Month: March 2012

If my words fall in the forest, do they make a sound?

Twice recently, people I know have offered their general assessments of me, and both times the word they chose to sum me up is quiet. Believe it or not, this never fails to surprise me. I like to think that others would describe me as nice, or sincere, or smart, because let’s face it “quiet” is not generally seen as a compliment. But I don’t think either of these people meant it as an insult; they were just calling it as they see it.

So, with this Quiet label now hanging onto me, I’ve also realized why I’m so quiet: it’s very important to me that when I do talk, I feel heard. Far too often, when I do venture to speak out in a group setting, even if I manage not to stutter over the words, I won’t be halfway through my thought before someone interrupts me. I know, I’m probably just being too sensitive, but when that happens – especially when they don’t bother to acknowledge it with an “Oh, I’m sorry, but you were saying…?” – my instinctive reaction is to clam up. As Rod Stewart sings, “There ain’t no point in talkin’ when there’s nobody listenin’…”

In said group settings, sometimes I’ll notice more than one person talking at a time. Apparently they don’t care whether anyone listens or not. (Side note: I’m not sure that’s preferable to quietness.) Not me. I need for at least one person to show me that I’ve made a connection. Look at me. Maybe nod a little. Don’t interrupt. And when I’m finished, please make at least some small acknowledgement of what I’ve said before changing the subject.

Again, I can admit that maybe I’m being too sensitive to expect such perfect conditions in every group setting. But what about in my personal relationships? Am I being unreasonable to want to feel heard – “validated” if you will – when I talk to the people who are supposed to care about me?

I mention this because yesterday I got together with my so-called boyfriend. He’d had to work the previous three weekends, so it’d been about a month since our last date. And I was really looking forward to going out and catching up, even making a mental list of some of the things that had been going on so I could share them. So he arrives and we head off. He talked about work, and I listened. When that topic seemed to be done, I ventured to mention some of what I’d been up to… and just a few minutes into it, he interrupts to comment on some people holding signs by the road. Okay, Anne, I thought. Don’t be so sensitive. Just carry on. So I resumed my story… and he interrupts *again* to comment on the signs people have for some political candidate. And does he acknowledge the interruption and come back to my story? Well, if he had, would I have been reduced to writing an angry blog about it?

This has been one of my biggest complaints about him for the longest now, and not only because such interruptions are flamingly rude. No, to me, the upsetting part about this pattern of him not listening is that it reflects inescapably the truth that he simply isn’t interested in what I have to say, in how I think… in who I am. “Oh, Anne,” you might respond. “You’re not being fair, complaining about it here but not letting him know.” But see, that’s perhaps the most upsetting part of all. I *have* let him know. Repeatedly. Generally and specifically. But from what I’ve seen, he’s either not interested in or not capable of behaving any other way.

I go back and forth in my feelings of whether Jeff and I are meant to be together for the long haul. Then something like this happens and makes it clear that we definitely are not. I refuse to spend the rest of my life begging someone to be interested in me. In fact, now I’m seriously wondering just how many more of my Saturdays I should spend that way. I’ve already decided that I’m not going to be free next weekend… and very likely not the one after that, either.

FYI, my initial response to the interruptions mentioned above was to clam up. Instead I dropped my subject altogether and commented that woo hoo, finally something good (Mission Impossible 4) was playing at the dollar theatre; I added pointedly that was good because we’d be spared the burden of further conversation.

See, that’s what happens when Quiet Girl’s attempts to talk are not well-received. She morphs into her evil twin: Stony Silence.