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Why We Talk More Than We Listen and What We Gain When We Stop

Conversation

“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” – Brene Brown

I like to talk. A lot.

It’s how I get ideas and work through concepts I’m not quite clear on. It’s how I get myself motivated or calm myself down.

If you let me, I would probably talk your ear off all day. As a creative grasshopper, my mind runs a mile a minute, and has no shortage of ideas to explore.

But a conversation in which people are talking, but not listening, is not really a conversation. It’s selfish, unsatisfying, and does absolutely nothing to build real connections.

As much as I like to talk, what I really want is to connect.

I talk about what I do because I crave appreciation and admiration. I want to inspire someone.

I talk about what’s on my mind because I want to know that I’m not alone. I want to feel accepted and validated.

I talk about what I know about anything because I want to show that I have something to offer. That I’m worth listening to, and wanting to be around.

But no matter how much I want to be accepted, loved, and appreciated, over the years I have learned that talking is not always the way to get these things.

For a talkaholic, talking is asking: for attention, praise, acceptance, love.

But talking is not really giving. It feels like giving to us, but it isn’t.

I may think that by telling my friend about what I do I’m inspiring her, but she has other worries and blocks that are keeping her from ever applying what insights she may gain from my overly generous monologue.

I may think that by espousing my opinion about everything under the sun I’m showing that I’m a worthy conversation partner, but people have their own opinions, and feeling like their opinions are heard is much more valuable to them than listening to mine.

It took many years of being bullied and feeling alienated before I realized that my strategy for getting me the things I wanted was backfiring and getting me the opposite.

I used to kick myself for that. Why couldn’t I learn faster? Why couldn’t I just be there already?

Just like every engrained habit, I realized that talking too much and listening too little was comfortable, even if it didn’t feel that way.

The reality is that listening is much more vulnerable for me than sharing even my best kept secrets.

When I’m listening, giving the other person my full attention, holding space for them, I feel vulnerable because they have control over the conversation.

All of a sudden, I’m left open and naked.

My thoughts are free to race, and keeping them focused on the other person is tough, just like meditating. Talking a mile a minute is so much easier.

By not spouting out my ideas and beliefs, I’m letting the other person form their own opinion of me. Instead of trying to direct it. I am “just me,” and I can’t put on a mask through my words, opinions, and knowledge.

A long time ago I made a commitment to be minimalistically myself—naked and raw, unapologetically open and authentic. No excuses. No drama. No frills.

On this journey of rediscovery I learned that my true self does not need a mask.

I don’t need to let my ideas and systems march forward to create a better impression. I now know that everyone else is just as broken as I am, and the cracks only have as much importance as you give them.

I don’t need to always share a story of my own in order to connect. My heart knows how to connect without my help.

I don’t need to give everyone the brilliant solution they need. I’ve learned that I can be most helpful when I just give people the space they so desperately need; then they are free to discover their own solutions, and are much more open to seeing and implementing them.

Learning to listen is a lifelong journey, one that is definitely not easy for a talkaholic like me. But the joy that comes with the rewards makes up for the pain and effort. Achievements are, after all, only worth as much as the time put in.

Talking about my achievements, opinions, conclusions, and lessons learned is a lot of fun. But listening for an hour, really connecting, fully being there, and watching the other person relax, unfurl, and bloom is priceless.

What changes have you made to become a better listener? What have you learned about yourself along the way?

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About Laura G. Jones

Laura G. Jones helps creative grasshoppers boost their productivity and confidence without structuring their lives to the point of suffocation. Click here to learn 3 habits that will help you conquer fear and overwhelm. In her free time she helps her husband make their signature natural deodorants.

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  • Laura, thank you for sharing this truth and the power of listening. I never thought of listening as a practice in authenticity and vulnerablity but I totally see how it can help lead to both. This is one powerful line: . I am “just me,” and I can’t put on a mask through my words, opinions, and knowledge. As are many other truths in this post. I can see how keeping quiet may feel like losing control and our power but you’ve an insightful realization that it’s during the silence that we gain the most. It’s our presence that can be the greatest gift to someone else without a word ever being uttered.

  • T

    I talk too much about myself lol. So thanks for this, time to start looking at that other person for once.

  • Thank you, T! It’s a tough transition but it can be really freeing to do. Ask yourself why you feel the need to talk about yourself so much. It can reveal some insightful answers! (It did for me at least)

  • Thank you, Vishnu! Wow, you really see right through to the bottom of what I was trying to express here. I can tell that you’re a great listener 🙂

  • Valo

    I’ve always been a talker too. You hit the nail on the head many times in this article and articulated the talking habit so well. The point that really resonates with me is: “I don’t need to give everyone the brilliant solution they need. I’ve learned that I can be most helpful when I just give people the space they so desperately need; then they are free to discover their own solutions, and are much more open to seeing and implementing them.” It’s hard for me to stop trying to fix everything and everyone, to somehow make everything better. That’s not necessarily what others want or need!

