“You quiet. … Gotta watch out for them quiet ones.”

I got that a lot growing up. I used to get kind of offended; now, I realize all those people had a point. You do have to watch out for the quiet ones–but not for the reasons everyone thinks.

Like many introverts, social situations practically give me hives. My palms sweat at the prospect of small talk and networking. I detest banquets, awards ceremonies, plated dinner events, and anything else that means milling around with a drink in my hand, trying not to nervously laugh and wildly gesticulate while making what I hope is a moderately witty rejoinder.

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But conflict is worst of all. Conflict is my Kryptonite. I avoid it at all costs, and that’s a lot of work. It involves brushing off slights, swallowing hurt feelings, ignoring subtle digs and backhanded compliments, deflecting insults, thanking people for their not-so-constructive criticism, and pretending I’ve completely forgiven someone when I’m still just working on it.

In short: it takes a lot to goad me into being vocal about my discontent. But once I’m there, I will go all the way in. Not only will I address the topic of the current argument with laser-like focus; crisp, concise sentences; and an unwillingness to concede too many points, I will reach back to all the other times I was infuriated and said nothing, so that the current exchange isn’t just a disagreement. It’s an epic blow-out.

This is what makes the quiet ones dangerous. Most people think it’s because we’re “sneaky.” I say it’s because we sit with our emotions before we react to them. I say it’s because we’re wasp’s nests. Poke us before we’re ready to civilly discuss an emotional offense and see what kind of unnerving, surprisingly assertive response you get. It might be written. It might be emailed. It might be via phone. Or it might be all up in and through your personal space. But whatever the medium, it will be unexpectedly unpleasant.

If much has been made of the stereotypical Angry Black Woman, with her contrary, outspoken views, her ornery attitude, and her teeth-kissing, eye-rolling demeanor, not enough has been said about the black women who tamp down their emotions for peace-keeping’s sake in her professional or personal life. This could be because not enough people believe we exist. But we’re out here, dwelling among all the extroverts who have no problem speaking their minds, initiating confrontation, and diving headfirst into conflict.

According to the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator profile on women like us–INFJs: introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging–we’re more likely to hold our anger in until it manifests as a health problem than we are to find healthy ways to communicate our issues before they begin to fester. So not only should others “watch out” for us; we should be wary of ourselves. If you’re like me, biting your tongue–sometimes for years–so that you feel liked, feel loved, or are seen as easygoing and amiable rather bitter and resentful, start taking small steps toward voicing your discontent with a situation in the moment you experiencing it. Start being upfront with your family and friends about how their comment or action made you feel. Start resolving, rather than resenting.

It will not be easy. And it won’t happen overnight. In fact, you may spend the rest of your life, working against your personality type to make significant progress. But it’s necessary work, and through it, you’ll find yourself feeling a more genuine serenity than the kind you’ve been pretending to have.

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  • Doctora E

    Sad. I lost a very close friend after she “lost it” in a disagreement we had. She disrepected me the hilt with all of her pent up feelings. I understand not sharing all your emotions all the time. But you should continue to keep them to yourself. Her years of unshared frustration all came tumbling out in a fiery, rude stream of texts that were better aimed at an enemy and not a bff. Maybe introverts are better off keeping to themselves if they cant discuss in a civil manner the day to day disagreements that others can move beyond after a simple convo, ya know, “agree to disagree” talks. She told me that she always hated that i (a moderate extrovert) always wanted to be the center of attn, she envied my looks, popularity, etc. In reality, i always wondered why she was so shy, so dismissive of the good qualities i valued in her, her beauty, and why she never spoke up. In comparison, sure, i look like the center of attn, but it was by default.
    Ive seen other comments asking the extroverts to try and understand the introverted types. But i challenge them to take a closer look at us, and not JUDGE by comparison. Its called middle ground for a reason- we both have to walk towards each other in order to get understanding.

    • Kid Poe

      I know this is old but you really dont sound like you were a good friend to begin with. You say she should cont. to keep her emotions to her self but that sounds like something a self absorbed person would say. I would never want my friends to hide their feelings from me. Especially if i’m the cause of it.

  • Kgchrissy

    You just described me completely. All these years I thought I was the only one like this I’m glad to see there are others like me.

    I don’t think my family and friends are ready for me to be upfront with them. I might tear them a new one lol.

  • Understanding my personality type – INTJ – has been a very powerful plus in my life. I’d been introduced to type in early years of college after graduating from high school, not in a way that I truly understood my strengths how to use the information to my benefit.

    Many years later in my early 40’s, I was reintroduced to type and rolled up my sleeves and learned everything I could about it. This new understanding explained so many things that had happened to me the previous 20 years and why.

    Teaching others about personality type is my life mission!

  • Funny thing: professionally, I’m an extrovert. My livelihood depends on me being outgoing, friendly, and adaptable. Seriously, it’s like a switch or something. Once I’m away from all things professional, I am my introvert self. Maybe I have split personality or something…

  • Sylvester Williams

    I have more than my share of silent bombs that I’ve attracted; for what reason I don’t know, but I do know this. I advise them and give them a chance to let some, most or all of it out, usually by the third glass of wine and all of them and I mean all, outside of the family that is. feel so much better these days. I have the same policy with family but I feel they are trying to keep peace with me and the family and there is no reason for it. My “buddy hat” is just that, the end. I reason after all of the years I’ve lived, women has trusted me with their deepest fears and feelings because each one of them and myself have a different relationship and no one can snipe us because they have found out; those that have confronted me with he say, she say bull, that is; have been vehemently turned on by their female counterparts that has interacted with me.. I learned the greatest lesson a man can learn before I entered college; men cannot be totally honest with women on all subjects because they refuse to understand our honest mistakes. Most of the storage they are dealing with is misunderstanding what their men are saying to them. Not having a traing manual for training up a child I had to use my own childhood as a guide and trust God for the rest I instuted the buddy system to get them to open up with no reprisals. Just straight talk between the five of us or one on one if they prefer and that is where it ends except the changes I felt needful to make to preserve the peace and fairness as the saw it. My advice; LET IT OUT! if nowhere but on paper and then burn it. DON’T HOLD BAGGAGE LIKE THAT IT’LL EAT YOU OUT LIKE CANCER. YOU CAN LOVE EVERYBODY BUT EVERYBODY WILL NOT LOVE YOU.