Someone told me a couple of weeks ago that people would talk about how reserved and introverted I seem. They saw something different. They saw how I carefully observed my environment and the people around me, before joining in. They saw it as a leadership trait, which is interesting because that’s not exactly something I associate with leadership. As I said in my grad school interview, I think the default perception of a leader is an extrovert, which I’m decidedly not.
I think my tendency to observe first partly stems from my extreme shyness as a kid. I would also often myself in rooms full of adults, who would forget I was there, which honed my listening skills. I read somewhere that this level of observation could also be attributed to anxiety about how people perceive you, which is fair. I do use nonverbal behavior to assess people. It’s helped in situations, but yes, it does mean that I can come off as reserved or that I don’t have much to contribute.