On being too quiet around strangers

March 07, 2021

I am often too quiet to speak up in front of strangers when I am sitting in front of them. During company meetings with senior management and various stakeholders, many coworkers dial into the virtual call. The director would frequently ask everyone if they had any questions by the end of the meeting. The majority of the time, everyone falls silent. Even in a physically friendly gathering, the situation will not improve, as the boss will dominate the conversation, telling us all of his anecdotes without anybody daring to interrupt him. As a leader, I sometimes have to speak up rather than remain silent, but words are difficult to come by. If a government official said something that displeased the Emperor in ancient China, customarily, the Emperor immediately ordered the guards to execute him, as well as his family. As a result, we must exercise caution when speaking inside a social hierarchy and respect authority. This mentality is unsuitable for a startup since feedback is necessary to assist top management in making the best decisions. I won’t be a better leader around strangers if I’m too quiet and nice.

To act differently in such a situation, I must first employ empathy. Strangers, like myself, maybe quiet because they are afraid of being evaluated by me. If I put myself in the position of the strangers, I’m sure they’re both mortified by the social discomfort of receiving no response from the crowd. I can add value to strangers by giving appreciation or coming up with a great question to indicate that I’m actively listening to what they say. Instead of being dead silent with a poker face, strangers would welcome my feedback and understanding. Second, I could appear more approachable by offering strangers a nice smile, engaging in small talk, and showing them my genuine compliment. These might potentially open up strangers to me, allowing me to feel more comfortable opening up to strangers simultaneously. The relationship is reciprocal, and a positive mood necessitates collaboration. Finally, I would improve my communication skills by asking questions to engage strangers, labelling to comment on strangers’ responses to keep the discussion continuing, and using humour or narrative to de-escalate the tension.

I’ll admit that I decided to enhance my communication skills with strangers to make up for this shortcoming. I began writing to strengthen my English skills in preparation for my upcoming meeting with strangers. Writing assists me in organizing my ideas, remembering what I’ve read, and afterwards developing stories with strangers. To have more resources to write and communicate with people, I need to continually push myself to move out of my comfort zone and expose myself to new situations. I have nothing to chat to strangers about because I live a boring life. Because of my low social status, I am unable to add value to my interactions with strangers. If you don’t read or think, you won’t have any fresh ideas to express, and you won’t have any independent opinions to comment on new topics. As a result, rather than being ignorant, I must continue studying the world and strangers to demonstrate my real interest in others. I’m sure we’d be astonished at how much we could learn about each other. And after having a positive experience conversing with strangers, I would be more confident the next time.


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Experience in software development, application architecture, and deploying cloud solutions for enterprise customers. Strong hands-on skills with a Master's degree in Computer Science and business acumen with a master of business administration (MBA) in Finance. Certified in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes (CKA, CKAD, CKS, KCNA) and Scrum (PSM, PSPO) with experience in building banking products from scratch. Connect on Linkedin

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