In my first year of high school, I participated in class regularly. I wasn’t the chattiest student in class, but I always managed to get an ‘A’ in participation.
By the time I graduated, I only participated once in a blue moon.
Through slow operations, I began believing that my opinion on literary, social, or political matters was worthless or wrong.
Part of the reason was because I never got into literature like my peers; I was in AP English, but I didn’t care nearly as much for the super in depth analysis. And, whenever I did think of an interesting observation, someone would say something else that was completely contrary to what I thought.
But I think the real reason why I lost my voice was because I stopped believing I should have one. When people reacted negatively to my opinions, no matter my arguments, I just decided that my opinion was worthless. I let people take my voice away from me.
I don’t know whether that contributed to my social anxiety or if it was the other way around, but the point is that after four years of high school, I no longer talked in class. I was lucky if my participation grades were above C’s, and I had countless teachers tell me that I should participate more in class. And that only made me feel worse because I felt dumb if I spoke and dumb if I stayed quiet.
What could have helped me though was if someone had asked me what I thought about something. It didn’t have to be in class; after all, classes are big and teachers can’t ask each student their opinion. But if in conversations with friends or people I knew I had been asked my opinion, I would have felt less like my ideas were worthless because I would have been reassured that people cared what I thought. And because of this, I always try to ask people’s opinions.
So if you’ve noticed that someone is unnaturally quiet or not contributing to the conversation, just ask them their opinion about the subject. It’s an easy thing to do and it might reassure them that their opinion is valued.