The one thing my grandma would always say to me was that I needed to practice silence when in a group, old or new, and listen. By listening, I can learn. Learn how to talk to people. Learn how to talk to certain types of people. By observing others with how and what they talk about I can learn more about who they really are as a person.
I used to think she was crazy whenever she said this. Why would I want to stay silent in a conversation when I can participate and be a part of it all?! I would also feel slightly self-conscious when I would try to do it. These people probably think I’m weird for not saying anything. Oh god, I haven’t said anything in minutes. I should probably say something. Nope, that was just a noise; let’s try again. Damnit, that sounded stupid. I fail at this.
When I finally got the hang of it, truly figured out a way to learn and still participate when I needed to, I realized she was totally right. My parents said I used to be able to do it really well when I was a small kid. That I had way too good of a judge of character. It started to fall away when I was in junior high because I didn’t have time for the waiting a learning phase because I was switching schools or tracks or programs too soon for me to keep up with. I think that, in the last couple of years, I’ve been finding ways to hone in that skill again.
Now, I wait and I listen. I still participate when I need to, but you’d be surprised at how much you can learn about a person if you just wait and listen.