silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing

By the time [Harvard Business School student] Don falls into bed at night, he's exhausted. And sometimes he wonders why, exactly, he should have to work so hard at being outgoing. Don is Chinese-American, and recently he worked a summer job in China. He was struck by how different the social norms were, and how much more comfortable he felt. In China there was more emphasis on listening, on asking questions rather than holding forth, on putting others' needs first. In the United States, he feels, conversation is about how effective you are at turning your experiences into stories, whereas a Chinese person might be concerned with taking up too much of the other person's time with inconsequential information.  
"That summer, I said to myself, 'Now I know why these are my people,'" he says.

I'm reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It is simultaneously making me feel better about myself (I'm not alone!) and making me dread the world a whole lot more.


[the title quotation is by William S. Burroughs, in The Job]


  1. Please don't move to China. And remember, all the people who enjoy holding forth need someone to (appear to) listen. :-)

    1. If I thought I was having a hard time finding a house for an introvert in this place, I can't imagine a country with 1.357 billion people would suit me overly well. I know I'm just feeling bruise-y; this too shall pass.

    2. You could move to Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, or Alaska where there are simply no people at all. ;-) Texas has a lot of dead spots too.

      And there's always Tierra del Fuego....