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Sorry, But Quiet People Aren’t Like What You Think (Quite the Opposite Actually)

Sorry, But Quiet People Aren’t Like What You Think (Quite the Opposite Actually)

Growing up, I was known as the “quiet, nerdy kid”. I didn’t talk much during meals, at school, or social gatherings.

Often, people thought I was anti-social or lacking presentation skills. Some of my friends even had the first impression that I hated them when we first met. Just because I didn’t talk (and with my RBF), they assumed I didn’t want to befriend them.

Or there were times in conversations, I didn’t engage in them and people thought I was silently judging all of them, but in fact, I was thinking and absorbing what everyone had to say.

I’m sure if you are a quiet person, you are under constantly assumed to be shy, impolite, timid, or even arrogant. I feel you. But in reality, most quiet people don’t fit into the assumptions, and the reason for these misconceptions and misunderstandings is because we communicate in a different way.

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There’s no right or wrong when it comes to communication, and I think it’s time to let everyone know how we act and think as quiet people.

We are quiet in person, talkative in mind.

When we don’t say anything, it doesn’t mean our minds are blank.

Stephen Hawking once said, “Quiet people have the loudest minds.” It’s true, we store a lot of deep thoughts in our minds, but we keep our sarcastic comments and jokes in our brains as well.

We are usually thinkers, and often over-thinkers. We create conversations in our heads to help us think, plan, evaluate, and execute our ideas before saying it out loud or diving into actions.

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We gain information through different means.

While some people learn about others through interactions and exchanging information in conversations, we like to observe others and everything happening around.

My dad once taught me the art of observation. He thinks you could tell a lot about a person only through observing their appearances and mannerisms.

Say you meet someone new. What that person is wearing, their body language, and eye contact can give you a rough idea of who that person is.

Of course, sometimes simply by observation is not enough, quiet people do start conversations when we are interested to know more about a certain person.

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We are not necessarily shy.

The general norm is the more you speak, the more confident you sound. And sometimes, people categorize all quiet people as lacking confidence or scared to present themselves. But for some quiet people, we are not afraid of the spotlight, and we are sociable too. Speaking to us is a preference rather than a must-do action in social situations. We don’t mind to share our ideas, thoughts, and experiences.

We don’t hate you because we are quiet.

The easiest way to tell the other person you are interested in develop a relationship is definitely through speaking. But just because we aren’t as talkative as others, we don’t mean to be rude or cold. There are still many ways and channels to express our affection to our loved ones.

Everyone has a different idea on what it means to be “neutral”. Some people believe they must be smiling and asking “how are you” to convey a message of “we’re good”. But for others, like quiet people, we believe indicating “everyone’s fine as when it was one hour ago” is to do nothing. In this sense, quiet people are deemed as cold or mean, because we express the same message differently.

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    We take speaking seriously.

    We believe we need to think carefully before we say anything, because there are way too many times where something is said at the wrong time, wrong place, and to the wrong person.

    And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying talkative people don’t think before they speak. I enjoy listening to talkative people share their stories and fill the room with their presence. Just we hold different thoughts about what speaking should mean.

    It’s not about helping a quiet person, but understanding.

    From time to time, others want to “help” me (with a good intention) in sharing sessions. They think I have stage fright, or I can’t come up with things to say, or I have problem disclosing information about myself. To some quiet people, these assumptions might be true, but for me, I don’t find expressing myself difficult.

    I hope this article gives you more insight to quiet people and I’m sure you gain more perspective on how yourself or others think!

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    Frank Yung

    Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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