Though I’m undoubtedly an extrovert, I recently discovered that while talking can get a person far in life, silence is underrated.
This realization came to me several months ago while I was at a reception after the last performance of my ballet’s spring showcase. The dress code was formal, and the desserts were fancy, which produced a room full of well-dressed teens and parents eating chocolate strawberries and coconut pie.
Though I attended all my freshman “skills” classes and went on countless nature trips, no group conversation or team challenge quite prepared me for the scene that happened at the party.
Being a nonconformist, instead of wearing a nice suit with a belt, I chose the suspender look.
A group of dancers, one of whom we’ll call Sharon, was in a circle discussing the performance.
Sharon and I are pretty close. If I don’t know the combination during class, I’ll look over, and she’ll do it with her hands. If I have a joke to tell her, she’ll pretend to laugh to boost my ego.
As we were talking, a shorter kid holding flowers tensely in his hands came up next to Sharon.
I had never seen him, but judging by his body language, I could tell he was there for Sharon.
And though Sharon had heels on, even without the extra inches, she had some height on him.
My outgoing personality forced me to include this kid in the conversation.
“What’s your name?” I said, leaning down slightly from my 6-foot stature.
“Mike,” he spat out, barely making eye contact with me.
Then it all clicked.
Mike was obviously Sharon’s younger brother. He was holding the flowers like that because his mom had probably made him, he was a lot shorter than Sharon, and they sort of looked alike.
“Are you guys siblings?” I prodded, confident in my hunch.
“No,” Mike said with an air of confusion.
“Oh, cousins?” I said.
“No,” Mike repeated. This time, however, his confusion was more disturbing.
“So, how do you guys know each other?” I said.
The next two words Mike said hit me like a Cadillac bolting past the crosswalk on Latham Drive.
“We’re dating,” Mike said.
“Dating?” I said, realizing that I had not only done poor detective work but also that I had just accused a happy couple of being brother and sister.
Desperately trying to cover my tracks, I pushed back with, “Well, I only said that because you guys look alike. It’s really no big deal.”
But it was, shown by Mike’s uncomfortable facial expression.
My brother, Dylan, turned to me and said, “You’re digging yourself into a deeper hole.”
And he was right — if I had just stopped talking and listened, I could have prevented an awkward situation while saving people’s feelings.
So here’s some advice from an extrovert: While talking is fun, waiting for someone else to take the lead is better.
—By Jackson Margolis
Originally published in the April 23 edition of the Octagon.