As a very shy girl growing up in a very social ward, it was common for me to hear ward members tell my parents, “Your daughter is too quiet. She should speak up more.” The truth is that I had a really difficult time with public speaking and often felt humiliated when I was put on the spot or in social situations. Rarely did I bear my testimony in church, and when I did, it was only because I felt guilty. Speaking in Sunday school or other settings took a lot of preparation and courage on my part. I just didn’t really do those things, and though I’ve changed a lot throughout the years, I still feel more at home in silence.
The truth is that many of us feel more comfortable listening and observing in church than we do speaking. We love hearing the gospel and thinking about how we can improve. In fact, we can soak in things like Sunday school classes or General Conference for hours without feeling the need or the desire to say a word. While we might be completely fine with this, our ward families sometimes find it kind of strange and don’t quite know what to make of it. In that blurry area of uncertainty, it is so easy for misjudgments to be made and misunderstanding to ruin our ward relationships. Because of that, being “the quiet one” can be really hard.
Yes, some of us may be more reserved. Yes, we might be hard to get to know because of it, but here are a few things you should realize about the quiet members of your ward:
1. We have testimonies.
Even though we might not share them that often, most of us have very healthy testimonies. We love the gospel and enjoy listening to our friends and neighbors testify of it. We learn a lot from you guys, even if you don’t think we do. It’s easy to sit on a pew during Fast Sunday and think, “Brother Jones must be a horrible sinner to never bear his testimony” or “Sister Smith obviously doesn’t have a testimony because I never see her up there.” Honestly, most of us just aren’t super comfortable with getting up or don’t have the words to say what we feel. Don’t think we don’t believe, because we do. We just express it differently sometimes.
2. We have important things to say.
Sometimes, because we don’t talk as much as the outgoing brother or sister sitting next to us, we’re easy to overlook. We get that. But just like our brothers and sisters, we have good ideas and insights, too. As quiet individuals, one of our strengths is observation. We notice needs and circumstances in the ward that others may not because we are so good at listening and paying attention. We know how to reach out to people in ways that you might not have thought of. Yes, sometimes it takes some prodding to get us to share how we feel and what we think, but what we have to say is valuable. Catch us alone and ask us person to person. Talk to us about things that we love. You might be surprised by our perspective.
3. If we seem to dislike you, we probably don’t.
Sometimes, by accident, we quiet folks can come across as stuck up, arrogant, or irritated. We might feel kind of awkward making small talk, and when we speak, you might feel like we don’t like you or don’t want to talk to you. The truth is that we probably aren’t super comfortable talking to people we don’t know really well. Keep talking with us! Keep getting to know us. For some of us, the people we admire the most are the hardest to talk to, and that may be you. Don’t assume that we hate you just because we may struggle to speak with you. Chances are we like you a whole bunch!
4. We need to feel included, too.
A lot of us quiet folks keep to ourselves. That may be because we’re pretty introverted or it might be because we don’t have many friends in our ward. Whatever the case, we need you to accept and include us, too. We need to feel like we are wanted, like we are important, and like we have valuable things to contribute. Even though we may be slightly uncomfortable in group situations, we crave feeling like somebody cares for us and wants us to be a part of their lives. Keep reaching out to us. Keep asking us how we’re doing. Even if it’s hard for us to express ourselves, we appreciate it when we are given a chance to be involved. That’s something we all need.