Happy Friday everyone! My pondering mind has been at it again but this time I am contemplating silence amongst people who would usually be labelled vocal advocates. I’m not talking about the dark type of silence that occurs where people don’t speak up in the face of some injustice, or even silencing (the mechanisms through which the status quo suppresses or ignores minority or subversive voices), I mean, just having nothing to say.
I like to refer to myself as a loud quiet person. This basically means that I’m quiet with a dose of goofiness, and have the ability to make myself heard – if need be. This means that I do have a tendency to really have at in voicing my opinion in the face of prejudice, injustice, bad television, poor customer service, the deliciousness of ice cream, enjoyable books, great rugby and the like. What I have found quite interesting however, is the continuous expectation that I must have something to say or a fully formulated opinion on virtually everything under the sun, partly because I am so willing to use my voice in other situations. When it transpires that actually, I have no particular opinion on, say, which side of the road it is better to drive on, I have noticed some people become taken aback. It’s almost as though by virtue of having been heard to shamelessly cackle in the middle of First Street, I have forfeited my right to have a complex personality – if I have often been loud I must always be loud. Thus any silence on my part should be perceived as being related to negative moods or negative emotions. I’m apparently not allowed to just have nothing to say.
There is nothing wrong with having a loud personality, or being loud on occasion, or anything in between. My fundamental issue lies in the need to categorise people, and strip them of any flexibility when it comes to how they go about performing their personality. I also have a problem with the fact that such categorisation denies the importance of context when considering a person’s personality and behaviour. This implies that not only are we often loud people incapable of being multi-faceted, we apparently also lack the powers of introspection and reflection or really – brain use, which would allow us to choose how to behave. There is also nothing wrong with asking after someone if they seem different or under the weather to you. What is annoying however, is when people refuse to accept a response that indicates that a personality is not what they thought it would be, as though they necessarily know you better than you know yourself.
The problem I have with the expectation of across-the-board opinionated-ness is the same one I have with people who are considered experts in one area being used as experts in another area that has absolutely nothing to do with their actual area of expertise. The problem is ignorance. I find it very odd to be expected to have an opinion on something that I am not particularly familiar with. (Given the breadth of knowledge in the universe, most things will fall under this category.) This unease is particularly apparent, after having had a few foot-in-mouth type gaffes of my own, and after having had my mind opened up to an intersectional world. The fact remains that there are some things that I am not going to know about or fully understand and sometimes I need to just keep my mouth shut and be taught some things or at least withhold judgment until I have more information to work with.
Availability of information aside, there are some things that simply fail to pique my interest – say, soccer that isn’t played at national level, or the technical aspects of cars. When such topics arise, I tend to opt to go to a lovely place in my head where I can ponder whatever I like, to my heart’s content. That should be considered a perfectly legitimate way to spend my time. Being outspoken in one area should not create an obligation to speak all the time.
Other times, I simply have nothing to say, and that’s okay.