Silence Is Golden: The Pros And Cons Of Being The 'Quiet' Friend

by Kirsten Corley

If I had a dollar for every time my mother yelled at me for being too quiet, I’d be well off.

This is to the quiet ones; the ones who are unapologetically shy. It isn’t so much that we don’t have much to say; we just don’t say things to hear ourselves speak.

We have sympathy for the shy characters on sitcoms and movies because we can always relate to them.

We are the people who never feel awkward during silences because we almost prefer them as opposed to having forced conversations.

Social and networking events might give us anxiety; you will never find us in the center of a large group with everyone’s attention on us.

We aren’t antisocial, though; I prefer the term "selectively social." We enjoy small groups and talking to people one-on-one.

In group conversations, we sit back and listen, absorbing everything and thinking about everything going on and being said around us.

There are many pros that come along with being the quiet one.

For instance, I come from a loud Irish family, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pulled aside at family parties with aunts, uncles and cousins confiding in me, as if I were some priest on Sunday confession.

When you're quiet, you don't come across as judgmental. You don’t say much and you walk with this knowledge of these confessions that build up, one after another.

People trust you with everything. You know how people feel about each other because they say it in front of you, with the knowledge you’ll never tell that person.

That one quote from "Mean Girls" -- “her hair is so big because it is full of secrets”--  is all too real in our lives. In high school, I knew all the drama between friends and I’d listen to each side of what I was told.

I knew about relationships far before they surfaced on Facebook; I knew about scandals and people cheating far earlier than when it came out to the public. And, when people came to me with, “You aren’t going to believe it,” I would nod and say, “I know.”

In college, I joined a sorority and I’d sit at our large tables, listening actively, rarely saying anything or ever spreading rumors.

The amount of knowledge I gained in college about certain people could have been enough to take out anyone in any leadership position.

But, like always, I stayed quiet. I was the last person people would suspect of anything.

Being on a college volleyball team and liked among my teammates, I knew everything. I considered myself everyone’s best friend, and it made the experience much better.

Quiet people are trustworthy, and because of this, everyone wants to tell us everything about their lives because they know we'll keep every secret. Being the quiet listener, we learn how much people enjoy talking about themselves.

We don’t have problems being alone. If being quiet and keeping to myself has taught me anything, it's that it is okay to be my own best friend.

We aren’t nervous to eat meals alone; we don’t need a posse to go to the bathroom, and we don’t have a problem being completely independent. We take any alone time we have to learn about ourselves and use that to grow.

My mother uses the term "sneaky" to describe me, but you play the cards you are dealt and it has been something I use completely to my advantage.

But, there are cons that come with being too quiet: Throughout school, before people got to know me, I was always a target for bullies.

I never stood up for myself and I didn’t care to waste my words on people I didn’t care for. When you meet someone who is naturally quiet, everyone kind of rejects him or her a little.

In college, I came so close to quitting my first year of volleyball because I didn't fit in, and it felt like no one liked me.

But, my best friend, who was one of the few I confided in, advised me to stick it out. In doing so, I developed some of my strongest friendships.

When you are the quiet one, you spend some portion of your time alone, doing your own thing.

And, I admit, sometimes it gets lonely; there will be nights you’d rather stay home and read a book, and you see people out socializing.

Sometimes, you wish you were more like those type of people. But, we are who we are and we can’t pretend to do things and be people we aren't.

When you are quiet, people constantly ask you if you are okay.

Being in groups is tough because you want only to cling to a few people and let that be it. But, it’s out of our comfort zone to talk to many people in large groups.

It isn’t being antisocial; we just won't compete to be heard. Nothing we have to say is that important, and if something is, we will say it.

We resort to people watching and we're entertained with what we see. And, with this, we enhance our skills of observation; quiet people are the most observant.

I’m told on a regular basis I need to talk more, but I’m confident in who I am. When I do speak, it's either to add something more to the conversation or to make you laugh.

People are often surprised at how funny and quick-witted I am. One of the best pieces of advice I was given from my high school English teacher was, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, listen more than you speak.” I have lived happily by that saying.

So, if anyone tells you you're too quiet or need to be anything other than what you are, I am here to tell you: You do not.

You are perfectly wonderful the way you are, no matter what anyone may have to say about it.