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.



Sultan said...

I think that if you feel uncomfortable speaking in these contexts that it is important to think of other ways to make your contacts feel valued. Since they will never really understand the depth of your discomfort they will never "appreciate" you just for being there, since from their perspective that it not difficult at all.

Zeri Kyd said...

Laoch, I didn't mean to imply that "just being there" is all that I do. Of course I speak, and I think that I say plenty. Also, this isn't about comfort; in general, I'm not uncomfortable talking. I just don't typically say much.

My actual point was that, despite having had many meaningful conversations and experiences with me over the years, even friends will occasionally sum up who I am with such words. While it's true that I'm quiet, I would think a friend -- someone to whom I've likely spilled my guts many times -- could see far more than that.

Seeking Serenity said...

In that case that is very odd.
and yes, hurtful.
I am recently surrounded by 'new' friends-
I sit there like a lump with a stupid smile.I hate it when they say "you're so quiet" ugh.
I think you are correct feeling the way you do about a real friend saying that to you- why would they say such a hurtful immature thing?
except to be hurtful.
My b/f is quiet unless asked specific questions, I am not in need of constant reassurance and attention in the form of talk.

Zeri Kyd said...

Jade, maybe it is about reassurance for others. Then again, I do realize that the things we say out loud often aren't the things that we think about most. Our words don't always represent us well. I should know this better than anyone. I guess I just wish that we were all more careful about what we say.

laineydear said...

I just discovered your blog and spent the last 20 minutes reading through it. Everything resonates with me so much! Especially this post about quietness comments...I too loathe them. Coworkers used to make comments like that to me, and I had the same reaction as you.

I can only assume (or hope) their purpose for saying this was to "lighten the mood" or say something, anything, to me to get a conversation going. But it just made me feel like I was put under a mega-spotlight and I had to defend myself. I didn't respond defensively though, just shrugged and nervously laughed it off. Still bugs me though.

I'm curious too as to what kind of response do they hope to get? Or what response would cause the least social awkwardness? Still haven't figured out that one..

Zeri Kyd said...

Lainey, welcome. I don't think there is a good response. I've tried many. Often, I'll simply agree; it's often the easiest way to move on to other topics or activities. But if it's someone I'm close to and I have the opportunity to respond in depth, I'll try that. I'd rather a friend know me, even if the conversation is an awkward one. After years of knowing me, though, I'm confounded as to why some friends will continue to say such things. "Haven't we already been through all this?" I'll wonder. In the end, it's probably nothing more than one of the ridiculous things we all do. Talking eventually leads to nonsense.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by.

RunsWithSoda said...

Oh, I get that all the time. I hate it too. All your efforts to try and create a bond, understand the other and have them understand you, are lost. Very hurtful. Doesn't make me talk more, because I feel like there's not going to be any common ground. No longer any point. What if we said, 'you talk too much!' to everyone in conversation. It would be considered rude. No love for introversion in this culture. That's for sure. Great blog, by the way. Makes me feel less alone out here in introvert-land.

Zeri Kyd said...

RunsWithSoda, definitely; it's hard not to shut down at times like these. It feels defeating. Despite how it feels, though, I always keep trying.

Jim Harper said...

I've had some version of those words said to me as well over the years, and I've definitely been bothered by them, but now I tend to react differently. When someone says "Boy you sure don't talk much do ya?" or something of the like, I've often responded with "I guess I just like to listen instead" which often tends to throw people for a loop, especially those who jabber jaw a mile a minute. Now, to be fair, I am basically lying through my teeth here because I don't like to listen to probably 90% of people that I encounter on a daily basis, but the message generally has the desired effect - it tends to shut them up and move along. More importantly though, I no longer feel bad about being quiet or reserved. In my opinion and I imagine many of yours, taking the time to pick and choose your words and really make an effort to try and listen, think and respond is far more important than spitting out nonsense after nonsense, cliche after cliche, bla bla bla after bla bla bla just for the sake of being "socially normal" or whatever. Talking for the sake of talking is ridiculous in my opinion and not that I'm saying that everyone does this, but not everyone has something to add to every conversation and some people need to respect that.

Zeri Kyd said...

Jim, your response would definitely be more tactful. I suppose I also think most responses, that one included, are further examples of "talking for the sake of talking", as you called it. When confronted with situations like this, answering in any way sometimes feels like providing the provokers with exactly what they were looking for: a reaction. Not responding may not help, but it sure feels appropriate. Maybe that's just my self-righteousness coming out, though.