“That was an excellent meeting! I’m having a great feeling about this”, my boss says overflowing with confidence and smiles at me and my workmate. We’ve just had a meeting with a potential new client a couple of days ago.
While my boss keeps going on about his great feeling and the good work we all did, my eyes start to wander around. Outside there’s a squirrel running around on the opposite building. I watch it going back and forth on the rim between the 1st and 2nd floor. How did it even get up there? It’s easy for it to walk on the rim, but there’s nothing else to cling to for a couple of meters up and down until the next window. The squirrel slows down its running back and forth. It looks down over the rim. Carefully at first, then it leans forward further and further.
“Oh my gosh”, I think and try to keep my eyes from watching the squirrel. “It will fall down. And die a painful death. I can’t watch a squirrel jump to death right in front of my eyes!”
I’m trying to think of something to do. Maybe I should pretend to go to the toilet, run outside and tell it to wait until the fire brigade arrives to save it. But I don’t speak squirrelish, so the squirrel would probably misunderstand me and jump anyway.
“The client told me she was very impressed with your knowledge about the product, too”, my boss suddenly says. He’s looking at me, still smiling triumphantly.
I smile back and nod.
“She also said you seemed a bit quiet. But she thought that’s just the kind of person you are.”
My smile freezes. A quiet person? She also could have called me a wallflower, it wouldn’t have made any difference.
I look outside the window again. The squirrel has miraculously made its way down to the window shutter on the ground floor. It jumps down on the ground gracefully and runs away.
There’s nothing I hate more than people calling me quiet. Because I’m not. I used to be. But I’m not anymore. And I want people to acknowledge that. When I was a teenager, I was shy. Incredibly shy. I would blush in class when the teacher asked me a question, even though I almost always knew the answers. Never would I have dared to raise my hand or blurt out an answer like my classmates did. I also didn’t talk to people I didn’t know. When we were at a party and my friends were getting to know some guys, I would just stand there listening to their conversations. Of course, I uttered a couple of words when someone asked me something. But that alsmost never happened anyway. My friends always encouraged me to be more outgoing, because they knew I could talk a lot when we were just on our own. But it didn’t really bother me at that time. I actually enjoyed listening and watching people. Plus, I didn’t feel like I had that much to say to random people. Until I realized that being invisible doesn’t only have advantages (like not being bullied because you’re never noticed anyway). It lead to me getting worse grades because I wasn’t participating actively in class. And it made it really hard to get to know new people, let alone finding a boyfriend. I also had this dream of becoming a journalist or at least something related to that. And there’s no such thing as a shy journalist.
So I decided to try to be just a little more outgoing. Just a little. Looking back, I didn’t even have to try that hard. It was rather the path I took, the situations I put myself into, that helped me to grow. While I was in my final year at school, I joined the drama group and played a supporting role in “The Wave”. In front of my family, friends and all the kids at my school. I moved out from my parents’ home and started studying communication science in a city I had never been to. 95% of my fellow students were people who loved to hear themselves talking more than anything in the world, but mostly there wasn’t much behind these words. And they all wanted to do “something with media” as long as it involved them being in the center of attention. I was lucky to find some people who were different and I managed to get good grades. It was at uni where I found my passion for PR. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. My PR professor thought otherwise. He thought I was too quiet for the job (haha!). But here I am today, having more than 4 years of experience in the business, consulting clients and holding presentations in front of people I have never met before. I’m also known for being able to even get along with “difficult” people. And I think that is to some part because I like to listen first, then think and then talk. Because I’m not some blabbermouth who likes to push oneself to the fore. I like to talk now, too. I love doing small talk. I love meeting new people. I love talking about silly stuff and things that I’m passionate about. Because I’ve actually discovered that I have something to say. So I guess the listening for all those years was worth something. It just took longer for me to find my inner voice. But still, when I don’t have anything to say, I remain silent. I listen and soak up everything like a sponge. Until I finally have something to say.
All of this would have been unthinkable for the teenage me. So I think it’s pretty impressive for a girl who wasn’t able to buy stuff at the bakery or to make an appointment at the dentist because it involved talking to strangers. So please, please, just never call me quiet again. Because I’m NOT!