Saturday, 7 March 2015

Lost for words

People sometimes say that my shyness, my tendency to be tongue-tied with other people, is due to my being too self-conscious.

I don't know about that. What exactly is "too much" self-consciousness anyway? If anything, I think I'm probably not self-conscious enough. I'm more than capable of blurting out something stupid or insensitive without realising, or of saying the complete opposite of what I'm really thinking or feeling.

To my mind, the more self-conscious people are, the better. The more aware we are of how we're behaving, how we're affecting other people, what sort of impression we're making, the more likely we are to treat people decently rather than nastily.

Even if we're talking total self-absorption, that's not so awful either. Okay, so the person might be jabbering away about themself, but at least they're not planning a shooting spree or a mass beheading. The worst they can do is bore you to tears.

I think my shyness is due more to the assumption that other people won't accept me for what I am. If I just gabble away freely, sooner or later someone will object to something I've said and there will be an unpleasant exchange. People take offence at the strangest things, and I can't predict what they will be. So I find myself listening rather than talking so as to avoid sudden umbrage.

My shyness is probably also a reaction to wasting so many hours of my life listening to people confidently holding forth on things they know absolutely nothing about, or things that have already been dissected ad nauseam by all and sundry. I hesitate to add yet another ill-informed or superfluous opinion to the surrounding hubbub.

And at the end of the day, I'd just rather be a shrinking violet than a pompous windbag.


  1. I had the same affliction but was gently told I had my nose stuck so deep inside my own navel that I was missing out on living life to the fullest.

    Best advice I was ever given.

    Now I listen deeply and well and only comment on another's person sharing if I share that life's experience or triumph or tragedy or want to learn more from them.

    I find most good conversationalists do the same.

    Windbags or newsbags (i.e. gossips) I avoid like the plague.

  2. I think shyness is more wired-in - so much of who we are is temperamental and then reinforced or altered some as we are raised.

  3. www: I don't think I'm stuck in my own navel - but others might disagree!

    I'm a good listener but there's something about me that stops most people from confiding anything very personal.

    Agent: I'm not sure about that. Several people have told me that they used to be shy but they suddenly snapped out of it as they grew older. I'm still waiting!

  4. I think I might be a windbag. :(

    There's a problem with working to overcome shyness, and that is that we don't naturally have an awareness of how far to go with comments/jokes/information in the way that less self-conscious people do. I find that when I have an audience who seems appreciative of me, I tend to just go that little bit too far and cringe inwardly later.

  5. I jut telling you what the research shows about temperament. And I did say that later experiences can alter it.

  6. Dear, dear, dear, Nick. This is one your posts where I have to keep my thoughts and my tongue in check.

    I admire the likes of WWW and Secret Agent, indeed Jay, who are most diplomatic.

    Windbag? Pompous? Nick, look in the mirror first. I wouldn't call you a windbag whatever that is. But "pompous"? That you are. Both on your blog and when leaving comments on others'. Always wagging your finger. And that's fine. It takes all sorts of colours to make a rainbow.

    Don't worry, Nick, you do have your uses, if only to make me either laugh in disbelief or shake my head.


  7. Jay: I think most people are not quite sure how far to go. But the less self-conscious among us just don't worry about it. They simply follow their impulses and then apologise if someone gets upset.

    Agent: But some people just seem to snap out of it for no obvious reason. Not necessarily because of any particular experience. Curious.

  8. Ursula: Oh, you do love needling me. How exactly is anyone being diplomatic? And how exactly am I being pompous? I've absolutely nothing to be pompous about. I'm just an imperfect human being with very little to teach anyone else. No point in wagging my finger either. Most people are a lot more wised-up than I am. In any case, there's more than a smidge of finger-wagging in your own comment....

