The Silent Ones

They glide between classes, almost unnoticed. They slide into their seats, melt unobtrusively into the back rows, leave no trace when they participate in meetings or teamwork.

They are not so much part of the group as swept along in the group's wake. They are the kind of people who are there to make up the numbers.

They walk among us, but are not truly of us.

They are The Silent Ones.

The MBA cohort contains some 6-8 people who rarely speak, never socialise, and who dress and behave so inoffensively that you barely realise they exist. Their faces share certain characteristics, neither attractive nor unattractive, bland and instantly forgettable. So we forget them. Of these 6-8, I can remember two first names and that's it.

At the rare intervals when one of them speaks, dozens of heads snap around to find the source of the unfamiliar voice. Who the hell's that? Is he new? Has he been here all term? Of course, the Silent One's tremulous question is then lost, washed out by the diluting fog of unease. And the cycle repeats, wrapping its cloak of muffling invisibility around each One, tighter with each act.

At the three-week point, it's now embarassing to ask for someone's name, or get interested in their background. It's so much easier to treat them as rents in the group's social fabric and just route around them, like an email avoiding a bottlenecked Mae East.

Was it us – this attitude – that made them this way? People so close to some inoffensive average that everyone treats them as part of the scenery? And over time they internalise this behaviour, living out their lives as ghosts?

I'll have to ask the Organisational Behaviour lecturer. At about three metres tall with arms used predominantly as wingspan, plus the ability to construct 60-word sentences with six nested subordinate clauses in his head, HE'S certainly not one of the Silent Ones.

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