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