If you’re anything like me, you grew up with the label of “Quiet Kid.” This meant that you were shy or didn’t quite know what to say or how to make friends. Maybe your quietness was even deliberate—you wanted to focus on something other than the drama that tends to go on in school environments.
People seem quite comfortable with putting Quiet Kids into boxes. They seem to think that we are uniformly shy, smart, nerdy, and weird. Occasionally, they think that we believe we are better than everyone else, which is why we speak so seldom.
While all of those assumptions certainly could be true, that’s still all they are: assumptions. "Quiet Kids" have as much diversity as their louder counterparts.
For example, most people think that my quietness is my permanent state of being or that I specifically dislike them. First, I am a very loud, outgoing person when I’m comfortable. Granted, it is extremely difficult for me to get that comfortable around humans, but it has happened. Even if I'm not all the way there, I often make tons of comments that go unnoticed because people stop listening. Second, I may not like “people” as a conglomerate, but I rarely dislike individuals. If I’m quiet around you, it is not because I don’t like you. It’s because I’m not entirely comfortable around you or because I feel more like observing than participating.
People are complicated, even the Quiet Kids.
My advice to those of you who are not “quiet” is to take the time to talk to your Quiet Kid. Although they may surprise you with their readiness to become friends, it may take time. So, make that time. Talk to them a little bit every day. If they’re like me, they’ll be very awkward about it, but will appreciate it all the same. Trust me, if they really don’t like you, they will likely make it obvious.
Of course, if you’d rather not be friends with the Quiet Kid, you don’t have to. It is not a requirement and they are not necessarily lonely. However, if you don’t at least try, you’ll never know what they’re like underneath the veneer of quiet. You could be missing out on your best friend.
To my fellow Quiet Kids, you keep being you. There is nothing wrong with being quiet and it often comes in handy. For example, I usually know what’s going on with everyone around me, because I quickly become invisible and they stop filtering their conversations.
That said, if you want to let your freak flag fly more or are tired of that invisibility, you should. You are in charge of your decisions. If you want to start small, have a conversation with one new person a week until you've met "enough," then revisit those people twice a week, then every other day, then every day. Try to let them see a little more of you each time. Before you know it, you’ll have mostly shed your Quiet Kid label. I won’t lie, it isn’t easy. I have yet to manage it. But if anyone can, you can.
On the other hand, if you’re quiet because you’re especially anxious or because something else is troubling you, please talk to someone like a counselor or a therapist. They will help you resolve whatever it is that’s hurting you so that you can be free to be who you really are. Remember: you do not have to face your challenges alone.