My Life as an Introvert: On Silence
Silence. I savor it. I crave it. I need it. I do it.
My entire life, my silence has often been misunderstood and interpreted as negative. Because I am a psychotherapist, I often view human behavior through that lens. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. In other words, let me assume there might be good reason to interpret silence as negative. There is a lot of research in my field examining how we interpret facial expressions and body language. You’ve probably heard that over 80% of our communication is through non-verbals.
Now that we have established the huge role non-verbal communication plays in our human communication, let’s get back to our tendency to interpret silence as negative. If I were to say to you, show me how you express silence. What would be your facial expression? How would you hold your body? I’ve been told that I look “unhappy”. Really? I think the absence of a smile or some sort of facial expression demonstrating a positive emotion is by default interpreted as a negative emotion. Ok, still with me? Here’s why I deduce that this tendency might serve us well. It’s wired into our survival instinct. We need to be able to quickly assess our environments as safe or threatening. Humans, being a part of our environment, who communicate “happy”, approachable, kind through both non-verbals and verbal are quickly seen as “safe”. Everything else by default is considered a threat.
Whew. You just got a little taste of the inner workings of my brain. Constantly going.
Back to my lifelong struggle of feeling misunderstood as an introvert. For all of those people who assume that at the very least I am unhappy and at the very most I am angry, keep in mind that I am most likely just thinking and watching and feeling. And, I couldn’t be more content. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and I hope that you will do the same for me. And, let’s all try to do this more often for each other.