Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hoarded Words, Like Coals In The Belly

The Adem are called the silent folk, and they speak only rarely.

The old man knew many stories of the Adem. He'd heard that they possessed a secret craft called the Lethani. This let them wear their quiet like an armor that would turn a blade or stop an arrow in the air. This is why they seldom spoke. They saved their words, keeping them inside like coals in the belly of a furnace.

Those hoarded words filled them with so much restless energy that they could never be completely still, which is why they were always twitching and fidgeting about. Then when they fought, they used their secret craft to burn those words like fuel inside themselves. This made them strong as bears and fast as snakes.

Excerpt from The Wise Man's Fear
by Patrick Rothfuss


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Simple Making Of Sounds

He wondered why this should be, why the things this woman was saying should delight him so, particularly when he barely understood them. He knew very well that the great majority of human conversation is meaningless. A man can get through most of his days on stock answers to stock questions, he thought. Once he catches on to the game, he can manage with an assortment of grunts. This would not be so if people listened to each other, but they don't. They know that no one is going to say anything moving and important to them at that very moment. Anything important will be announced in the newspapers and reprinted for those who missed it. No one really wants to know how his neighbor is feeling, but he asks him anyway, because it is polite, and because he knows that his neighbor certainly will not tell him how he feels. What this woman and I say to each other is not important. It is the simple making of sounds that pleases us.

Excerpt from A Fine & Private Place
by Peter S. Beagle


Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Not Explaining Myself

I find myself explaining too often that I'm not shy, and I realize that I shouldn't be making such a fuss. It's really only a matter of semantics, and not everyone cares as much about the distinction in meaning as I do. Plus, why should it matter to me what others think? Especially when I'm not all that close to them?

The next time someone says that I'm shy, I'll remind myself that it's not important to disagree. Perhaps I'll just play along. Why resist? Why not simply agree and say that I am shy? And then maybe excuse myself because I'm too shy to continue talking with them.

Or I suppose I could just let it pass and then continue on to some other topic. It's not as if I can change anyone's mind. Still, I guess I'd rather take an interest in someone who's willing to understand my perspective as much as I'd be willing to understand theirs. But I know this is idealistic nonsense. And maybe it's not always worth the effort.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No Monopoly On Being Private

Recently I was asked whether I'd call myself shy. I said no, of course. I explained that the word "shy" tends to mean "timid", and I'm not that. I'm often quiet and I'm surely an introvert, but -- despite the fact that I frequently avoid them -- I'm not fearful of others.

Then, knowing that she's an extrovert and yet very private, I pointed out that possessing those two traits at the same time was a bit surprising, and that one would normally think of someone like myself as being more private.

"There's a huge difference between being an extrovert and not being able to maintain privacy," she said.

And she was right. I realized that my words were thoughtless. I bet a lot of people make the mistake of thinking of introverts as close-mouthed while thinking of extroverts as having very little discretion with their words. But that's not necessarily the case. Maybe it often appears to be, but it's probably because we see more from extroverts; our experience is skewed.

It's interesting to remember that there are misconceptions about everyone, about every group, and about every type of person. We introverts don't have a monopoly on maintaining privacy. It only seems that way.


Why I Should Wear Headphones More Often

Except for myself and one of the new additions to our team, my coworkers were all going to be travelling to an office in another state for meetings. I overheard them talking about it while I was banging away at my keyboard. Probably I began to pay more attention because I heard my name mentioned.

"You won't be on your own," one coworker said to the new team member who would also be staying in Seattle. "Zeri will be here, and you two can have a party."

Having heard this part, I chimed in, "Yep, I'll be here."

"And he's a riot," the coworker continued. "You can see how chatty he is."

They all laughed, and I noticed the new team member nodding. I smiled and turned back to my work. And then I wondered if the new coworker had -- within the day or two since he had been hired -- already identified me as the invisible person on the team.

Probably I would have hung out with him, and grabbed some lunch or drinks while the rest of our colleagues were away. Now I just tried to put the sarcasm out of my mind, and I wished my attention hadn't strayed from my work.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Silence Is Scary

She was telling me about how uncomfortable she is around her step dad. "It's even worse when he's quiet," she said.

"There's nothing wrong with being quiet," I said.

"I know, I know, but it makes me nervous," she said.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Working Well With Others

Well, the blog needs updating again. Plus, it also seems to be wanting more art.

