Listen, and you’ll no longer be alone.
As you may have noticed, i’m quite focused on speaking. I wanna know what i’m saying, why i’m saying it, and is it appropriate for the time, place, and audience. We’ve all seen the terrible damage that words can do – both to us, and by us. I could go on about wars and suicides and divorces and such… But you know.
Well i’m tired of it.
I can only change myself, and so this is what i’m about these days. I want to be responsible for what comes out of my mouth. I’ve been going about it in much the way i’ve done with everything else that i’ve had success with changing and improving. I take small, slow, steady steps forward. I keep it as simple as possible. I tweak it to maintain balance, especially when it comes to my thinking – so, no obsessing, but no ignoring, either.
I’ve been paring down the amount i speak. It starts with asking myself whether or not what i’m saying really needs to be said. If it does, then does it have to be me? For a small step, it’s proven to be the harshest editor. I’ve been shocked at how often the answer is “No”. My opinion on everything isn’t often required. Like, OFTEN. There are those times when it clearly doesn’t need to be said, but i wanna say it anyway. My desire to express myself and be known is definitely one of the criteria i use for whether or not to speak. I’m not getting super deep about it all.
My reasons for talking less are myriad:
- Speaking less makes it easier to hear the constant chatter going on inside my head. Knowing what i’m telling myself is an extremely important part of managing my mental illness.
- I think there’s a lot of talk pollution out there, and i don’t want to add to the near constant noise. Everyone deserves to be heard, yes. About everything all the time? Maybe not. I think some things that are both worth saying and hearing are being lost in the unending drone.
- Employing an economy of words can give them more weight, and hey, i definitely want to be heard. I know how i react when someone pours out a constant stream of words. (Nod, smile, and repeat until you get asked a question, and then freak out and try to fake answer and not get caught for completely tuning them out.) While i do think there’s a place for pointless, meandering, unremarkable conversation, i’m striving for more meaning. I’m getting older and have far less time to waste, as is the way of things.
- A lot of talk can wind me up. In conversation, it triggers all sorts of behaviours and concerns. I want to be liked and accepted and understood, so that can set my mind to racing over what to say and how to say it, which can often distance me from the people i’m trying to engage. It’s like sometimes i’m above myself, trying to be my own puppeteer. That is stressful.
- Over the last few years i’ve talked a lot a lot a lot. I had a lot of things that needed me to say them. I’m tired now, and so’s my husband.
- Talking less is an integral part of moving away from the wreckage of my past and embracing the here and now. It leaves me free to listen, which draws me away from that black hole inside me, that broken place that is only need, and unconsciously devours any and all that gets too close. When i’m listening, i’m open and turned outward; i can be a friend and a helper and really participate in the living going on around me.
Without getting too philosophical, i think we’re drowning in a sea of audio feedback. So many are talking and so few are listening. I was given the incredible, life-saving gift of a dedicated listener. He’s the #1 reason i can now be silent on the outside, and enjoy a modicum of peace on the inside. I think it’s now an important part of my continued improvement to share the gift with other people. We all want to be heard, even if all someone has to say is, “I’d like to be left alone, please.” Some people need to spout a lot of verbal diarrhoea before they’re able to get to the weighty words that they’ve been longing to say, and some have never said much about anything because they’ve never had an opportunity.
Well, i’m ready to listen. It’s your turn now. Speak. Speak until i hear you.