When I was little, I babbled. All the time. My mother used to tell me this old adage:
“Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
The wisdom of this phrase escaped me then and escapes me now: I am still a motor mouth, and will happily talk away at anybody in my near vicinity, especially the quiet ones who won’t jockey with me for conversation.
As it turns out? While I’ve removed all doubt of being a fool, they’re probably not fools at all.
In fact, they’re probably smart as a whip (to use one of my mother’s other favorite sayings).
1) Listening more correlates to more knowledge
We talkers tend to have a lot of information to impart, but we seem to take in less of it overall. Additionally, good listeners ask smarter questions, leading them to be able to better contribute to conversations as well as absorb more detailed information. They don’t say much, but when they do they’re well-informed and can say something that matters.
2) Quiet people have better impulse control
Quiet people (understandably) have better impulse control than us loudmouths. It’s not always the case, but their ability to not speak whenever they get the urge to tends to be indicative of a greater ability to impulse control more generally. Impulse control has long been associated with greater intelligence and success later in life, suggesting that their lack of talking isn’t so much a cause but rather a symptom- their heightened impulse control lets them not run their mouth and instead wait to say things that count.
3) Quiet people have higher emotional intelligence
Loud people know how to work a room- or at least we think we do. Actually, while loud people excel at getting and keeping attention, quiet people can more accurately read a room and other people’s emotional states, making them better at judging when what they’re saying is falling on deaf ears or when they’re starting to lose their audience.
4) Quiet people are better listeners
In conjunction with #1 above, quiet people tend to be better listeners. They do more of it, obviously- since we’re the ones doing all the talking- but even the quality of the listening they’re doing is higher, retaining and absorbing more knowledge than the talkers (Because of all the practice they have at it, I’m sure.)
5) Quiet people have better memories
Actually, this one’s not entirely, entirely true- certain cognitive tests can show that loud people have better short-term memory and use it more often, likely when we’re firing on all cylinders working a room and learning names. On the whole, however, quiet people have better memories in terms of long-term retrieval and storage, meaning they’re more likely to be able to remember and access relevant information when they need it!
(Though given how often I repeat stories, I would have thought our long-term memory was better)
6) Quiet people tend to read more
Maybe it’s because they can’t get a word in edgewise, but quiet people tend to be more frequent readers than loud people- and reading has long been known to be a brain booster in many different ways. “Deep reading” has been linked to better performance not only on classical intelligence and cognitive tests, but also in terms of empathy and emotional intelligence as well, and it stands to reason that people who read more are going to experience more benefits from deep reading than those who read less frequently.
7) Quiet people are better liars (and better at spotting them)
Us loud people lie more, but quiet people lie better. (Quality vs quantity thing, I guess?) They’re also better at detecting lies, according to a study done at UCSF. It’s unclear as to why this is, but some of the evidence suggests that this is due to their higher emotional intelligence and more “observational” role in social situations. They spend more time observing the speakers, and so they are better able to judge when someone who is lying is deviating from their normal baseline behaviors.
The future looks grim for us loudmouths, right? But all hope’s not lost- while we’re not as smart as our quiet cohorts, we have our own unique attributes- we tend to be happier and make those around us happier, and we’re better at forging and keeping social connections alive. We’re also more beautiful, more attractive, and score higher on personality and likeability tests.
(Okay, I made that last part up. But we needed a win here, guys. I apologize for nothing.)
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