Let’s talk about talking. From early on in our lives, it’s a topic with which we all are fairly conversant, so there must be a lot to say. And maybe that’s the problem. As my friend, Patsy, once said, “You spend two years trying to teach a kid to talk, and the next 18 years, trying to get him to shut up.” As a society, we are pretty verbose, aren’t we?
In radio land—where we are now— one of the more dreaded things is “dead air:” a silent time. Gotta’ keep the talk coming. Very curious, because in our daily lives relief from sensory overload caused by aural stimulation becomes craved, not dreaded. Some days, the thought of the medieval cloistered life becomes oh so appealing. And not just as a protection from the pronouncements of others, but as a stopper of our own gobs as well. I remember a comedian with a shtick where he was impersonating an extremely chatty politician who was blathering on. While doing so, the comedian portrayed the speaker’s inner thoughts as well. One of those thoughts was, “My God, I’m a bore!” It’s a risk we run if “dead air” never happens in our lives.
Back in the bad old days when my generation was being nurtured, adults didn’t so much worry about our self-esteem. They cheerfully said things such as, “Children should be seen and not heard,” and “No one asked for your opinion; you are not a full-voting member in this discussion.” The funny thing is, mostly we were not warped beyond belief. We just developed a bit of patience, bided our time, then went off to school and took our turns at being full voting members and yakking our heads off.
The verbosity thing seems to have been exacerbated by social media where every word-string, some of which pass for thoughts, has to be recorded, shared and then over-shared. Nothing is too mundane. Although these word-missiles mostly are texted, rather than spoken, after a while one wants to run screaming from the room in search of surcease from that notification-noise made by our phones: a chance to collect one’s own word-strings.
An odd thing happens with our talk as we age. I have noticed that even people with lovely manners begin to interrupt others. This is something that they never formerly would have done, but now routinely do because of their fear of forgetting what they want to say before getting it said. Communication over decorum seems to be the trumping need. There even are credit-earning university courses and majors in communications, seemingly because there are both correct and incorrect ways of achieving this. Like so much in life, finding the middle ground is the trick. Where is that line between engaging and overtaking?
Here’s a prayer attributed to Saint Vincent Ferrer, who was mostly from the 14th century, “Learn to be silent sometimes for the edification of others, that you may learn how to speak sometimes.” I mention this because I think that it might be true and useful. There could be an element of hubris in our compulsion to drop our thoughts and ideas onto others. It sometimes has crossed my mind that it’s just possible that all and sundry may not be interested in our talk. Unlikely, but possible.
Finally, just in case you were wondering: the irony of my talking away here nonstop for five minutes about excessive talking is not lost on me.
Music: "You Talk Too Much" by Joe Jones