Being a Quiet Person

The other day, my management professor pulled me aside before class. This was unusual and I was a bit nervous – I was doing well in the class (or so I thought?) and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I was really impressed with your presentation and you’ve done so well on the first exam.” She began. Okay, we’re good! It doesn’t have to do with my grade! “I wanted to talk to you about your level of participation in class.”

Oh boy, here we go.

As a preface: this professor is rather strict, but I overall really enjoy her class. It consists mostly of case studies and class discussion, and participation is a big part of the final grade. I feel like I participate a fair amount – not every class, but I do try to say at least one thing per class. I’m just not an active talker. In fact, it makes me really uncomfortable to talk in class, but I try occasionally for the sake of my grade.

My professor continues. “Someone with your intellectual capacity should be able to contribute more to class discussion. There are some students that just aren’t there yet, but I know with how well you’ve been doing in the class and you’re a smart girl, that you have so much that you could add to the conversation. So I want to ask you if there’s a reason why you don’t actively participate.”

I try to compose a reasonable answer besides, I just don’t want to. “Well,” I start, “I take several moments to compose my thoughts before I speak, and many time students have already said what I’m thinking. And, I’m just a natural listener. I just listen to other people without even thinking about inserting into the conversation, especially in a classroom environment,” I explained. “I have to consciously think that I need to add something, which is just not natural for me.”

She nods her head. “I totally understand that.” She says. “I was the same way – I was a very quiet person and I made a lot of mistakes in my first career job, and really in several after that because of that fact. The truth is, in the real world, in any career, you’re going to have to be more vocal. We need more assertive young women. I think that you could really benefit with experimenting being more vocal in this class.”

She went on to tell me things that I could bring up in class, like being the devil’s advocate or summarizing what other students had said, etc. I nod and promise her that I will try to be more active in class. She also asked what my plans were for after graduation. She knew that I was a finance student, and she lamented that she didn’t have that many contacts in the financial industry but that if she heard of anything, she’d let me know.

I was, and still am, flattered and slightly touched. It really was a compliment – especially that she wanted to help me find a job after graduation, even though I’m moving back to St. Louis. She really does have the best interest for her students at heart. I’m sure that she plays the mentor role well for many students.

And I do understand that being vocal and contributing is essential in any career, so I understand why she emphasizes it so much in the classroom. However, the classroom is not the work environment. So it is hard for me to practice something that doesn’t necessarily apply in the current situation.

My shyness has actually been something that I’ve been thinking about lately, before my professor even approached me on the subject. Sometimes, even in social gatherings, I can kind of suck into myself and just listen. I’ve always wondered if I would have more people in my life if I just talked more. Don’t get me wrong – I have wonderful amazing friends in my life, but really just a handful. I’m not wanting for more, just thinking. It’s more of a “what if” scenario that I play in my head. What would happen if I wasn’t so quiet.

Is it bad to just be a quiet person? No, I don’t think inherently it is. So why do I always feel like I have to apologize for being quiet?

11 thoughts on “Being a Quiet Person”

  1. I totally understand how you feel. I’m a shy quiet person myself. Sadly a lot of people tend not to understand us quiet people.

    But your professor sounded really cool about the whole thing. She tried to encourage you and such. I like the way she went about it. I love when you find people like that that do seem to truly care.

  2. Personally, there’s nothing wrong with being shy or quiet or whatever. Just be yourself. Yet your professor do bring up a point about how people (not just women, but men, too) should be vocal and assertive . . . but when the need arises? I dunno, I feel like that’s way more effective than being constantly assertive and such to the point where it’s overbearing. So I guess the point is to just find that balance? And never, ever apologise for being quiet. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with it!!!

  3. Hey Becca! I haven’t commented on a post in a while but I’ve been reading your posts! I’m glad you had a great wedding and honeymoon! Your wedding seemed fun!

    I’m really quiet too and I get that from people that I need to speak up too. I’m an intern at an elementary school and my supervisor wants me to be more assertive and be less quiet too. There’s nothing wrong with being quiet. I’m president of an organization on campus and at times I’ve felt like I wasn’t doing a good job because I’m not assertive or loud enough. But I have different strengths and I can make sure other people maybe can recruit more for the club or do the “social” part. I have a handful of friends, but not many.

