Appropriately, this one is all words. lol

I often ‘don’t feel heard’.  A gripe about me I’ve been hearing a long time, and a source frustration and suffering for me, has been that I ‘talk too much’ or too fast, or use too many words, or don’t pause to breathe, or give the other guy a chance… if you’ve met me, you’re likely among that good company of people frustrated trying to get a word in edgewise. I’m not bragging. I work on this – a lot – trying to train my brain to recognize and honor the subtle cues that someone I am talking to has something they would like to add to the conversation. I try to build the awareness to support the will to give someone else a chance to talk.  It’s not an area of strength for me, and is associated with the also incredibly poor social habit of interrupting people. There. I said it. I talk too much, for too long, and I interrupt people to do it.

It is interesting how rarely a woman will call me on it. They usually coast, conversationally, and use whatever white-space there is left when I do have to breathe, or finally finish a thought. The men in my life pretty reliably voice their frustration, irritation, or anger with my issue. It comes to me as feedback that I talk too much, or that I use too many words, or that I ‘never give someone else a chance to say something’, or that I deliver too many points without time for responses… it all comes down to – wait for it – they don’t feel heard, themselves, because I am ‘always’ talking.  I don’t feel heard = me talking = they don’t get to talk = they don’t feel heard.  This sucks for everyone.

Another point of interest along this particular scenic route is the behavior if I happen to be silent. Because I do stop talking, and that comes up with fair frequency. What happens when I am silent? Concern. Why am I not talking? What am I thinking? Am I okay? It’s rare for me to be able to sit quietly, unprompted for words, even by people who express a nearly desperate desire for me to stop talking.  I find that bit very frustrating, myself. It doesn’t appear to be different for women or men. I apparently talk so nearly continuously that it is a cause for concern to others when I am not talking. (I am not actually aware of myself talking that much of the time.)

Yesterday, and unsurprisingly, but also unexpectedly, my therapist joined the phalanxes of men in my life who have found it necessary to communicate that I talk too much. He was also by far the most cautious and gentle about it, leading me to my own conclusions without hurting my feelings or resulting in my feeling that what I have to say lacks value. He used a metaphor. I love metaphors. His was that of dancers. His observation was that although he very much wanted to ‘dance with me’ he felt he was more audience to my dancing, some days.  It was a good metaphor and he got through to me that the shared experience of conversation is collaborative, and participatory.  He also got through to me that men are not having that experience with me, and do want it.

SO… it isn’t just that I need to be sure to take time to breathe, or stick to one thought, or keep my words brief, or any of a dozen other tiny details I’ve tried for so long to ‘fix’. I get it. It’s about inclusion, and sharing the experience. It is more than a little embarrassing to be so painfully aware that for all these years I wasn’t actually understanding what was being requested.

I’ve had this general experience before. Coached, or criticized, over some larger process/task to the point of chronic frustration, tears or anxiety, and still unsuccessful at ‘doing it right’ – and finding out much later than there is a key underlying principle that I didn’t understand, or hadn’t learned, that suddenly makes it so much simpler.

This morning I don’t start the day bitter than one more man has told me I talk too much. Instead, today I start my day with a better approach to conversation, and a better understanding of how to be considerate, and respectful of others, how to support people more comfortably in dialogue, and even feel I understand being compassionate, sharing, and connecting and building intimacy, better than I did yesterday.  🙂

Today is a good day to ask a clarify question and wait for the entire answer. Today is a good day to smile, and let the other guy talk for a few minutes. Today is a good day to listen with my entire attention on the person talking. Today is a good day to enjoy dancing.  Today is a good day to change the world.