A lot of people notice that in many settings, I'm a pretty quiet person. I don't mind telling them that I generally have an withdrawn personality, and that I tend to do better in conversations that are one-on-one or with small groups of people who I know, as opposed to large groups or gatherings of strangers. I notice that I can be very outgoing in situations where I have a clearly defined role to play - such as a talk I'm giving on a topic I feel knowledgeable about, or a party I'm hosting. But on the whole, I'm quiet.

It's important to me to distinguish this way of being from the classical definition of what it means to be an introvert, "a person who is more interested in his or her own self than in in other people." I know plenty of people who fit this definition well - they become so occupied with their inner existence and interests that they forget (or never learn) how to respond well to external stimuli, how to be sensitive to the physical and verbal signals given off by those around them, how to communicate well with others. While I understand and respect the ways that someone could manifest that personality, and while I see that they can find other ways to be brilliant communicators or express themselves magnificently, it's very important to me to be sensitive to and interested in the beings and happenings in the world around me, as much as I am in my own self.

So if I'm not a classic introvert, what am I? I think I'm just someone who prefers to be quiet in settings where quiet is not always the norm. I do this in part as a way of bearing witness to the many kinds of ways in which there is not enough quiet in our lives.

I'm sometimes a quiet owner and principal of a small business, when so many of my counterparts have personalities or roles that require them to be loud and dominating in business meetings because that is what we are taught about how to be a good leader.

I'm sometimes a quiet man because so many man are taught that they must be loud (and manly in their loudness) in all but the most extreme circumstances. I'm quiet because I do not want to be a man who uses loudness as a way to play my manly part.

I'm sometimes quiet in conversations before I respond to something someone else has said, because when we get into a mode of speaking in rapid response or speaking out of a need to fill the silence, we aren't able (I believe) to fully speak from the heart. When I allow a pause of a few seconds or even longer, I speak more from my true self.

I'm sometimes quiet around women because they have often experienced or been taught the same things about Real Men: they're loud and in charge and the conversation will follow their pace, tone, and volume. I'm quiet here because I want to be in conversations with women that are not dominated by my volume or my gender, and where they can be loud if they want to without having to compete against me.

I'm sometimes a quiet friend in a circle of friends, because so often friendships are defined and enacted by making sure we all have enough to say to each other, that there is sufficient gossip, personal updates, and random observations to fill the time. I'm quiet because sometimes I want to experience friendship and be a friend without using the stream of words on which we are used to depending.

Learning to find my not-so-quiet voice and my louder noises for the times when loudness and firm voices are appropriate is another kind of growth that I'm still working on. But I enjoy practicing and refining the art and invigorating discipline of quietness, even in a world that does not often cherish such things.