Talking: quality vs quantity

I come from a long line of talkers. My family is rich with gifted story tellers, passionate ministers and teachers, humorous people who have a way with words, the gift of gab. I am sometimes inspired to say something moving, funny, or wise. But my biggest talent with regard to speech is that I never run out. My husband listens to me talk on the phone with Stephanie or my mom…he is amazed at how long we can sustain a conversation. I tell him it’s a gift.

Of course talk is fun. When I talk to my daughter, my son, to my mom, to a good friend, we cover all the bases: what we made for dinner, how the day went, what the weather is doing, the next family event, what’s going on, large or small. How is Riley? How was work? The topics vary, but the process is effortless. I sometimes joke that I could talk to a post.

I do know how to be silent, and in some settings I am quiet. I don’t feel the need to talk to strangers. But once introduced, my shyness evaporates. And I am friendly…small talk comes easily to me. I can chat about anything.

So part of my coaching/re-training is an attempt to stem the flow of speech. I am supposed to focus on slowing down, on pausing, taking a breath, counting my sentences so that the person I am talking with can get a word in now and then. No, seriously, more often than now and then…the goal is give and take, not a flooding from one person to another. Another task is to seek clarity from the person I am speaking with. I am to ask questions to make sure that I hear what is said, that I am interpreting correctly, rather than focusing on my response. Eventually, the new habits will be more natural, less about counting or monitoring.

I tell my kids they’re doomed, and Riley too…they are destined to be big talkers. But maybe that’s not true. They may have a lot to say, and sometimes they will talk a lot. But they can practice self-awareness, much earlier in their lives than I have done. They can learn to use their words more sparingly, more effectively. I want to be heard, but I want to say something worth hearing too.

Does this mean I’ll become a woman of few words? Probably not few, but fewer. I know that making this change will take time and effort. But I want to prove to myself that I am able to say more with less. And I want to listen.