Thursday, March 19, 2009

Just Keep Talkin'

When I was in college, my roommate, Rachel, asked me a question one afternoon while we were sitting and talking with another roommate. Partway through my response, Rachel turned to our other roommate and began a new line of conversation. I said, "Wait. You asked me a question and didn't finish listening to my answer." Rachel said, "Yes, but your answers are so loooong."

My family has always given me a hard time about how much I talk. The truth is, we're all big talkers, every last one of us. Only we have so much to say that we think everyone else in the family talks more than we do as we sit and wait, often not too patiently, for our turn to speak. I hear stories from people who grew up in large families and learned to eat quickly if they wanted to eat at all; otherwise, the food was gone before they had a chance to fill up. That's how air time is in our family: use it up quickly or it will be gone before you have the chance to fill it up.

So I became a fast talker as well as a many-words talker. When I would read aloud in school or church, my teachers always had to ask me to slow down so the class could understand what I was saying. When I give talks in church now, my margins are filled with "Slow Down!" warnings. Of course, no one is going to interrupt me while I give a talk (unless I stray too far from doctrine, but even then, if I speak quickly enough, who will notice, right?), but I still have this learned need to say what I have to say as fast as I can so people won't (a) interrupt or (b) break eye contact before I finish my point (a huge huge HUGE pet peeve of mine, by the way).

My oldest son has picked up on my habit. He's my shyest child, very much like I was at his age, but when he finds a listening ear, he can prattle on for hours if allowed to. Even I have to ask him to slow down on occasion so I can understand what the heck he's saying. He just has so much to talk about, and I completely understand. I think that when you're introverted, you have more time than your peers to just sit and think and listen, and whereas they may spread their 7000-word quota out over the course of 12 hours, you squeeze yours into the few hours during which you're around people with whom you feel comfortable. (I've read that men say about 7000 words a day and women 20,000. If you count how many phone calls I have to make in the course of a day to keep our family running smoothly, how many places I have to go and interact with people--from the grocery store to the school to doctors' offices, I can believe that number, so to say women simply talk more than men may be an overly simplistic assessment.)

I've noticed as I've grown older that when I'm around people who don't come anywhere close to using their quota--at least not around me--I tend to blather on more than usual, trying to fill up the silence. Sometimes I mock myself for what I end up dumping into that silence, but most of the time I figure that if they're not talking, someone has to. (Yes, has to.)

I've learned since college to let other people talk, however, so I don't assume a break for breathing means it's my turn. I would like to think I'm not as self absorbed as I once was and that I ask as many questions as I answer. I hope people feel I'm genuinely interested in what they have to say . . . because I genuinely am interested. Of course, I always like to tell stories, but I also love to hear them.

So this is me filling up the silence of my blog. Yes, it's easily the equivalent of talking to myself. But that's another topic entirely.


Ron said...

I, for one, am grateful for Bobbie's many talents, only one of which is her ability to "fill up the silence", either online or in person, with interesting stories and opinions.

And I can attest that breaking eye contact or tuning-out is indeed a huge, huge, HUGE pet peeve of hers. I recommending posting a comment to assure her you haven't done so.

Markie said...

I just want to assure you that at no point did my eyes break contact with the screen (thanks for the tip, Ron).

Bobbie said...

Okay, so it's more that I am irked when someone completely looks away after I've been talking for all of 3 seconds, as though there were somewhere else they would SO much rather be and another second spent with me is wasted time. I have a "friend" here who does that and it stops me from wanting to speak to him at all. I thought it was just me until Ron assured me this friend does the same thing with him.

rachel said...

You are great!!! I miss being able to talk to you!

Holly said...

Bobbie, I absolutely love your posts. And, I loved all of your talking at those Pittsburgh Book Groups.

mnmsalyer said...

We spent quite a few nights talking away the hours, didn't we? I do remember that you have always been a fast talker. I don't remember you ever talking more than I did, though. I sincerely miss being able to talk to you in person.

I do have a friend who will just start talking while I'm talking if a thought hits her. I love her dearly, but that habit drives me nuts.

Rob says I talk fast. He asks me all the time to slow down. He says that I've lived too close to too many big cities and I don't speak the way all the southern people do. I assume he means the ones who speak so slowly that they change the number of syllables required to complete single words. No, I do not speak the way they do. He's got me there. (Pronounced "ther" and not "thay-ur.")

Bobbie said...

I miss being able to talk to you in person, too, Marian. I find these days that most of my good talks are online. That happens when we live in a more "mobile" society, I suppose, where we make friends, move away, make more, move away again. I'm just glad that if I have to move around, I can always find a way to keep talking.

It's been a while since anyone has asked me to slow down when I speak, but I think that's more because I don't live in the South anymore than that I've actually slowed down on my own.