Why Am I Talking?
So much of the news today seems to be about what someone said on social media. Or what someone said in an interview or on the phone or in a meeting or on a blog or in a hotel room or inadvertently in front of a hot mic. Then other people have to talk about what was said. And others have to react. Then the person who initially spoke either doubles down or apologizes. Then people have to talk about it some more.
At least until someone else says something that eclipses the story and begins another news cycle. This usually doesn’t take very long.
When my daughter was little, she talked nonstop. She had a husky voice. We joked that she was perpetually hoarse from all the talking and that we had never heard her normal voice. I was often her audience of choice, and she would follow me around, peppering me with questions that she didn’t even want an answer to. (I figured that out because she never waited for an answer before asking the next question.) She just wanted me to react. She talked until my ears hurt.
Sometimes I was the talker. I tended to explain too much when I was upset with the kids. Their eyes would glaze over. My son would hold up his hand in a stop signal and say in a robotic voice, “Talking…is…over.”
What is it about our need to talk? What is the nature of this urge? For us to contemplate this, we need to stop talking. We need to listen. Not only to others but to ourselves. Perhaps we are looking for connection. We want to be heard. We want to feel valued. We want to not feel alone.
I’m sure there are other reasons. But I suspect that a good part of our motivation to talk so much isn’t really about the content of what we are saying. And whatever the underlying need is, I suspect that it will not be met by using more words or a louder voice. Underneath all the screaming words, attacking words, manipulative words, lying words, judging words, complaining words, or even just too many words, I suspect we might find a reservoir of pain and fear.
If we could hear that in others, and recognize it in ourselves, perhaps our speech would take on a very different quality.
The acronym above is a wonderful reminder to pause and gently question our use of words. I like the Buddhist concept of “right speech.” Before speaking I can ask myself three questions about what I’m going to say.
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
And if I can answer yes to all the questions, then I might hold out an open hand to my son and say, “Talking…has…just…begun.”