It's really hard not to criticize people. Let's face it, we're all human and therefore prone to false judgments sometimes. When we see people in our day to day lives who maybe dress in a way we view as strange, act in a way we disagree with, or appear in a way we don't like, the natural instinct always seems to be to judge and criticize. We've all done it. It's hard not to. It's really not fair though, because speaking as one who is often misread, you miss out on a lot when you make quick judgments.
When I was in High School, I took one year of choir, and one day our teacher assigned us a sort of "get to know you" project. I've always hated these kinds of things, but this one had the potential to be interesting. He essentially wanted us to create a poster of ourselves. This poster could be covered with words, pictures, drawings, decorations - anything that we felt best described us. Since this wasn’t actually a project where we had to go up and talk to people, I managed to not be annoyed by it (Most teachers make you do that one game where you have a paper with a bunch of questions on them and you have to go around asking people those questions and getting them to sign your paper. It's an effective way to get to know people, but I absolutely despise that game. I was just grateful not to be doing that this time.).
On my poster I put pictures of my favorite TV shows, books, quick little pitches I'd written for my own books, and a couple pictures of myself and friends. It was all pretty basic. But I added something to my poster that I didn't think was really cool, but most of my classmates were intrigued by. I put a sheet of tissue paper over the top of my poster that you could lift away like a curtain. It was supposed to be symbolic of the fact that you can't see all of my on the surface, and if you really want to know who I am, you have to pull away the curtain and dare to look a little deeper.
This idea came very naturally to me because I've always known myself to be a closed off person. My whole family is. It takes years to get to know a Carter well. As I've gotten older, I've put up my walls, become more paranoid, and more cautious in my social interactions, so getting to know me is harder now than it has ever been.
My point here isn't to challenge you to get to know the quiet people in your lives, although you should because, seriously, you have no idea what you're missing when you don't. My point is to say that who a person is can't be seen by a single glance or through one conversation. We human beings go deeper than that. This shouldn't be news to you. I remember this idea being drilled into me in Elementary school - how we should all be kind to one another and not judge each other because of how we look, etc., etc. We've heard it all before.
Make whatever judgments you want, but remember to be kind with them. When you pass a person at work, school, or on the street, all you see is their face, and you have no idea what goes on in their heads, their hearts, or the rest of their lives. Without knowing the whole story, your criticisms could be wrong - in fact, they probably are. More than that, I suspect we all become a little closed off as we get older. We lose something when we transition from childhood to adulthood. Children have to ability to be open and sincere in everything they do, but we adults are far more cautious and suspicious of our fellow men because, having lived longer means we have also been hurt by others before. So, we keep our hearts hidden in the quiet recesses of our souls, only coming out when met with those who dare to look.
There are some people who have to ability to keep their hearts on their sleeves, and I've found that those people tend to be most well liked. They're easier to trust, and they have an unfeigned openness and friendliness that's so hard to not to be charmed by. But, not everyone can be like that. Not all of us have the courage. Be grateful for those out there who do, but realize that those aren't the only kinds of people worth getting to know. They're easier, but understand that just because a person isn't quiet doesn't mean they're dull.
Quiet people have the ability to see things that most people don't because they spend so much of their time observing. They tend to perceive the human race in a way that others haven't considered before. They're not always right, but they're always interesting. So take silence as a challenge to get to know someone. Trust me, it's completely worth it.