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The Power of Quiet Friendship

Quiet Revolutionary Diana Lin’s Story

It wasn’t until after the blind date that I heard the news through a mutual friend. The guy was unsure about a second date because he “couldn’t tell whether I was having fun or not.”

This wasn’t the first time someone had taken it personally when I chose to immerse myself in the movie we watched instead of cracking jokes and making hushed small talk throughout. This wasn’t the first time someone took it personally when I felt like going home after 3 hours of hanging out. And when I didn’t have anything interesting to say, or the conversation wasn’t stimulating, I just didn’t say anything. I should have put in more effort, I thought.

I mean, who could blame him for taking it personally when I was being myself? I was flawed: able to look normal enough at first glance, but, when you looked more deeply, seriously unable to function in social settings.

Flash forward ten years.

I’m sitting in my friend’s backyard, eating barbecued chicken. I listen to my friends telling stories and cracking jokes, and I laugh with them. I catch up with one of my girlfriends in a quiet corner. Every once in a while, I walk to my car alone to get something, or I check my hair in the bathroom–mostly for a quiet break. No one sends out a search party or asks if I’m okay, because they already know that I’m just doing my thing. Sometimes they join me next to the fire pit, and we watch everyone enjoying themselves. I leave the get-together a bit early, saying I’m tired. They’re sorry to see me go, but they give me a good night hug and say goodbye. It’s a good night, all around.

These wonderful people don’t take it personally when I seek alone time or choose to people-watch instead of making small talk. There’s no need to “protect” them from my introversion. What a relief!

I’ve finally found “my people”. I’m the one they turn to when they need a listening ear, want to discuss a really sensitive topic, are feeling vulnerable, or simply want company for a quiet night with wine and Netflix. I’ve become their secret keeper, their trustworthy sounding board, their fully-present witness as they celebrate, grieve, and grapple with life.

I’ve always been introverted, but it wasn’t until I befriended folks who truly saw my “thoughtfulness” (as they call it) as an asset that I came to see it as an asset, too. It was so easy to see myself as a weirdo when I was surrounded by folks who saw me as strange and aloof. All I needed to do to access my quiet strengths was to surround myself with people who celebrated this core part of who I am.

Now, I’m paying it forward in my coaching practice, where it’s basically my job to celebrate my clients’ quiet strengths. Thanks to the support of my loving circle of friends, I can now pass along this truth: “flaws” are relative. Surround yourself with people who truly value your quirks, and you will learn to thrive. You will learn to live loudly in your own quiet way. And your so-called “flaws” will disappear.