For introverts, our world is never turned off or “silenced,” as our inner voice and thoughts fill the void.
It is almost certain introverts have been asked more than once during their lifetime, “How come you never talk?” or “Why are you so quiet?” Actually, not at least once in their lifetime — more like at least once a day. It seems as though society views quiet and silence as abnormal and unusual, and, unfortunately, even as a weakness.
During a typical day, extroverted students are praised for contributing to a discussion, the game show contestant is rewarded for answering on the spot, and the customer who complains the loudest gets their way. It would seem the more talkative and expressive a person is in our extroverted society, the further in life they will succeed.
So what is it about being quiet and silent that is unsettling? Could silence be the source of great strength that many are afraid to acknowledge? What happens when it is silent?
For Introverts, Their World Is Never ‘Silenced’
When we think about silence, utter nothingness comes to most everyone’s mind: no voices, no thoughts, no sounds of everyday life. Perhaps even total emptiness sets in after the first hints of peace and quiet.
When people pause and reflect during a moment of silence, the void may be filled with worry, anticipation, or discomfort magnifying what may follow. It seems that in a world that skews toward the extroverted, for most, silence is uncomfortable and taboo. For instance, songwriters will write lyrics about silence, often depicting a darker mood of the unsettling and mysterious nature of pure quiet.
However, for introverts, there is usually no absolute silence — and quiet often doesn’t mean gloom. Our world is never turned off or “silenced,” as our inner voice and thoughts fill the void. We introverts gain strength and power from our quietness in ways most extroverts cannot fathom.
Silence Can Be Intimidating and Revealing Without Being Forceful
Perhaps the anticipation created through silence is so powerful, even our naval forces have tapped into the hidden potential of silence and have developed a weapon to stop people from talking. Just imagine the speaker’s words being spat back at them over and over again until one becomes so frustrated they simply stop speaking, silence being used as a method for control and a person’s ability to speak used against them.
In this case of a navy weapon, a terrorist’s behavior is altered without using force; rather, their own voice. It’s an interesting concept, but not a new one, as even journalists have been known to use silence as a so-called “weapon” during interviews. Have you ever watched an interviewer leave a long pause between questions? What is the tactic? It’s simple, because silence is uneasy, so some interviewers may use silence to try and get their interviewee to say or disclose something revelatory, to talk during that empty timespan to fill the void. Silence can be intimidating and revealing without being overtly forceful.
Introverts Tend to Believe That Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
We introverts live most of our lives being led to believe being quiet is “weak.” So then we try to modify our behavior to fit into an extroverted world. Often, introverts are overlooked because we try to avoid conflict, pause before answering, and keep things to ourselves.
However, do introverts not have the upper hand by not giving away every exact detail of our emotions or what is on our mind? Yes… at least sometimes. I do think some things are better left unsaid. Case in point, introverts gain power by our willingness to remain quiet as we patiently wait to swoop in at the right time with our well-thought-out comments. As author and lecturer Susan Cain states in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking, “We have two ears and one mouth and should use them proportionally.”
With that said, the purpose of silence is about listening, which is perhaps why introverts are tranquil with the sound of silence. Usually, introverts excel at listening and often individuals seek out introverts to spew their problems — or at least get a listening ear. We give others our full attention without demanding it back. In turn, when we have another person’s full awareness, that is powerful. We have the ability to command the attention of others by simply giving them space through silence.
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Many ‘Quiet’ Leaders Are Introverts — And They Gain Respect Through Silence
Silence also creates differences in people’s reactions to one another. Think about a staff meeting. Do you respond better to the team member who is joking and asking questions that are not well-formed, causing the meeting to drag on? Or the individual who is listening and waits for an appropriate time to ask a pertinent question?
My guess would be the latter. Introverts are not likely to ask questions unless they are planned and thought of in advance. Not speaking up may seem like a weakness to most, but remarks and comments that are hastily put forth can place a person at an even greater disadvantage than remaining silent until appropriate. Introverts speak their minds when it matters most. In turn, they acquire respect from those around them — and all through the power of quiet.
If silence generates respect, it isn’t surprising that many leaders are introverts. Most of the time, the general public thinks of strong leaders as being wordy and outgoing — but little do they know that many of our leaders are, in fact, introverts. Some introverted leaders that come to mind are Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Bill Gates. And then there are First Ladies who are introverts, too, like Jill Biden.
Their expertise falls in different areas, like science and politics, but their achievements, not their introversion, have made them well-known throughout the world. Bill Gates was once asked how to achieve success in a dominantly extroverted world. His response was, “I think introverts can do quite well. If you’re clever, you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area.” Once again, success and power are equated to quiet and silence.
Introverts Feed Off Silence, Digesting Every Morsel
But the world cannot run on quiet and introverts alone. (Such a shame, I know.) Even Gates explains that for a company to survive, it has to have a decent mix of both introverts and extroverts, where each of their strengths can be utilized. In a perfect world, everyone would understand each other and the sound of silence would not be looked upon as a weakness. However, in the world today, if we introverts view our quietness as a hindrance, we will never succeed. Quiet should be looked at as our advantage, a characteristic we’re lucky to possess. After all, we’re not intimidated by our own silence or the silence of others. We quietly feed off silence, digesting every morsel, silently making us thrive when others feel ill-at-ease.
So this leads us back to one of my original questions: Could silence be the source of great strength that many are afraid to acknowledge? In short, yes. Introverts are mighty with our silence because it allows us to process our thoughts for a longer period of time, permitting us to come up with unique ways of solving problems. Additionally, we request people’s attention through our silence, giving us the upper hand, as we control how they respond to us. Introverts also have the ability to wait patiently through the uneasy feelings quietness may bring on, which unknowingly allows us to use our quietness to our advantage. In essence, silence becomes power to those who are most comfortable with it: Introverts.
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