As I sat outside the GAA club in Clane, I wondered if it was too late to back out. It was a dark and miserable night and all I really wanted to do was go home and not talk to anyone, except maybe the cat, if the mood struck me.
“Would they even notice if I just turned around and drove home?” I wondered, “Sure they’re probably all too busy talking in loud, booming voices to notice whether or not I turn up.”
But I’d told Maureen I was coming. And more to the point, I had all my recording gear with me, because not only was I after signing myself up with the Clane Toastmasters Club, I was also making a radio documentary about the reason I had signed up with the Clane Toastmasters Club.
That reason? Well, this won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I’m very quiet. I always have been, and I think it’s about time we all just accepted I always will be.
For years, people have felt almost obliged to give me advice on how they thought I could improve my life.
They reckoned I’d be happier if I could just ‘come out of my shell’.
I’d be more successful if I learned to ‘speak up’. I’d be on cloud bloody nine if only I could just be louder.
What they didn’t seem to realise was that I was already happy. And ok, I may not the President of Ireland but I like my job, and I’ve achieved a lot of the work things I set out to achieve.
So what’s the problem?
Susan Cain’s best selling book Quiet - The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes the problem as the extrovert ideal, “the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight.” This is definitely more of an issue in the US, but as they say, when America sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold. And there are plenty of examples of the extrovert ideal trickling into Irish culture. Open plan offices are everywhere these days, and it’s not very often you see companies advertising jobs for people who are ‘thinkers’, ‘calm’ or don’t play team sports. In fairness, I’ve probably felt this a bit more because I’ve been looking for jobs in the media, and everyone knows you can’t be quiet if you want to work in the media, right?
Well, that’s not strictly true.
You can be as quiet as you like and still work as a journalist, a teacher, in theatre – whatever you fancy.
Because if it’s what you really want to do, your passion and interest in a subject will propel you to work harder, and you’ll get there eventually.
The fact of the matter is, it takes all sorts to create a harmonious environment. Introverts, extroverts, and everyone in-between, we all have our place. This is what I set out to remind people of in my Toastmasters speech, and my radio documentary.
Listen in to The Documentary On One: The Little Mouse in the Corner. December 2 at 2pm on RTE Radio 1
Clane Toastmasters meet every second Wednesday in the Clane GAA Club at 7.45pm. Find them on Facebook @clanetoastmasters or contact them on 0894520348.