Nothing about shyness bothers non-shy people more than the reluctance of shy people to talk.
“What’s the matter with you? Speak up! Be assertive! Stop hiding from us!” – that’s their common refrain in workplaces, at school, etc.
Why are social people like that? I think it starts with their instinctual need for communication. Never mind that they regularly lie to each other. Their desire for communication does not seem to be a desire for knowledge. Talking sometimes seems to be just a kind of psychological food they need, which has nothing to do with the truth.
Meanwhile, silent people disturb them.
One of my readers once told me how he was at a Christian studies conference where one of the group leaders, apparently an extrovert, complained repeatedly about him being so quiet. She seemed agitated and was making him nervous, then he remembered what I said in The Shyness Guide:
Someone who is silent and avoidant, but confident, makes them nervous. Well, let them be nervous. Put your own anxiety on the shelf and let them experience it for a change. Learn to play your game, not theirs.
When he remembered that, he said he relaxed and found he was able to ignore her and remain his normal shy self throughout the rest of conference. From then on, he enjoyed being there.
Incidentally, this applies equally to the many autistic people who prefer to talk as little as possible, to introverts, and to those who suffer from social anxiety. They too arouse this hostility.
Social people never consider that the silence of these people might be there for a reason.
If shyness is a natural leftover from humanity’s hunter-gathering past (as I’ve said repeatedly in my books), that’s because it once assisted us, not just in hunting prey, but in the avoidance of predators, including human predators.
But today, in this gigantic social universe that we can no longer escape, silence assists us in keeping our distance from problematic people. We need to turn down our anxiety and, with a cooler head, better understand what is going on. In other words, a silent nature is an aid to detachment, the psychological strategy that I advocate and describe in detail in The Shyness Guide.
Detachment allows you to assess situations and deal with them without anxiety, or at least with reduced anxiety. Many people don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you.
All of us, shy and non-shy, were probably happier when we lived our separate lives in the great wildernesses of 50,000 years ago. We in the small quiet hunter-gatherer families that humanity existed in for a million years or so, while they in their newly invented and steadily growing tribes began their takeover of the world.
People will tell you that this idea makes no biological sense, that humans could never have lived more solitary lives in the wild because we would have been too vulnerable to predators, etc. Don’t fall for that line. Loners have been at home in wilderness throughout recorded history – religious hermits, trappers, refugees, escaped slaves, etc., etc., have survived alone in the wildest places.
Today many hikers prefer to hike alone. I’m one of them, and I’ve met many others. Many hunters prefer to hunt alone, especially among native peoples.
But almost all the world’s pure hunter-gathering people have been eliminated now. Those of us who retain some of the old shy natural ways, who still retain more of the old genes, are unable now to retreat back into the ancient forests that we came from. Now we sometimes have no other way to be ourselves than to remain silent.
Remember that the next time you venture out in the social world. Talk when you want to talk, not when they say you should.