  • Jason Holborn

    Hey, you never stopped talking for even a second in this post!

    But I’m only joking around. 🙂 Actually, I too struggle with talking too much, and I’m more and more and more aware of it. This was solid to read this morning. Like yours, my thoughts can really race when trying to listen, and this proves to be among my biggest listening challenges.

    Thanks for some good direction for morning mulling. Have a great dta.

  • Ha, you got me! 🙂 It’s all about the commitment to moving forward and growing in all areas of your life. Over time that single commitment, practiced every day, can make the biggest difference. Thank you!

  • You are spot on, Valo! I’ve always wanted to fix things for others, to be of help. But then I discovered that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, and even then it’s so much better when they help themselves – it gives them so much more than just the solution to their problem. Thank you for joining in the conversation!

  • lv2terp

    Wonderful post! I have come to realize the same, and still practicing/reminding myself to connect in others by being a better listener. Smile. Thank you for this message, it is a great reminder! 🙂

  • R1602

    Some people talk so much it’s hard to figure out which parts are important.

  • This was definitely something true for me, too. It took a long time to start thinking before speaking so that I only said what was important. In the end, you stop paying attention to the important parts because they are so buried.

  • Thank you! It’s always a work in progress, but a very rewarding one for sure.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    “Learning to listen is a lifelong journey, one that is definitely not easy for a talkaholic
    like me. But the joy that comes with the rewards makes up for the pain and effort. Achievements are, after all, only worth as much as the time put in.” Thank you for that reminder…Since my childhood; one of my biggest pet peeve has also been a ‘talkaholic’ & being accused of as a bad listener. In reality; I often remember even the most minute of details that someone tells me, but because of my bad habit of cutting off people often & blabbering on; one can’t blame someone for seeing it that way..:P

    “If you let me, I would probably talk your ear off all day. As a creative
    grasshopper, my mind runs a mile a minute, and has no shortage of ideas
    to explore.” Hahah…that was funny; pretty much sums up how I’m as well…:). Thank you for sharing your story…there are a lot of wisdom in this that I can hopefully try & be mindful of more often!

  • Great reminder.

  • Bullyinglte

    I have discovered that I also struggle with silence and use talking to gain acceptance. I have been on a road of rediscovery of learning to listen and accept. A lot of the issue is self-esteem based and the feeling of the need of validation and acceptance. But, if you learn to love yourself first and then worry about what others think, the joy of listening and even quiet repose can become yours. That’s what my journey has taught me.

  • Thank you!

  • I used to constantly get the question “doesn’t your mouth hurt?” and it really irked me. I’m glad now that I’m an adult I don’t get that question anymore (either because people aren’t that rude or because I don’t talk quite as much… not sure. Although I’m pretty sure my husband wants to ask me that sometimes.)

    I’m glad this resonated with you. It’s a lifelong journey of learning and growth, and it’s absolutely worth every effort. Thank you for the sweet comments!

  • Absolutely. I was bullied a lot as a child which resulted in the need to be heard and validated as well. I still sometimes struggle with self-esteem issues. It’s just a long journey – you take some steps forward, you take some steps back. But in the end, as you start loving and accepting yourself more, you start having an easier time listening and just being there without needing to take up more and more space in the conversation. Thank you for the insightful comments!

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    With me, since I was also really skinny & the veins in my neck pops out..some people would say something like; ‘you might break your vocal cord; if you continue to talk too much & too loud,’ that really irked me as well..:P. It did; thank you for the insight…:-).

  • sri

    Nice article..totally agree with you. I talk a lot too, but over the years have started to develop my listening skills..and I feel talking is easy, but listening is hard. It’s more hard to balance both..deciding when to talk and when to let go and listen..that brings lot of people closer to us.

  • nakul

    Many people will agree to this that a good speaker needs to be a good listener…

  • Ellie

    Nice post! Was hoping to find some answers to my talking and not listening habit. I don’t talk a lot, but I do tend to think about my response to what others are saying while they’re talking and often interrupt their speaking to chime in. When I try to abstain, I end up forgetting what I was going to say and then it’s kinda like, duuuuuuh and I sit there looking like I don’t care and wasn’t listening. It’s so frustrating! Not sure if there’s anyone out there who does this, but aside from a seeming memory problem, I’d like to understand why this is happening. 😉

  • Aakansha

    Thanks Laura…. Just too good an article. I am trying my best to change this talking habit, Make you dependent and vulnerable. It is not a good way of finding appreciation validation or love …. so true

  • Krishna Adavi

    Very insightful and I completely agree (out of my personal experiences). Very well put, thank you.

    Krishna

  • m.a.

    I relate to this so much. Painful as it is to admit, I am more interested in my own thoughts and ideas than in other people’s. I get started talking and I can’t stop until my mind is emptied of every idea and opinion and experience I can possibly relate to the matter at hand. It stinks.

  • Kristina

    I do that too