I have been musing upon something, on-and-off, I’ve noticed that I am doing with increasing frequency: remaining silent. My silence hasn’t just been in the world of face-to-face contact but in the online realm as well. The most recent case of silence was in response to a comment I received from a friend about a metaphor I used in my last Fancy Coffee Friday post. I had to remind myself that words come across harsher in writing than they do in person and I was sure they hadn’t meant to hurt my feelings, but still – they’d mocked my choice of words.
“I won’t stand to be disparaged.” - John “The Biscuit” Cage, Ally McBeal
It stung, the mockery, but intentions aside – the words were already out there. I could have responded fiery and full of hurt, but instead I chose silence. What good would it have done to respond with anything more? Despite my feelings and Dylan Thomas’ poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night”, running through my head, sometimes it’s just best that I keep my mouth shut.
So, last night while out for a friend’s birthday dinner, during the various topics of discussion I found that I again remained silent much more than usual. My friends are all free with their opinions in each other’s presence; however, be it wisdom of age or the fact that one friend stated a couple years ago that I was “opinionated” in a tone that was less than appreciative, I began to listen more, speak less. This same friend very vocally told me I was out-of-line when I inquired of a new coworker how much sharing of their personal life they tended toward because, “I don’t care.” Her words were that I was too harsh and I shouldn’t have said what I did because I alienated this new person. (More on my experience with this person in another post.)
I reflected upon her dressing down, complete with scowls and an unvoiced, “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” and inwardly chuckled because while I can be eloquent with what I write, in person I attempt to keep my words straight and to the point, unminced. If I allow every word that comes to mind escape my lips it comes out looking like a years old dust bunny from under the fridge. It’s messy; the person, or people, who are presented with it don’t quite know what they have before them and have to sift through it to pull out what really matters.
The heart of that matter was, I need someone with whom I can work – not a best friend. I don’t want or need to know the minutia of my coworkers daily life. I go to work, I do my job well, I go home and I get paid twice a month. Does that mean I don’t eventually grow to like or appreciate my coworkers? Nope, but I don’t like being forced into “caring” because it’s expected that I should be interested in their lives. I don’t work that way. Just like the Bonnie Raitt song, you can’t make me care if I don’t.
So, I chewed my lamb kebab and veggies, listened to the various conversations and watched the belly dancer’s two sets, interjecting my thoughts on this topic or that, but in my mind I reflected upon how offended my friend was that I would tell someone I just met that I’m not interested in their personal life. It was as if she thought I wasn’t interested in hers, too.
Eventually the subject changed to the differences of Introversion and Extroversion. There were six of us dining last night and we were evenly split 50/50, the Extroverts on one side and Introverts on the other. Mr. Muse and Tall, Dark & Swedish were seated with me in the Introvert section and we were discussing TD&S’s Extroverted coworker who’d recently broken up with a very Introverted girlfriend because he didn’t seem to understand after he’d moved in a relative for the previous 18 months without inquiry of her feelings, that she couldn’t get the time she needed to be alone. We Introverts all had a look of horror on our faces while the Extroverts looked bewildered.
I spoke up at this point saying I understood this girlfriends feelings because I need a great deal of quiet and alone time, even if Mr. Muse and I are in the same room together, we can tune each other out, exchanging but a few words over the course of hours. I then mentioned how Mr. Muse has learned that if I’m in the middle of working on something, especially writing, that if he needs me – he has to hover until I can break from what I’m doing. Mr. Muse nodded alongside of me wisely, as I then went on to elaborate that when he is working on something, I hover until acknowledge, not because it’s what he prefers, but because it’s what I prefer. TD&S joined in, saying he becomes distraught when interrupted, especially for things he felt could wait until he was done with whatever he was doing. In unison, we all nodded in acknowledgement that we understood each other completely in our need to be left alone much to the astonishment and horror of our Extroverted friends.
As Mr. Muse and I returned home from the dinner, I brought up the topic of remaining silent and the horrified looks on our friends’ faces. How I feel I’ve become more silent and less willing to share my thoughts on topics as people feel I’m out-of-line due to the perceived coldness of intentions. He laughed and patted my knee, reminding me that our friends were much more outgoing than he and I are and that they don’t understand. I voiced my feelings to Mr. Muse that I appreciate we can be in the same room, and house, and not have to speak all the time, the fact that he is there is “enough” for me. He agreed and we drove in silence the rest of the way home, content that the other was just “there”.
Sometimes the Sound of Silence is beautiful and for the best.