The Introvert Edge: Being Comfortable With Silence


We all sat inside the old church turned “maker space.” Tools lined up on shelves next to chairs that had been borrowed for the occasion. The tributes to our friend had just begun while his sister waited on Skype from her home in Virginia to say a few words. As family members fiddled with the poor WiFi signal we shifted in our seats.  In that pause, we each fell into our own reflecting pool.

Then it happened. The man leading the service rose and talked about the space we sat in.  At any other time, it would have been helpful to learn more about this burgeoning movement of craftsmen helping each other.  In this sad moment, it felt jarring to me. I have no doubt that the MC believed he was taking good advantage of the unplanned break.

Yet as he spoke I fell out of my world and my lovely memories of our friend of 20 years.

A few days later, I stood in front of a group and it happened again. This time I was sharing the lesson I have learned from so many introverts in my work and life. That lesson? Silence is to be cherished. It is a time to recoup, regroup and absorb.

As I asked the group to try out staying silent for a few seconds, a woman in the 2nd row of the lecture hall shrieked with laughter. She couldn’t take the discomfort.

I smiled in recognition.

She is definitely not alone in being so uncomfortable with silence that she feels compelled to fill the air with noise to combat that feeling. I do understand.  I once found silence so prickly that I would imagine I was talking just to fill my head with sound!

However, I have learned to embrace the quiet that introverts cherish. I find that it settles me down. The philosopher Pico Ilyer said, “It is only by stopping movement that we see where to go.” If you want to read about how people like comedian Gary Shandling viewed silence and what I learned from eating at a silent dinner read more here.

Perhaps you fall prey to the extrovert’s curse of over talking.  If you want to increase your comfort with silence, remember to breathe. And not just regular breathing. Try breathing slowly. Count “1,2, 3 “slowly as you breathe in and the same as you breathe out.

The first step is becoming aware of what happens to you when no words are spoken. Observe yourself and take in the world around you. if you are aware of your urge to speak you can accept it. And like good shrieking laughter, it will pass. Notice the gifts you receive when you stay silent and make it a practice in your life.





View All