Living alone, I can often go for days without actually having a conversation with anyone. Telling my cat to move somewhere else, or yelling at the computer for not co-operating, does not count as a real conversation. Working alone, for the most part just adds to my daily quietude. While delivering the newspapers, it is just me and the radio; while giving a massage treatment, I rarely converse with the client while they are on the table.
When I am with people, I don't get this sudden need to talk and talk and talk.... though I am sometimes seeing this happening when I am at the checkout counter (much to my middle aged dismay!). I am one of those people who is quite comfortable with silence. For a certain amount of time. And that time can easily exceed 30 seconds.
This is not the case with one family friend who usually spends the holidays with us. Like me, she also lives alone and spends a good portion of her workday alone in a lab. But when she gets with people, her verbal acuity never falters. At Christmas, I realized with slight exhaustion as I gave her a lift home, she never once stopped talking. She monopolized the conversation competently for the entire eight hours. She always had a insight or opinion on everything that was said by anyone else. My family, who also tend to be on the quiet side, just sort of lets it happen and goes with it. Don't get me wrong, she is also entertaining and knowledgeable (especially in obscure facts about anything to do with movies and television and computers) and she will also listen to you when you have something to contribute and converse instead of just talking over you. But, she never sits silently and listens and observes.
I was at a client's house late one afternoon and they invited me to stay for dinner. This sounded like a fine idea as we had to interrupt our vacation horror stories to actually get the massage treatment completed. During a brief lull in a conversation I was having with Cath while she attended to something in the kitchen, I realized that there were seven people at the table and if you didn't include the cockatoo who was screeching "hello" and "look at me, I'm a bird" (I know!!) but did include the dog who was hovering, there were easily four separate conversations happening at the same time. It was all genial and freeflowing and ... oh so overwhelming. My family dinners would seem formally stilted in comparison. We generally have one topic on the go at a time and while there will be the odd side talk between two people, it is brief and generally still on the same topic. The conversation ebbs and flows and has the usual diversions, but it always seems to include everybody at the table.
I often find my quietness to be a bit of an hindrance - though I know, somebody has to be the listener. I can miss out on having my say from taking too long to process exactly what I want to say before I open my mouth. And if I don't have a follow up immediately in my mind, there can be that awkward silence... And I have always wanted to be the kind of person who can walk into a room and just start a conversation. But somehow, I find it all so exhausting. And a bit annoying.