I’m a quiet person. Usually. I get quieter in groups. More so when people are new to me. And because of this, I’ve been misunderstood a lot in my life. I’ve been assumed to be rude, disinterested, stuck up, bitchy, and to dislike people, amongst other things.
But that’s not me at all. I’ve always been a very caring and compassionate person. Polite, curious, and interested in others. I value kindness and fairness. It’s just that connecting with people hasn’t always been easy for me –and it’s the same for a lot of us quieter folk.
But that’s not all on us.
It can be really hard to offer up something about yourself in a conversation without a clear indication that people are interested in you. And many of us find it difficult to ask other people questions, include them in conversations and show we’re interested in others. Afterall, we’re not usually taught how to do these things and often curiosity and connection isn’t well modelled in our lives.
Yet, this is what we need, especially as a quieter person. We need to be invited into a group. We need to feel included and have a sense that we can belong there. We want to know it’s okay to go at our own pace, that we can take time for our nerves to settle or to consider our responses before sharing. We need to feel that people are interested in us.
Assumptions we make about other people get in the way
We generally tend to:
- assume that people are indifferent and uncaring towards us and what we have to say, so we avoid vulnerability and sharing.
- greatly underestimate how compassionate, caring and community-oriented other people are, imagining they’re driven by self-serving motivations, thus lessening our desire to include.
- assume that moving beyond small talk to deeper conversations with people will be uncomfortable and unwelcome, so we don’t try to connect meaningfully with others.
So, what if we assumed the best in people?
How would we behave differently?
People are generally kind and caring. We want to do good for people and nature. We want to meaningfully connect, include, and create places where we all belong. We’re just afraid that other people’s intentions aren’t as positive, when the truth is that anyone you meet is far more likely to share your values than you would imagine.
When we make generous assumptions about other people, then we’re able to behave in ways that bring greater compassion, curiosity, and connection into our world. Imagine this as a positive upwards spiral, strengthening the values we want more of in our community. This is my hope for us all.