    What are you thinking about doing after graduation? I’m graduating next May too. I’m thinking about doing something in business as well.
    I’m from Texas but I’ve been to St. Louis! It’s a pretty town, I really liked going up the Gateway Arch!

    1. Laurie!! I was just thinking about you a couple weeks ago wondering how you were doing!

      There really isn’t anything wrong with being quiet – it can just be very draining for me to be around so many extroverted people (my husband is a HUGE extrovert and so are most of my friends) and then have a professor tell me I’m too quiet. It’s just a balance I need to figure out. :)

      After graduation…. I’m honestly not too sure, yet. We’re moving back home to St. Louis but I don’t have any solid plans other than that. Just praying that I can find a good job fairly quickly! I’m graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration, so I can really do a lot with it, just not sure yet. I think I’m going to find a job and hopefully with that experience can figure out more specifically what I’m interested in. But we will see! What will you be graduating with?

      St. Louis is a great town! It’s got some bad media lately, but I love it so much! The Arch is awesome and there’s so much to do there!

      So good to hear from you!

      1. Hey Becca! I’m doing great, I’m ready to graduate from college! I’m graduating with a bachelors in Psychology and a minor in General Business. I want to go on the business route though. I’m taking an Industrial/Organizational Psychology class next semester, which is like psychology in the workplace. I’m really interested in career development and human resources.

        Oh yeah, with what happened in Ferguson! Things like that could happen anywhere though. There’s a lot to do in Texas too. Have you been to Texas? I live in a really diverse city and go to a diverse university. I have many friends from different cultures, which I really love. :)

        1. Oh yeah – I believe you’ve told me that before! That would be great to have to go into HR. Makes me think of Toby from The Office – haha only kidding. I’ve actually thought about doing a psychology minor, but by the time I decided I would have had to go an extra semester. I thought it would be a great minor to have if I wanted to go into HR.

          Yup. :/ And it really could happen anywhere. I actually haven’t been to Texas! I may have driven through the northern part before when my family traveled west for a vacation one year, but I’ve never actually visited. I’d love to go some day, though!

  4. There is nothing wrong with being shy or quiet. Some times, professors prefer those that don’t talk over the ones that has to talk. I.E. the know it alls and the ones that always has something to say. But I am glad that you have someone looking out for you. That’s all we need in this life, and especially in college to have at least professor looking out for us. For instance, Tristan has the highest grade in his Calculus class and was told that his professor would have no problem adding him into Calculus 2. I know for a fact that my web development professor would do the same for me if my asp.net is filled up. In fact, I do believe that he was hinting at me to take his C# class with him as he asked me if I were going to take that or asp.net .

    I don’t know, people frown upon making friends with professors or teachers, but there is nothing wrong with that. Especially if you get along well with them. In fact, since I did extremely well on my English mid-term, my English professor told me that I did not have to worry about missing one quiz because I did extremely well on my English mid-term. She has let me slide on so many things. I believe that some people just misunderstand her because she does have a very thick accent and is quite harsh. But that’s reality. Some professors are like that, ya know? Harsh, but they’re teaching us how to succeed in college which is acting as a job. My registration date is in December (again with the new students), and I am just hoping that I can get my classes that I need.

  5. I don’t think that being a quiet or shy person is a bad thing. I see what she was trying to say and it was incredibly nice that she was trying to give you that advice in a positive way. She sounds like she does really want to help you and allow you to succeed at your full potential. It might be something that takes a bit of time to gain the confidence to speak up.

  6. Aw, there’s nothing wrong with being queit or shy.
    I like how your prof tried to encourage you to be more vocal. It does take some time to become more vocal in a setting like that. I personally am quiet and shy in situations where I am not familiar or feel sfe with. I am also similar to you, as in I’m a really good natural listener but I don’t express myself that well in public settings. It’s just something I need to learn constantly and use my communication skills (:

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