in collaboration with
Dr Nicolas Neveux, psychiatrist, psychotherapist in Paris
What characterizes a taciturn person? How to explain this behavior? Is doing so really problematic? Dr. Nicolas Neveux, psychiatrist, sheds some light on us.
Whether “Taciturn” is the title of the rapper’s latest album dinosaurs, it was also the nickname given to William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, in the 16th century. Similarly, in 1839, in one of the passages of his book Othon L’archer, Alexandre Dumas declared: “She understood nothing of her husband’s character; but, from being gentle and benevolent as she had always known him, he had become defiant and taciturn”. “A taciturn” is also the title of a play written by Roger Martin du Gard, published in 1932. It is therefore a word that we have all read and/or heard. There are also many synonyms in the French language for the word taciturn: silent, introverted, impenetrable… But what exactly does it mean ?
Definition of the word taciturn
The definition of taciturn (adj) according to psychology could be translated as: “one says of someone that he is taciturn whenhe speaks little and tends to prefer to remain silent“explains Dr Nicolas Neveux, psychiatrist in Paris, author of the site e-psychiatrie.fr and work Practicing Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) (Ed. Dunod). And the definition given by the Larousse dictionary is similar: “Who remains willingly silent, withdrawn; who is not in the mood to make conversation”.
In short, we use this adjective to describe a person with behavior not very talkative, a withdrawn character. However, “We can all stand back and not very talkative at any given time and in a whole bunch of different situations“, he ponders. Thus, some will manifest this character trait in a particular context, others in a more constant way, in a multitude of situations (at work, in family, in their relationship as a couple, etc.).
Speak little: quality or defect?
Being taciturn in certain situations is a character trait that can be beneficial, remarks the psychiatrist: “It can be a way to protect ourselves, to avoid a conflict“. In the event of a dispute between a couple in particular, one of the two partners may prefer keep silent, stay mute rather than outbid.
Ditto with family, at work or with friends, when you prefer get out of a discussion on a subject that you do not master or that you do not feel ready to tackle. Conversely, if we suffer from it, if it slows us down in our relationships with others, we can perceive this personality trait as a defect. Similarly, those around us can experience our silence badly, but in this case, as Dr. Neveux points out, “it is not so much us who perceive it as a flaw as our loved ones”. Silent people can therefore experience this character trait as a trait of their personality without this causing a problem.
The causes of a taciturn mood
“Being a silent person is not considered a diseaseany disorder or pathology”, recalls the psychiatrist. We can all be from time to time depending on the situation and our state of mind (stress, sadness, anger). At time adolescencefor example, the child who used to communicate a lot with his parents, can become more silent, but he will not necessarily be so with his friends.
In the same way, following a breakup, bereavement or any other significant event, we can withdraw into ourselves, wall ourselves in silence, and don’t want to talk. However, if the person is frequently taciturn or/and has been for some time, and this has a negative impact on their life (inability to interact with others, to communicate to resolve conflicts, etc.), it is better to consult. Indeed, going through the doctor’s box will allow us to better understand why we act this way.
Besides, “sometimes this behavior or character trait is a symptom, a sign of a condition such as an anxiety disorder or depression not detected so far. Several medical diagnoses can explain that one adopts this type of behavior “, reports Nicolas Neveux. We can also be taciturn during family meals and not at all in the presence of our friends or colleagues. In this case, it is likely that it is the circumstance that bothers us and that it results in silence, a withdrawal into oneself.
Good in your body, good in your head!
What to do in case of taciturn mood?
“It all depends on whether being a silent person affects us or those around us”, distinguishes the psychiatrist. Indeed, some taciturn people can quite have this temperament or character without it bothering them in any way. He takes as an example the legend of Diogenes of Synopus. Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope lived like a vagrant. Aware of his genius, Alexander the Great (king of Macedonia), wanted to help him and would have said to him: “Diogenes, ask me what you want, I’ll give it to you”. To this, Diogenes would have retorted: “Get out of my sunshine!”.
Contrary to what the sovereign thought, the philosopher did not aspire to anything else. Similarly, others may want us to be more talkative, but perhaps speaking little is fine with us.
We are on the contrary the type to like to dialogue and that in our couple, we are dealing with a taciturn partner? Tell him about it and give him room to speak, without cutting him offcan help it open up more.
Finally, if being silent makes us suffer, if we would like not to remain isolated, locked up in our corner, but if we have difficulty getting out of this pattern, then Dr Nicolas Neveux advises first of all totalk to your doctor. even ofstart psychotherapy (EMDR or TCC) with a psychiatrist or a psychologist to understand why we act like that, in what situations and to find solutions to put in place to break the silence.