Quiet

I am, admittedly, an introvert. I mean, generally. Grew up as an only child so I don’t think I should get most of the blame for this, but… despite the fact, I think I’ve managed to overcome my introverted-ness through the years. Again, generally. I say so because I still am not fully comfortable with speaking in public, but I’ve learned to socialise quite well in public functions or soirees.

This could well be due to a number of factors, really. One could be my work, which involves me dealing with different kinds of people daily, so I guess in a sense I’ve been exposed to just talking, and interacting,and just letting it all out there. Another could be age, I think. As I grew older, I guess I got a little jaded with everything, and everyone (this is the cynic in me talking), that I’m now like, “oh hell with it, this is how I am, now get over it”.

I can now move shamelessly along the “talk spectrum” from, say, Chatty Cathy to Gabfest Gloria. I’ve also learned to make small talk. I do great small talk, if I may say so myself. I think it’s because I’m sincerely curious about people, about what makes them tick, what their motivations are. Normally I just want to get to people’s “bottom line” and try to strip off their pretensions. I’ve always found it fairly easy to read people… does that make me judgemental in some strange, roundabout way? Hmm I think not, but could be a thought to ponder on sleepless nights.

In saying all this, I was pleasantly surprised to chance upon an article about Susan Cain, an American writer and lecturer, who is a passionate advocate of “the power of introverts”. What an a-m-a-z-i-n-g woman! When I first watched her TED talk online, the shy little school girl inside me jumped for joy at this brave woman who spoke for all the quiet folks out there. To think that she’s a Westerner whom – okay, I’ll risk going on a limb here and generalise as being expected to always be outspoken and straightforward – made it even more impressive and…real.

Having been private schooled all my life (from kindergarten to university), in a country where the educational system borrows heavily on Western models (as with practically all aspects of everyday living), I have experienced first hand how teachers encourage and reward students for being outspoken and, for lack of a better English description, bibo (a loose translation of the Spanish word viva, meaning full of life, I think).

In Tagalog, when we say that a kid is bibo, it would mean that the child is basically not shy. Say, if a teacher asks for volunteers to act in the school play, a bibo child would raise his/her hand without questions. If, in a children’s party, the host asks for volunteers for the first game, a bibo child would run up front without hesitation, already jumping and down excitedly.

Generally, the un-shy kids are lavished compliments by parents and teachers, which obviously reinforces the belief that not being quiet, often taken as being shy, is the way to go. It doesn’t really help that all this is then handed down to the next generation until the next, and the next, etc etc.

So what becomes of the quiet kids? I can raise my hand (in an oh-so-bibo manner) and say that, as a statistic, I think I turned out quite well, thankyouverymuch.

But, what about the rest of the quiet kids out there?

Susan Cain raises this often-disregarded matter to educators, declaring that “introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated”. She even said “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas”.

Really good stuff. Where was she when I was in school?! I really think teachers, educators, school administrators, and parents especially, would benefit from viewing this video.

For more of Susan Cain, check out her site http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com.

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