  9. Oh, by the way, if anyone else thinks I'm a pompous finger-wagger, do say so. Don't worry, I can handle it!

  10. I like to listen to people when they are engaging on a conversation...but not when they are out to pin your ears to the wall behind with a non stop monologue, whatever the subject.
    I was somewhat shy as a child, but was told later on that I had no right to be shy; I had a social obligation to enter into conversations, to hold my end up - so I did and found that most people had something interesting to say.

  11. I don't think you're pompous.

    The nice thing about blogging is we can talk about the things that interest us without worrying about boring other people. They don't have to read us.

    Oh, sure, occasionally some commentators will attack us, but we don't have to take it personally. And if it gets too bad we can remove the offending comments. I had to do that not too long ago, mainly because some of my readers were troubled by the commentator's hostile tone. I hated to do it, but it was for the best. I want my readers to feel safe sharing.

    Anyway, yay, blogging!

  12. Helen: I've had plenty of non-stop monologues in my time. Some people just love the sound of their own voices.

    I agree there's a social obligation to contribute to conversations, which is why I do manage to overcome my shyness if the situation demands it. And yes, most people do have something interesting to say.

  13. Jean: You don't think I'm pompous. Thanks for that!

    I seldom feel shy when I'm blogging. It's much easier to write for an unseen audience than to talk to a crowd of people hanging on my every word. And as you say I can always delete comments that I regret or others object to. But I've only deleted comments once in seven years.

  14. Yes, please give me a shrinking violet any day over a pompous wind bag.

  15. What comment did you delete?

    I don't think you are pompous at all.

    I think I'm better off as an introvert instead of faking an extrovert, which I used to do.

  16. Ramana: I find other shrinking violets are very interesting if I can manage to draw them out. And they don't immediately take over the conversation.

    Susie: Another vote for "non-pompous"! Thanks for that. Yes, faking extroversion is not only phoney but quite exhausting, I find. As for the deleted comments, two people were having a private conversation on my blog, nothing whatever to do with the blog post, so I deleted their conversation. For some reason, they were outraged.

  17. Pompous? No way do I believe that you think you are better, smarter, or more important than other people. I have always found you interesting, interested and a perfect gentleman in real life or online!

  18. Thanks, Grannymar, for that very flattering description!

  19. "As for the deleted comments, two people were having a private conversation on my blog, nothing whatever to do with the blog post, so I deleted their conversation. For some reason, they were outraged."

    That is so disingenous, Nick, so mean spirited.The only one who was "outraged" was you, Nick. Yes, Tom and I had some banter between the two of us. My, oh my, didn't you like it. Felt excluded, did you? Well, you could have joined. Indeed you could have TOLERATED us - since you are so proud of how unprejudiced and tolerant you are. But oh no. Not Nick. Tom and I apologized. Several times. Apologies not accepted - by you.

    Consequence: Tom who is a no nonsense man gave up on you. I, on the other hand, can stand a lot of nonsense (my own and others) so I am still here. Because I like you. Despite the fact I thought you petulant and childish at the time.

    Sorry, Nick. It wasn't your finest hour. And you know it.


  20. Ursula: That's entirely your version of events. Mine is completely different. But I can't be bothered to dust off the archives.

  21. You strike me as an intelligent and thoughtful man who could speak wisely on a whole load of topics. That you choose not to is to your credit I think. The number of times my eyes have glazed over when listening to others I can't believe it's not obvious to the speaker. But apparently not.

    At Zac's the majority of people are needy and so their talk tends to be about themselves. I can't remember the last time anyone said, 'how are you?' in a meaningful way rather than as an intro into how they are!

    But that's what we're there for and it rather suits me as I'm less of a talker. (I write plenty of course!)

  22. I'd rather sit with someone in silence than listen to those who only speak to hear themselves talk.

  23. Liz: Thanks for the compliment! Me too, I see someone droning away to an audience of obviously bored and restless faces and I wonder why they can't sense the total lack of interest.

    Bijoux: I agree, silence can be much more restful and companionable than being assailed by a non-stop monologue.