Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Prevent Footinmouth Disease

Some people reminisce about high school. But when I think about high school I think, High school? Really? Are you serious? High school was the lamest 4 years of my life. My school had Senior Superlatives, which are things like Prettiest Smile, Most Athletic, Most Flirtatious, etc. Well I actually was one of the winners of these "awards." Well if I was popular enough to get an award, then why was high school so lame? I should tell you what the award was. Although I was once ashamed of it, I am now proud to say that I won the senior class "Super Shy" award. Pretty cool huh? For someone who was insecure about my quietness at the time, this was like giving an award for "Most Stupid" or "Most Socially Awkward."

I was in all the advanced classes, so all the people that actually cared enough to vote about who was most popular knew who I was. I was the quiet guy who was good at math and never talked to anyone but Justin. They all knew my name and they all knew I was the quietest kid in class, so they voted me in. My sister won the same award 2 years prior and I always thought extremely highly of her and thought she was pretty popular and not actually quiet, so I ended up not being incredibly bothered by winning that award.

Actually, I'm now kind of proud when I get to tell people I won that award. My perspective on being quiet has changed completely. I was once ashamed of my quietness, but now I'm usually very glad I'm quiet.

Most people assume that quietness is because the person is shy. They think that quiet people have something to say, but just don't have the courage to speak up about it. Perhaps they're afraid of being judged or are overly judgmental of their own ability to formulate thoughts. Shyness is certainly a common reason for being quiet, but is very often not the only reason for being quiet.

Another very common reason for being quiet is simply not having anything to say. There's not much to say about this. This is usually the reason I don't say anything, because I just don't have anything to say. I'm interested in listening to the person talking or I don't feel like silence is as awkward as most people feel. Sometimes there is just nothing to say.

Slow thinking is another reason people are quiet. We were having a discussion at a small group meeting about something philosophical. There was no reading ahead of time. It was just an impromptu discussion. My friend noticed that I hadn't said much and asked me what I was thinking because it looked like I was thinking about something. Well, I was thinking about something, but I was honestly just having a hard time keeping up with the conversation. They were jumping from one topic to the next before I had enough time to come up with my own thought on the subject. It's a lot easier for me to come up with thoughts when I've had time.That's why I like writing and it's also why I can talk about plenty of things when I've spent plenty of time preparing.

The last reason that I'll mention is when people don't talk because they are secretively judging everyone and are being mean by not talking. This is a high school concept. By "high school" I mean stupid. It's extremely rare that this is the case. Shy people are not necessarily that person you should worry about burning down the building. Yes, sometimes the quiet ones are the ones who "burn down the building," but most quiet people are perfectly nice people with good intentions, just like the talkative ones.

Do you know someone who claims their mouth is so big they can fit both their feet in it? I do. I know a few people like that. I feel sorry for them. I have certainly put my foot in my mouth plenty of times, but it's not too common of an occurrence because I usually think about what I say before saying it. This is one of the best benefits of being quiet. Usually quiet people just have the natural tendency to think about what they will say before saying it, thus implementing the "speech filter" before speaking...not right while your toe is entering your mouth. This is a benefit, but it's also not. It's not because I am often so good at using my speech filter before speaking that I'm also really good at letting people see only what I want them to see. Nothing slips out, just the good stuff that make me look like I'm a better, wiser person than I actually am. This is a problem.

Also, people who talk all the time are annoying. You may know someone like this. I know a couple. I'd like to hear one of their opinions on why they talk so much, because my ideas on why they talk are probably wrong. I usually tend to believe that they just like to hear themselves talk or that they think their opinion is more legitimate than another's. Not talking is a great way to avoid annoying people...usually.

Sometimes quiet people are annoying too, though. They (when I say they I mean we) have lots of awkward silences. It takes them too long to think of things to say in a one-on-one conversation to completely avoid silences. We often aren't bothered by silence at all.

I remember riding in a car with a friend who I was thought was quiet, but found out she wasn't. The first hint that she wasn't was when we were in the car riding back from ice skating and she said something like, "I feel weird that we aren't talking." Alarms went off in my head. What? Quiet people don't mind silence. You're an impostor! I thought we had quietness in common, but you aren't truly a quiet person. You just haven't gotten used to the new group you're a part of yet. My suspicions were later confirmed. She wasn't a deep down quiet person, just a temporary one. Even though quiet people don't mind silence, I fully understand the awkwardness of it. Quiet people just know how to embrace the awkwardness.

That is all. Maybe you understand quietness better.


  1. Good summary Jon.You discribed me to a T.

  2. Jon, I would say the same thing about you as I've often said about your mother: She doesn't have a lot to say, but when she does say something it is almost always worth hearing. Some of us accelerate the mouth before engaging the clutch (i.e. brain) and this quite often leads to this strange foot in mouth disease of which you speak.

  3. Hee Hee, I'm one of those people who is flexible to stick both feet in my mouth! Were you thinking of me? ;-)

    I always said it was awesome that you were so quite because it gave me a chance to talk more. However, I did seem that you did think before you spoke and it was usually worth hearing.

  4. I was partially thinking of you, Nathan, especially the quote. But the only time you ever stick your foot in your mouth is when you're in front of a bunch of people, which doesn't happen as often these days :)