I heard a conversation in the office elevator yesterday. Alright, I overheard a conversation in the office elevator yesterday. What could I do? They were talking so loudly.
What was the conversation about? Well, it’s not about a trade secret or some office scandal.
It was one mother sharing with her colleagues about her two young daughters. She lamented that her older daughter talks non-stop when she gets off from school everyday. She wondered if this was the case in school too, only to find out from her daughter’s teachers that she’s as quiet as a mouse when she’s in school. The mother shared her conclusion that her older daughter was being repressed at school and becomes her true self at home.
Her younger daughter, on the other hand is gregarious all-the-time. She volunteers to help at every occasion, and tries to answer every question that is posed by the teachers. She makes friends easily in school and is happy at school.
At this point, her colleagues jumped in and said that students these days respond actively in school because of “prestige”. They have been conditioned to want their opinions heard, and to be seen as the top dog.
Then almost simultaneously, all three ladies cheerfully recounted how life was like when they were young. One laughed and said that in the past, when teachers asked for someone to answer, the whole class would look down on the floor. Another said with nostalgia, “The one who always volunteered would be mocked by the class, as the teacher’s pet!”
Then the lift doors opened, and the mother of two said wistfully as they trudged back to their office, “Maybe we should have been louder in class, then we won’t be stuck in our jobs now.”
As I was reflecting on their conversation, I understood why the mother made the last statement, but I disagree with her.
Somehow society makes us think that bosses or successful leaders have to be loud, commanding and unreasonable. And subconsciously, we desire ourselves and our children to be opinionated, daring, maybe even brash. Maybe we just don’t want be trampled upon or taken advantage of by others.
But why are we making ourselves miserable by being someone we’re not? Why do people want their children to be trapped in the world’s expectations like they have been?
Recently, I chanced upon this book Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. In her book, she shares that the next generation of quiet kids should be raised to know their own strengths. Our talents are best maximized, when we are stimulated appropriately. Quiet kids are most capable and switched on, when they are stimulated in a low-key environment.
The world needs workers who don’t fit the one-sized model that the education system churn out. In fact, these quiet thinkers would be the innovators and mavericks, that don’t look anything like the loud, charismatic leaders that we are familiar with. The people who are the best talkers, may not be the one with the best ideas.
These quiet leaders could be somebody you know. It might also be you.
So, find out who you really are, and maximize your talent.