Tech Life Good conversation is music


We need to talk about the end of sentences. Specifically, the end of spoken sentences. They’re a problem for me. I’m solidly in my 40s. And to this day when I finish a spoken thought, I often say “so,” and the reason is… you aren’t saying anything, yet.

So. I should explain.

To begin, self-diagnosed introvert here. No, I haven’t read Quiet because I’m living it. I’m sure there is likely a chapter in the book on the behavior I’m about to describe.

Let’s start with the fact that I’m not going to open my mouth until I’m 90% sure of the entirety of what I’m about to say. I know the beginning, middle and end of the story before I’ve said a thing. Often, I’ve also done the social math on how each person listening will react to my story. This why I am so quiet. I am testing, repeating, and refining my thoughts.

Extroverts start talking somewhere between 1% and 5% thought confidence. I know this because I’m intently listening to their narrative evolve the more than they talk… and talk… and talk. I’m jealous. They’re simultaneously both talking, absorbing the non-verbal reaction to their thoughts, and adapting their message in real time. It’s impressive social sorcery.

So. What’s the deal with “so”?

Once I’ve constructed, and AB tested my thought that I have yet to say, I’m going to start saying it, ok? Ready? 1… 2… 3… 4… go!

Right. Talking now. I’m mostly reading from my tested mental script, but you wouldn’t know this because I’m pretty okay with the talk thing. I understand how quickly I can and can not speak. Pauses are my friend. I use them to check my speed, read the room, and measure the reaction to the message. The problem is, we’re getting to the end of the narrative, and it’s clear that no one is going jump in when I’m done. How do I know this?

Most humans are not pure introvert or extrovert. We’re all a blend. This is why I can successfully stand up in front of a room full of humans and deliver a talk. I can read the room and understand whether the message resonates. Yes, my preference would be hiding in my cave, but I do receive an odd sense of extroverted satisfaction talking to hundreds of humans.

So. This is different.

I’m almost at the end of my thought and interest in what I just said is low. Either you weren’t listening, what I said didn’t make sense, or you just don’t care about my topic. For the majority introvert, this is a terrifying moment that extroverts don’t understand. The shame of silence.


So, I say so.

Eddie and Cruisers is one of my mother’s favorite movies and my favorite scene from the movie is when one of the characters describes a French term: césure. It’s a break in the verse where a phrase ends, and the following phrase begins. The pause may vary between the slightest perception of silence all the way up to a full pause1.

A good conversation contains moments of silences. Moments of consideration, but that is not what is going to happen as I finish my thought. My terror is based on my weak extrovert skills alerting me that pause that is about to arrive is not healthy. No one wishes to continue my thought. It will be quiet, and I know that good conversation is music.


So, I say so.

  1. In music, it’s called a breath. A better description. 

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6 Responses

  1. Andy sinsigalli 6 years ago

    So, is it possible to change from extro to intro? As I’ve aged I have found myself enjoying the art of listening more. Recognizing that I appreciate learning from others much more than I want to hear myself speak.

  2. Strangely, I’ve had long conversations with a friend about how I so. And no, not like I just did. I usually use it as vocal elipses at the end of continuing thoughts. For me it’s a way to express the present imperfect tense but for my friend it’s an aberration because we’re speaking English and that doesn’t exist in English. But I keep using it, much to his consternation, so . . .

  3. This is a beautiful, insightful description of the different ways in which introverts and extraverts think. Extraverts need to verbalize their thoughts to form them. Introverts need to have their thoughts more fully formed before they can verbalize them.

  4. Adam W 6 years ago

    My favorite moment in this post is the use of “Right” midstream, given the context. To me this is just using another “So” as punctuation, but slightly more affirmative of your own point.

    This observation comes from the 1-5% variety of discourse, so please take it with a grain of salt.

  5. Chris 6 years ago

    Instead of so, a friend of mine says, “ya know?” He therefore manages to make every sentence a question.