I’m Speechless About Why I’m Always Speechless

I’ve got issues with my smarts in that I feel I’m lacking them. It’s not that I think I’m dumb, but I don’t think I have all that much knowledge. It’s one of the factors that makes me uncomfortable when I meet new people. Everyone in the conversation (All people meeting for the first time) seems to know a fair amount about the various topics being thrown around. Everyone but me. So, I stay silent unless I’m absolutely sure what I have to add won’t make me sound stupid. Needless to say, me speaking to new people doesn’t happen much.

Thank goodness for my wife. She can talk to ANYONE with ease. It’s like watching a magic trick and as long as she’s with me, she does the talking for both of us. The thing is, I wish she didn’t have to.

In a few weeks we’re going to her high school reunion. I have no clue how many people are going, but they’ll all be new to me and for once, I’d like to have things to say. No so much because I care what strangers think of me. I just want to feel like I fit in with the rest of world. And I don’t want my wife to have to tell people, despite my silence, I’m having a good time.

The good news is I know my problem with social situations, which is less a problem and just who I am. I’m introverted, which carries a host of traits including brain freeze when under pressure. Like in groups of people I don’t know. I didn’t know much about introversion, so I figured if found some books that could explain why I’m this way, I’d feel okay at the reunion and . . . life in general.

I found two. The first one, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is really interesting because it goes into the societal changes in America that created the terms introvert and extrovert. It also goes into the shift in extroversion being the more desired personality. I’m only fifty pages in, but reading about where the terms came from and what society thinks about each group (Extroverts outnumber introverts two to one) is giving me a lot of insight into myself.

The other one, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, hasn’t gone that deep into the history like Quiet. What’s it’s done is given me numerous examples explaining why my brain works the way it does. Here’s a particular line that struck me:

Many introverts don’t feel as if they know enough about a subject until they know almost everything.

It’s not often I feel like a book was written specifically for me, but the author could’ve easily have replaced “introverts” with “Andrew.” I’m guessing after I finish the book, I’ll conclude it should’ve been titled The Andrew Advantage.

But it’s not enough to tell me I need to know everything before I think I know anything, the author tells me why:

  1. Introverts can imagine the vastness of any subject.
  2. Since we have experienced our minds going blank, we overcompensate by acquiring as much information as we can.
  3. Since we don’t always say what we’re thinking, we don’t get a lot of feedback to tell us we know more than we think we do.

Well . . . well shit. This author has me pegged. In a paragraph she managed to explain why I’ve spent my whole life feeling awkward in groups of people.

I’m glad I bought both books because of the different, yet awesome perspectives on the same subject. As a gatherer of information, this is essential. I feel a little better about the reunion and might be more inclined to talk since I probably know more than I think I do. If anybody reading this is introverted and wants to learn more about yourself, I highly recommend these books.

5 comments on “I’m Speechless About Why I’m Always Speechless

  1. I can so relate to this post. I think it’s why I’m (too) quiet in the giant cocktail party that is the Internet, too. Thanks for sharing the links! 🙂

  2. One thing that helps me cope has been, when sitting back and doing the study of people thing that we quiet folk do, I’ve noticed–some people don’t mind being wrong about things that don’t matter. They don’t mind appearing as though they don’t know anything. In fact, some of these people actually seem to engage in conversation to learn some of that stuff they don’t know. Imagine that.

    Now, here’s a fun fact: upon examining my own reactions when listening to people, I noticed that I have absolutely no desire to rag on them for not knowing everything. I don’t think they’re abysmally stupid when they don’t know things. If someone wants something from my vast store of knowledge on the few things I know, I’m _happy_ give them some answers. Generally speaking, no one points and laughs at non-experts because–

    Are you ready?

    We’re not ten anymore.

    We’re sensitive. And probably, at some point–maybe several points–we were ridiculed for being wrong or not knowing everything, and it BOTHERED us.

    Point being, I started paying attention to the part I was missing. That no one really cares. That most people with whom we choose to associate are nice; it’s not all position-jockeying anymore, and people aren’t just waiting around to hear you screw up so they can point and laugh. If I’M not waiting to bash people for not being perfect, then probably they aren’t either.

    Yeah, it’s never going to be easy or natural. Probably the thing people most often say to me will always be, “You don’t talk a lot, do you?” But keeping things in perspective in this way makes it easier for me to cope to with social situations.

    Plus, dude, you’re awesome.

  3. Aw, Mr. Mocete, I just want to hug you.

    I completely get that feeling of “I don’t know enough about ‘x'” to participate in a conversation. It’s almost like I have to be an expert in a subject to feel like I can add something – and I NEVER feel like an expert in anything.

    I’m an introvert as well, but I’m what I’ve started to refer to as the “performing introvert”. When I am in a group, I turn “on” to compensate for how uncomfortable I feel. If I don’t feel even the slightest confidence in the topic of conversation, I switch over to humor. It’s the reason why most people who meet me in person tend to think I’m an extrovert.

    But even when I’m “performing” I still feel like I’m on the outside.

    I’m going to have to check out those books!

  4. I’m one of those weird people who feels neither extroverted nor introverted. Kind of both. Kind of depends on my mood. But one of the things I do when being involved in a conversation where I know very little about the subject is listen. I listen while making eye contact with the speaker. This makes the person speaking feel as if they have something important to say. I never pretend like I know anything if I don’t. I express how interesting the knowledge is that the speaker has chosen to impart. Then I can appear wise if not knowledgeable. Hee hee.

  5. @Cricket- Yeah, the internet can feel that way. Thank goodness for Google. I bet if you do a search for something you really like doing, you’ll find a website/forum/group devoted to that subject. It’s how I found the writing community, which lead me to making lifelong friends.

    @Susan- If I really want to get analytical on mah ass, I’ll point the finger at Insecurity. Because you’re right, most people are nice and aren’t going to point and laugh at my (perceived) lack of knowledge. It’s a little, or maybe a lot, silly to think the rest of the world is waiting for me to do something dumb, but that’s why Paranoia is great at parties. You just never know what he’ll think of next.

    It’s an issue about myself that’s been bothering me lately. This irrational belief that all eyes/thoughts are on me. I feel like if can get over this brain-lock I have in social situations, or at least work with it better, it’ll give Paranoia a reason to get off my back.

    @Amber- The books mentioned what you do as a “performing introvert.” There are people who do extroverted things, like public speaking, but are introverts at heart. They use their introverted strengths to, for lack of a better term, fake it. I think to varying degrees that sort of skill benefits every introvert because America is geared more for extroverts. So, good for you!

    @LL- Not weird to be a little of both. The books talk about those types too. They call them ambiverts.

    Brain-lock is my biggest problem in groups because I do get thoughts I want to add to the conversation. But I get mentally tongue-tied and then I blow a fuse. By the time I get the power back on the moment has passed and/or the topic’s changed. It’s quite frustrating to be able to speak well on this here blog, but lose all ability to string words together in person.

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