Contributed by reader, M8.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Not A Shiny Bauble

Anthropology teaches us that the alpha male is the man wearing the crown, displaying the most colorful plumage and the shiniest baubles. He stands out from the others. But I now think that anthropology may have it wrong. In working with Booth, I've come to realize that the quiet man, the invisible man, the man who's always there for friends and family... that's a real alpha male. And I promise my eyes will never be caught by those shiny baubles again.

Quoted from the TV series, Bones,
by the character Dr. Temperance Brennen


Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Arrogance In Quietness

When I was a child, our family would travel to Chicago to visit relatives every summer. All of the kids would sleep in the basement at my grandmother's house. There were three beds in the basement, a desk, a Ping-Pong table, a dining table, a washer and dryer, shelves full of knickknacks, a large freezer, an old sink, and lots of treasures stashed away. There was plenty to explore down there. I liked this. When everyone left to spend their days above, I was grateful to sometimes have the basement to myself.

While exploring down there one summer, I came across a journal that my aunt had written (though I didn't realize it was my aunt's at the time). Among other things she'd penned, one of the things that I remembered most was a comment about my grandmother's opinion towards quietness.

"Ma told me not to be so quiet," she wrote. "She says that people who don't talk act like they're better than everyone else."

This stuck with me for a long time. I didn't understand my grandmother's opinion, especially since my experience had proven the opposite. I always felt that people saw me as inferior because I didn't say much. It was interesting to me that there could be opposing perspectives. At some point, I wrote about this experience in my own journal.

And, of course, karma would demand that my journals would also be invaded at some point. My mom, possibly the nosiest person ever, somehow found a way to read my journals no matter where I hid them. One day, she saw my notes about my grandmother's opinion, and she tried to convince me that it wasn't so. I didn't really need convincing, though. I loved my grandmother, and I held no grudges against her, regardless of her opinion. Though nice of my mom, I suppose, she needn't have tried to protect me. People have different perspectives, and it was important for me to know that. Whereas many times I felt like the world was against me, or against quiet people, apparently others felt the opposite -- that quiet people were against the rest of the world.

Gaining perspective doesn't really solve anything, but it sometimes helps to temper your views of the world. Instead of wondering why everyone treats you like you're doing something wrong, you begin to wonder why everyone (including yourself) has it all wrong.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Introversion Spectrum

Today I read an article that reinforces an idea I've had about myself and about introversion for a long time.  The idea is that there is a scale to introversion, and that it may fall within the same line as autism and Asperger's Syndrome.  This matches up well with my own experiences, perceptions and studies of psychology.  I've felt for many years that my personality has much in common with Asperger's, and that I wouldn't need to travel very far along this spectrum before finding myself in that territory.

This is what I mean when I call myself an extreme introvert.  There are varying levels of introversion, and I guess I'd place myself at more of a "medium-well" to "well done" level.

This is from the article at Psychology Today:
... Grimes posits that introversion is not the opposite of extroversion, but that they are two different traits altogether. And she proposes something that has come up here from time to time: That introversion actually is on the autism scale.

Grimes' thesis explains that if you take each of the factors this new model proposes and follow it along a continuum to their most extreme expressions, they correlate with the widely used Baron-Cohen Autism Spectrum Quotient.

Depending on how much we have of each factor  (and how they interact with other personality traits), we can be simply introverted or, moving along the continuum, have Asperger's syndrome or, moving further yet, have autism.

A Compelling Theory About Introversion, Extroversion, and Autism
from the blog, The Introvert's Corner

It's an interesting theory. And, even better, it fits in nicely with my tagline!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Words That Find Their Way Out

... Sebastian, who might be brilliant, was also terminally soft-spoken. He wore a beard that obscured his mouth, which Chris took as emblematic: the words that found their way out were sparse and generally difficult to interpret.

Excerpt from Blind Lake
by Robert Charles Wilson

Side note: Growing up, I know that this quote represents how I was often perceived. Even now, I'm often seen this way: soft spoken. People sometimes equate this as a lack of confidence. I think it's more a lack of practice (with perhaps a lack of interest thrown in). If you don't often make conversation, sometimes you forget how to regulate your voice.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Inescapable Teams

Last week, one of my managers requested a self-assessment of my performance for the quarter. He also asked whether I had any suggestions for the next quarter. In my reply, I suggested that it would be nice to discuss his thoughts about the possibility of me telecommuting at some point.

