Is “having a voice” different for an introvert?

IMG_0131I wake up to a beautiful, sunny day surrounded by trees and absolute silence. It is almost 9 am. and I don’t have to go to work. In fact, if I wanted to, I could stay in bed all day. Yesterday, my housemate stayed in bed until 3 in the afternoon. It was bitterly cold and the bed felt like a bear’s lair.

I found this place because I opened a door and let myself step out of where I had been. My former home no longer provided me with the lair (secret or private place to seek concealment and seclusion) I needed. During my life I have moved frequently but rarely with clear intention. This most recent move was different; I knew exactly what I wanted.

There is a rhythm to my day that starts with four to six hours of writing. I have an autobiography started that needs to be shaped and nurtured. I don’t know if anyone will ever see it, but the effort I have put into writing it has been been of great value during the past few months. What most intrigues me when I go back and re-read certain sections is the lack of ego, or what I have come to recognize as, “the voice that is always telling me what to do.”

A recent article on women leaders highlighted the importance of finding and owning one’s voice. I think writing helps me do this. While I am not very confident about speaking, I am becoming more aware through writing about how I speak to myself, and through this blog, how I speak to others. Now that I am living with a housemate, I am developing a new interpersonal voice as well.

Having lived alone for a long time, I am rather careless and habitual in the way I talk about things. Certain words and phrases have become personal verbal shortcuts for complex feelings. But what I am finding is that these words or phrases do not necessarily mean the same thing to someone else. Last night I used the phrase ‘sucking up’ to describe something that was not ‘sucking up’ to the person I was talking to. When she called me on it, I had to clarify what I meant, and in doing so came to realize that this phrase was really off the mark.

I am starting to wonder if I really know what ‘my voice’ is saying, and whether or not what I say means the same thing to a listener or reader. Occasionally, I get comments on a blog post that seem completely disconnected from what I thought the post was about and I wonder if I was communicating poorly, or if the person just doesn’t agree with me and wants to interject their own voice on the topic.

From an introvert perspective, this ‘having a voice thing’ is confusing. I currently feel more comfortable communicating through writing because writing gives me more time to think through a feeling or an idea, and as I write I can continuously revise and refine how I want to express my point of view about it. Writing provides a filtering mechanism that helps me translate and transition my thinking into speaking, (or, merge my inner world with what will become my outer world.)

When I was young, I first tried to do this through poetry. Without really knowing it was poetry, I was writing short, succinct sentences that distilled what I was feeling about a subject or an event to its essence. As I grew older and started reading other people’s poetry, I realized that this was a communication medium that resonated with me. But in my daily life, poetic expression, or talking about the essence of something, was not well received. I had to learn how to converse in a coarser, more superficial way, to use the slang of my generation. (I remember saying the word “bitchin” a lot, even though I had no idea where this word came from or what it really meant).

I have always envied people who can just talk and say whatever they want (and get away with it). But when I do this it never works. I once worked for a very introverted man who told me that I would never be successful if I tried to assert myself as boldly and carelessly as other people in the company. At the time, I thought he was just being sexist, but now I think he may have been trying to point out that I have a stronger voice when I use it in a quieter way. But in a world that doesn’t understand the concept of quiet, what would this ‘introvert voice’ sound like?


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