This I Believe

Alison - Austin, Texas
Entered on July 18, 2007

As a little girl, any time anyone would approach me or ask me something, I would grab my mom’s leg and hide behind her. I had an inherent fear of speaking to anyone besides my mom or maybe my dad or sometimes my brother. (When he wasn’t picking on me.) As I went through elementary school, this routine changed into speaking when spoken to, unless I was at home or with friends. In high school, “speaking when spoken to” translated into being labeled a “snob.” I’ve been told I’m “unapproachable”. People have asked, “why are you so quiet?” It’s okay. My friends knew the real me. But why do the words “quiet” and “shy” have such negative connotations? People, especially teenagers, might assume that a quiet person feels superior or is not sociable, when in reality it might mean that they just don’t have anything important to say at the moment. “Why are you so loud?” is generally an uncommon question. It seems that most people would consider this question rude. Why is it more socially acceptable to be a loud mouth, than someone who speaks with reservation?

I came out of my shell in college. Communicating became easier for me because of all the different kinds of people I met in classes, at jobs and in social organizations. But I believe the insecurity and self-doubt I have had since childhood has turned into something valuable. For the most part, I think before I speak. Still, if I don’t feel like I have anything worthwhile to say, I’m usually not going to say anything. I’m a listener and a contemplator. I’m comfortable with silence. I don’t break awkward silences with awkward chit chat. I don’t have a need to hear the sound of my own voice. I only share my knowledge if I think it will benefit someone. I don’t talk about the weather, or talk to strangers on elevators or airplanes. I usually apply my “speak when spoken to” rule in those situations. It’s not because I dislike people. I think we’re all basically good and are worthy of being heard, but I also believe in meaningful conversation. It’s hard to have this with someone you’ve just met. I don’t often sit in silence with my family and friends, but if I did, I would be comfortable with it.

I still think that communication is very important, and without it, it would be hard to get what you want, to interact with people and to share your feelings and opinions. For some people, talking is their livelihood. I’m glad that politicians have speech writers to do some of the thinking for them. I’m glad that we have a huge public forum, called the internet, with blogs so that anyone can speak out on the issue of their choice, but I don’t have to listen to all of it. Personally, I like to think about things rather than babble.

I believe it’s okay to be reserved, to think before you speak and to not feel like you have to contribute to the constant chatter in this world. Communication is essential but also a choice. Why are you so loud?