I was pleasantly surprised when he responded to my email. My other manager simply ignores me whenever I bring up the topic of telecommuting. Here's the response that I received:

What is your motivation for telecommuting? I try to be very accommodating of work/life balance as I believe it leads to long term satisfaction as well as productivity. The new offices are not far away and I believe you have the shortest commute of anybody. So I really don't understand the motivation. I am a firm believer that small development teams working closely together is the best option for productive development as well as personal development. I don't like the pattern we are using of one big scrum team without much intra-team communication... While we are a pretty quiet team, I feel like having you sit with the team has been beneficial toward promoting conversation.

As a whole, it's a reasonable response and I appreciate at least being able to have a discussion about the topic. But it was clear from his response that he wouldn't understand my motivation. He firmly believes, after all, that a small development team working closely together is best -- not only for productive development, but also for personal growth. But how would he know what environment is best for my productivity? I'm fairly certain he doesn't know what's best for my personal growth.

My motivation for telecommuting isn't entirely about my introversion -- in fact, it's not even mostly about it -- but it still irks me whenever the idea of the individual loses out to that of the team. If my personal growth depends on working closely with a team, then let me be stunted. As an introvert, I feel like I've spent most of my life adapting to a social world. I've grown, yes, and I've learned how to get by in that world; meanwhile, I've neglected another kind of growth, the kind that involves just being myself. I'd like to grow in the way that I see fit, not only in the way that's best for the team.

Also, I don't see why I need to sit next to the team in order to effectively communicate with them. It's silly to think so, especially for a technology team.

In any case, I wrote a long email about my motivation for telecommuting and I tried to be clear and reasonable in return. I'm not expecting much to come from it, but at least I had a chance to plead my case. I do hope that my manager will see that there are other perspectives, though.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not Cowed With Fear

To no one in particular:

You may think that I'm weak because I'm so often voiceless; or that I cower when I fail to make myself known; or that I'm timid while you wait for me to choose my words; or that I lack confidence because I keep to myself.

But it's not fear that holds me back. It's not fear that often keeps me away from you and others. And it's not fear that makes me the way that I am. I'm not afraid to be more like you; I simply have no desire to be something that I'm not.

I don't need to learn to be more loud, or more outspoken, or more visible. I don't need to become more sure of myself. What I need, if anything, is to stop allowing my personality to be questioned so much. I need, perhaps, to be more proud of who I am.

I'm not afraid to be myself, and I don't need to change. It's not fear that you see in me. It's just me.

This is how I am.

Get used to it.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do We Treat Each Other Any Better?

Sometimes I wonder if we introverts can expect any better treatment from each other than we're often accustomed to getting from extroverts; after all, we should know better. But whenever I find myself saying dumb, insensitive things to others in general, I become doubtful that there's much difference between "us and them." I still like to hope, though. What better education in sensitivity is there than experience?


Friday, January 7, 2011

They Fail To Tease Out Details

"... [he] had the ability to insert full stops in conversations, when and where he wished them."

The Imperfectionists
Tom Rachman


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Don't Talk

"You don't talk," someone says to me.

These are dreaded words to hear while in the midst of any interaction. But when these words are uttered by someone close to me, they're more than dreaded. They're hurtful.

When a stranger or casual acquaintance says this to me, I feel pegged into a corner. I feel myself descending a vortex of self-consciousness, down into a personal house of mirrors. I become immobile with self-reflection. My thoughts reel with what the stranger must be seeing in me. Although several verbal responses occur to me, none of them seem to do me justice; they all seem either petty or defensive or insufficient. I'd rather just confirm the stranger's notion by not responding.

When it's a friend who says such a thing, however, I feel misunderstood, confused and hurt. Do they not see that my interaction and conversation thus far adds up to much more than most people ever get from me? Do they not see that I'm trying my best, that what I do say already feels like a lot, that, in truth, it feels like I'm blabbering? Do they not see that I'd be faking if I gave any more? And after all that we've been through, how can that be the single epitaph that is pinned on me? I feel lost and unsure of my value as a friend and human being. I question whether I should try so hard to be a friend when, after everything, I'm still seen in the very same light that complete strangers see me in.

What is it about such simple statements that makes them into blunt weapons? Is it the truth in the words that gets to me? Or is it the untruth? Has the mark been hit, or has it become blurred until it's unrecognizable?

Sometimes, I think perhaps these words are used as a ploy to goad me into talking more. If so, then it doesn't work well. For me, it has the opposite effect. I'll want to give less, if only because I feel that I've been made out to be less than I am. It's a petty reaction, I know, but that's how I feel.

One way or another, it seems that there's a lack of perceptiveness in this equation. It's either that others cannot see more in me, or it's that I actually present myself as someone whose personality can be boiled down to those three words: "you don't talk."

I hope neither of those scenarios is true.