I find that I talk less and less as I’ve gotten older.
From pretty much the moment I could talk, you couldn’t shut me up. As a child, teenager and young adult, talking a lot was something I was known very well for. Fortunately I got pretty good at it; I was a story teller, and in a lot of contexts it worked to my advantage.
I had an easy time making friends, was the life of parties, and never had a hard time in social situations in general. It wasn’t long before the inevitable conversation happened where someone suggested I could make a career out of my gift of gab, and I did. My early years in the sales world were very successful. From there, I’ve transitioned into other things, but communication with other people has always been a fundamental part of my career track. Some of my best career highlights were enjoyable speaking engagements – I have the exact opposite of fear of public speaking. I find it exhilarating.
That’s still my career track to this day, but outside of work I find myself talking less and less these days. I’m more likely to be quiet in a group, observing the flow of the conversation without much active participation. I don’t start as many conversations with strangers just for the sake of it like I used to.
A lot of that comes from a place of growth, I think. I’m more deliberate with my speaking. More thoughtful about what I choose to let past the filters. I try to listen a lot more than I speak unless in that moment speaking is what’s expected of me.
I spent a long time honing my verbal communication skills, and I have no intention of letting them get rusty. But the hardest lesson to learn sometimes is when to shut up, and I think I’m getting better at it.
I do a lot more deliberate thinking these days, and I think that’s a contributing factor as well. More writing, too. Maybe when you do more of those things you have less time for talking, but maybe it’s because talking was, at least for me, a way to relieve the pressure building in my brain of all these thoughts and ideas that would never quiet. Now that I have a few more outlets for those things, the storm is a little calmer – or at least, I’m weathering it better.
I voice fewer opinions on things; I don’t like to argue and in more cases than you think that’s the only reason to make your opinion known. It’s good practice and worth the effort to get good at spotting conversations that are likely to become arguments and not engaging early.
Even though I think a standard policy of “talk less, listen more” is healthy, there have been some drawbacks to adopting it. When you’re known as a talkative person for so long, becoming more reticent can give people the impression that something is wrong, or that you’re upset with them or something. Unfortunately, once someone has this idea there’s virtually no way to shake them of it, but such is life.
I haven’t stopped communicating, and I never will. I love a good conversation, those gems of connection with another mind. I love swaying the hearts and minds of a crowd with the power of persuasion. I love hearing the laughter when I’ve told a good story. And I absolutely adore the wide-eyed wonder on my children’s faces when I tell them some interesting tidbit about their world.
But in between those moments, it’s worth closing my mouth, sitting back, and letting the rest of the world have its say. I learn more that way.