There are two kinds of people in the world: The Quiet Ones and The Talkative Ones. You know, those who blend into the background and the more gregarious ones who are in the middle of things.
As a child, I was painfully shy and afraid of people, having grown up in a very frightening, hostile environment. I was choking on a million secrets that somehow I knew I must keep.
Terrified that someone would find out what they were, at about the age of 13, I created the perfect cover, superficially looking like one of those gregarious girls and making sure no one knew those secrets.
Eventually, that bubbly, wisecracking exterior made me look like an outgoing young woman who was capable of witty and sparkling conversation to suit any situation. As long as I was doing the talking, no one had much of a chance to ask questions. The "Real Me" remained hidden.
I lived like that for decades, but after much healing and soul-searching, I didn't need that cover any more. Nor did I want it. The cover had become a burden.
In the meantime, I'd learned that a good hostess keeps a conversation flowing. So when in the company of The Quiet Ones, I still felt compelled to fill those empty spaces with words. People have always expected me to be The Talkative One but I haven't wanted to be that person for years.
This is not about being either The Talkative One or The Quiet One. It is about being both. I love nothing more than a stimulating, thought-provoking conversation - a dialogue that stretches me, makes me think, learn, grow or be creative. And I enjoy 'catching up' on what's new with friends.
But sometimes I have nothing to say. Or I'm subdued, pensive, introspective. Because I am a communicator, words are a huge part of my life, from inspirational speaking to stand-up to writing books - and more. Part of being a good communicator is being quiet sometimes. It means listening - to self, others, and to life - and absorbing, digesting and contemplating what has been learned.
I want to speak only if I have something meaningful to say. I want to speak only if it is my choice, and not because others have put all the responsibility on me to continue a very lopsided "conversation" - or rather, maintain a painful (for me) monologue - saving them the discomfort and the effort that they don't mind dumping in my lap.
To make matters worse, I can stand only so much small talk before I want to put a fork in my eye. Why should I feel obliged - pressured - to dig for more mind-numbing chatter whilst everyone else gets to remain silent?
I'm sick of pulling teeth to get others to contribute to conversations. It sucks. It's a chore. It's an effort. It takes all the joy out of a visit. They leave; I'm exhausted, and they're oblivious.
I'm not doing it any more.
Why should they get to do all the listening, and keep their thoughts to themselves? Why should they expect others to do all the work, all the talking? Why should others be forced to expend their energy and open themselves up, while The Quiet Ones get to sit there in silence?
Their excuse is that they are "just quiet by nature." Well, so am I, dammit. Why should I be expected to take responsibility for their share of our conversations? They sure as hell aren't taking responsibility for mine. They won't even take responsibility for their own.
And if someone else is always filling in the gaps, The Quiet Ones will never be forced to come out of their shells. They will never be pushed to that uncomfortable place that makes them take a risk, open up and share who they really are, just as they expect and need others to do so they don't have to do it themselves.
Further, if The Quiet Ones remain forever closed, they deprive us of knowing who they really are. They're hiding their beautiful lights from the world. What a shame. They say they're afraid to be vulnerable. So are the rest of us, to varying degrees, but we do it anyway. Get over it.
For years I've known I want to be The Quiet One a whole lot more often, but I've felt trapped by other people's expectations. I can't believe I didn't even notice. I guess old habits die hard. I'm always teaching people to speak their truth and to honour themselves, but I didn't see that on this topic, I've not spoken my truth or honoured myself - until now.
If I want to be The Quiet One, I don't need anyone's permission but my own. If other Quiet Ones don't like it, they can either suck it up and start talking - or go home.
To hell with being The Talkative One all the time and letting The Quiet Ones off the conversational hook. If I have something to say, I'll say it. If I don't, I won't. And if The Quiet Ones don't say anything either, then I guess our visits will be really short from now on.
For a look at my books, CDs and other 'stuff', visit www.libertyforrest.com.