Why I’ve stopped filling in the silence

gem to the side smiling with bag on the back

I’ve said it before, I love small talk.

But sometimes I can go too far. When I meet people I give it 100%, whoever it is from someone who’s opening a door for me or a person at the till. I will try to make them laugh, come out with sarcastic jokes and get to know people. Not because I’m a people pleaser (well I am) but also because I know that people put everyone in groups and that my disability will be what they remember.

For example, a taxi driver’s first words will be “I’ve done 2 wheelchairs today!” by that he obvs means he’s had two wheelchair users as clients and tells me their story. I know he shouldn’t be telling me this but I nod and smile. (cc I Know Disabled People Too!). So I felt the pressure to be the best, chattiest person so that they think, ah in’t she lovely – aren’t disabled people nice! Almost like a representative for disabled people (lol I know it’s ridiculous but that’s how I felt).

That meant though that, when I got into my taxis for work, I was using so much energy answering questions (cc Can I just ask?) telling stories and by the time I got into the office I was shattered. By the end of the day I’d used all and more of my energy – I got home and just stared at the walls for half an hour.

Until one day, I tried getting in the taxi – saying hello and just being quiet. Just as a test. It got 2 minutes in and I could feel my belly squirm with awkwardness. I got my phone out and scrolled twitter and suddenly 10 minutes had gone by. It was still ok, the taxi driver would look in the mirror and smile every now and then and that’s it. 20 minutes in I did a bit of small talk but allow me that because I do like talking and 20 minutes is a lot of silence for me in any situation. By the time I got to the office, I was ready for the day. No energy used, no weird questions and I was weirdly buzzing.

I’ve tested this for over a month now and feel so much better both mentally and energy wise. So the moral of the story is, if you’re disabled and feel similar to me – I get it. But you are YOU not everyone. You don’t have to put in extra effort, and you can say as much or as little as you want. You don’t have to entertain people and be extra nice. Just do what you need to do, like everyone is doing too.

Then you can save the energy for your nearest and dearest and chew their ears off instead.
(to anyone outside the UK, that means – talk a lot).


Anyone else feel like this? Have you got any advice for me? Feel free to contact me and have a chat!
If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

“Mum, shall a tell ’em am disabled?” | Disability and Employment

What Makes a Good Taxi Driver? | Disability and Travel

To lean or not to lean? | Disability and Socialising

 

5 thoughts on “Why I’ve stopped filling in the silence

  1. Great piece! Although the disability I have might be considered ‘hidden’ and therefore not confronted by inappropriate comments related to my disability, I identified immediately with parts of your experience. Especially when, for whatever reason people’s perception of us leads to a) glib comments b) they erect barriers.
    You are so accurate when you talk about how it’s so human to categorise others we meet. As an older than average student I’m often confronted by it, but I do think it’s exhausting to always feel like filling time with chit chat, to entertain. Silences can create some much needed punctuation! Well done Gem for raising the issue. Sue (MatSoc)

    1. Thank you sue for popping a message on here. Love your support! Totally can see how hidden disability can have similar situations, especially if you mentioned it/them. And yes I’m only just learning the art of silence..

  2. I don’t really like Smalltalk because I never really know what to say. Plus my hearing loss makes it difficult to understand what people are saying to me sometimes. It’s worst when I go to the barbers. I feel like I should talk to the barber and I don’t want to be rude and ignore them. But then again I don’t really want to talk because I probably won’t be able to hear what they are saying over the sound of the razor. It’s a Catch-22!

    1. Hey Alex, thanks for reading and commenting. Ah yes that must be difficult too. Small talk is weird and having extra barriers just makes it even harder sometimes doesn’t it!

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