us because people misrepresent us all the time. Quiet people are simply okay being, well, quiet. We don’t need to hear ourselves speak, or voice our opinions the loudest, or even take time to deeply think about what we want to say so we sound philosophical and important (but maybe we do). Sometimes we don’t have anything to say, and that’s okay, too. Maybe we have a whole lot to say, and maybe, like me, we’re sometimes better at written communication than verbal, and that’s okay, too. Bottom line is, we’re quiet for the exact same reason there are loud people. That’s the way we all are. And that’s okay.
The following days at work, I was hyper aware of how I acted. My anxiety was so through the roof, it created a skylight, and my room was in the basement.
I wanted to make my boss happy (I adored my boss – he was seriously so fantastic), but at the same time, I couldn’t change who I was. I’d been quiet 22 years of my life; it wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Or ever. I’m quiet; deal with it.
If my first boss thought I was quiet, he should have seen me at my second job. My co-worker-turned-friend told me she thought I was mute that’s how quiet I was. (Hey, it was also new job nerves.)
It was still baffling to me because my friends had never called me out on being quiet. Sure, we could acknowledge that even at my loudest, I was still the quietest of them, but none of them had called me quiet. Weird, quirky, and ridiculous I was used to, but quiet wasn’t ever tossed around.
Working at a place where most of my co-workers were 15 years older than me, I wasn’t exactly Ms. Social. I stuck to myself and got my work done while being polite and reaching out to people when needed, not necessarily making the small talk that most people hate. I was new and nervous, so I was perhaps a bit extra quiet; though I did eventually warm up and come a bit more of my shell, but I was (and am still) quiet to the core.
But, for once, ‘but’ wasn’t so bad. My next boss didn’t think my quietness was a bad thing, but a great thing.
After saying all the typical positive bossly things, he commented on my quietness, saying others had noticed it, but he knew me better than what people saw and heard (or didn’t hear). He, in words I’m paraphrasing from lack of completely remembering but know the gist of, said, “You are quiet. And it’s not because you have nothing to say. It’s because you’re a good listener*, and when you do speak, it’s meaningful, which is appreciated in a firm where people love the sound of their own voice.”
I left my boss’ office beaming. FINALLY. Being quiet was a positive quality! I’d been waiting years* to have people recognize it. (*all 25 of them.)
Sidenote: Just because I’m quiet and a good listener does not mean it gives you free rein to talk my ears off, let alone have a whole soliloquy where you don’t even attempt to engage me and ask questions in return. Quiet people still like to have the option to speak.
Since then, I’ve found a voice without speaking. My actions also speak for me, and if those aren’t loud enough for you, then I think you might be blind. Sometimes hearing is about seeing, and if you can’t see what’s in front of you, you can’t always hear what’s in front of you.
So I’m quiet.
- It doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say. Sometimes I have a lot I’d love to say, and quite frankly, I’d be scared for the world to hear some of my inner workings. People should be thanking me for being quiet for the things I keep to myself, like the mic-dropping and standing-ovation moment of telling off that one asshole co-worker before exiting the building and leaving it going up in flames… See what I mean? Probably shouldn’t even be typing it. Point blank: just because we have things to say, doesn’t mean we need to, but when we do, you should listen.
- There’s nothing wrong with being quiet, loud, or somewhere in-between. Being quiet doesn’t make me better (clearly not from the amount of parent-teacher conferences I’ve had over it), but it doesn’t make me worse either. As Kesha said, we are who are (but with appropriate grammatical spelling because I’m an English major).
- I don’t always know what to say, so sometimes I don’t say anything until I have time to figure out what I truly want to say. Perhaps it’s the writer-side of my quietness, but I like a majority of the things I say to be perfect.
- I’m exhausted from talking to myself in my head. I had an hour commute to and from work. I had a lot of time to talk to myself or pretend I was performing at the Grammy’s. What makes you think I want to talk more?
- I may be quiet when I’m first getting to know you, but I won’t always be like that. Though be warned, even at my loudest, I’m still quiet. I make up for it in other ways. If you want a sentimental card or a book written about you, I’m your quiet girl for it, because I can say more with written words than I can my mouth.
- I communicate how I need to and when I need to. It can be verbal, written, or through actions. It can be now or in 24 hours when I decide I have the right words.
There are so many reasons why people are quiet. And the bottom line is, that’s just how we are, and that’s okay. It’s more than okay. We balance out all the loud-os (or so I like to think).
All my life, I’ve been told I’m quiet like it’s a problem, but it’s not. If you think it is, well…
I’m quiet; deal with it.
Brianna Krueger is a writer, cheese enthusiast, and professional dog cuddler. She enjoys, while also being terrified of, sharing experiences about her life while poking fun at herself, and doesn’t take herself too seriously (unless you’re her boss – then she takes herself very seriously). Traveling and reading are her passions, especially since books take her to new destinations for a lot cheaper!