There is a Victorian adage, “Children should be seen but not heard.” Our grandparents learned it from their parents, passed it along to our parents, and, to some extent, kept it alive while we were raised. Anyone who had this idea drummed into them during childhood, has a voice in their adult mind whispering things like, “don’t talk too much, don’t have an opinion on everything, don’t interrupt, don’t speak too loudly” — and many more. The sibilant echo of our parent’s teaching often quiets our voice.  Females received a double whammy of ‘hush’ with the aphorism “girls must act like young ladies”. My mother’s body language and warning look hit me hard whenever I became too exuberant with excitement, or as an adult when I spoke passionately on a subject. Young ladies didn’t draw attention to themselves. This tested me daily, as my job description as a middle child was compete for attention constantly.

I have listened while people shared with each other how they don’t feel heard. These quiet ones have soft voices, are unable to insert themselves into a conversation, are talked over at gatherings and overlooked in meetings. “My adult children are so loud when we get together, I can’t get a word in,” one man said. I happen to know he is witty, funny and has a plethora of great stories – but he can’t beat the competition. “Finally, I raise my voice and then I just sound mad,” he concludes. How can the soft spoken compete when others are louder, faster, and more aggressive?

Some quiet ones told me they don’t want to be heard. “I’m too shy.” “I have nothing to say on the topic.” “I just like to listen, not show up on the radar.” That’s fair, as long as they don’t complain about not being heard later. The quiet ones who flummox me every time are those, who, when offered an opening for their opinion, idea, thought, say, “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it.” Frustrated, I’d say, well think about it now. Since I’ve concluded it is their way of saying they don’t want a piece of the action.

Quiet is often used as a weapon. The passive aggressive sharpen silence into a weapon, with which they stab you in the back when you least expect it. Women using silence as a punishment is a cliché.

A quiet mind is most often a blessing, bringing inner peace and a calm persona that attracts others. People of all religions and ethnicities work hard to attain this state.

Men and women choose quiet as they gain wisdom. They know the value of words — nuggets of gold, rubies beyond price, pearls of wisdom — and they dole them out sparingly. What they offer is of such value, people anticipate stop everything to listen. These quiet ones are highly respected.

I’m excited about ideas, love learning and have a dozen thoughts I want to share at any one time. I’m impulsive, as my mind leaps ahead, and so I can interject so often I throw off the balance in a group dynamic or monopolize airtime. My mind connects dots so quickly I don’t have patience with someone who is slower – even have the audacity to finish sentences for people to hurry them along. None of these are good practices. A racing mind prevents new synapses from forming, a racing mouth can hurt others. I must practice awareness during every interaction, so I don’t verbally step on others’ words.

How can we help the quiet ones be heard? Invite their thoughts without being pushy. Cue them if we know they have something they want to contribute. Curb our need to ‘one-up’ on a story. Take a deep breathe before speaking, leaving time for someone else to go first. Be open and alert making room for a quiet one’s thoughts.

There is always a reward for patience. You might gain knowledge, a great idea for your project, a new understanding of a person – or a quiet one’s smile because they’ve been heard.


  1. Barbara Thrasher
    Mar 5, 2021

    I too am a noisy one, taking up what often feels like too much airtime. I have come to realize that the gift I give with that exuberance is my energy often ignites the energy of the group leading to a more interactive, creative conversation than would have taken place if I had hung quietly back.
    as you say, it is in the balance. I am noticing the balance comes not in dimming my own light but rather it in giving a little more space before I step back into the conversation. Sometimes, the “I’m curious about your thoughts on this?” can be the ‘open sesame’ to the quiet person.
    On a separate note, I am becoming more an more aware of the power of words and how our ego brutalizes us with commonly accepted phrases. We don’t look behind the intent of the words – example: “I must practice awareness during every interaction.” Does that mean if you don’t do it every time, you are a bad person?
    I think the intent is ,”I would like to exhibit more patience.” or even stronger. “I am acting more patiently and interrupting less.” that intent leaves no room for guilt or anger when you are less than successful and invites you to celebrate when you are. We learn from our successes rather than our mistakes.

    On a side note,

    • Madelon
      Mar 8, 2021

      You make some excellent points. Energizing other people, brings out their best and they feel great when they offer that up.
      Damaging self talk can undermine all the good we did when we were patient and listened. People who talk a lot often think they are good communicators, but aren’t saying what they think they ae saying. Too many words muddles communication. Editing our speech does a favour for all.

  2. Dennis Smid
    Mar 6, 2021

    You have hit the nail on the head with this one! I wonder how many people feel the same way? I do associate with this blog exactly and feel there is no easy way to fix it short of changing my personal approach to it or changing my actions which would be not like me as I remain a reasonably quiet person. I do not feel I should have to raise my voice that high to be heard. What has happened to respect!

    • Madelon
      Mar 8, 2021

      Thanks for sharing that you struggle to be heard. I’m sure many readers related. I have learned from several sources over the years, raising one’s voice is the least successful way. Keeping your voice quiet and firm, produces a commanding presence that captures attention.

  3. Glenna
    Mar 6, 2021
    You might find this book interesting. Interesting to me to read your perspective.

    • Madelon
      Mar 8, 2021

      Thanks for sending this link. I’m sure others will benefit from it, as well.

  4. Yvonne
    Mar 6, 2021

    I always want to talk. Learning to listen is something I work on even when I do not always succeed.

    • Madelon
      Mar 8, 2021

      I have the same problem. I’ve gone into meetings or workshops mentally putting tape over my mouth. The next thing I know it’s open, sharing my thoughts or asking a question. I think awareness is the best tool for fixing the problem. If we catch ourselves in the act, we can back off and call it a victory.

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