Do you hear that?

You don’t have to listen, but you’ll hear me

Do you raise your voice often? Is your natural speaking voice rather quiet? Do you ever want to shout something from the rooftops?

Our voices are inherently ourselves, inextricably linked with our personalities. I don’t think I’ve ever met an extrovert who talks quietly (and vice versa). But surely we all want to be heard. Western culture still tends to reward the loud and rebuke the quiet; speak up in school or in the board room, talk over other people to make your point, and for crying out loud don’t stay silent.

I have a quiet, low voice. I’m also small in stature. So in board meetings I tend to create a whole new persona; sitting up tall, raising my voice (often to an uncomfortable level) in an attempt to be heard. This has worked well enough over the years but I’m becoming weary of pretending. The best meetings I’ve been part of have been led by an excellent chairperson who gave time to each person present, even if that meant a shake of the head in response to the request to participate. Quiet people aren’t necessarily shy, or afraid to take part, they often simply don’t have anything to say. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is that when the time comes they are often not given the opportunity to speak. Imagine a classroom where the quiet pupil is welcome to participate or to stay silent. Or a business meeting where the quiet colleague feels heard through writing or gesture.

The animal kingdom will continue to roar loudly and survive accordingly. Surely humans can move beyond such evolutionary markers to adopt and adapt to one another instead? Introverts are not necessarily shy. Or boring. They can be happy, funny, clever, lonely, sad, fearful. But if no-one asks, how will we ever know?

“Quiet people have the loudest minds.”

Stephen Hawking

Sometimes a little voice can say the biggest things. Lean in, listen, a whisper can shout after all.