Be Still

I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually a quiet person.  The fact that I’m an introvert simply means that I need a certain amount of time by myself each day, and that I can get a little cranky when I don’t get that alone time.  But stick me in a group of people, and my mouth tends to go into overdrive.  It doesn’t even matter if I don’t have something that I especially want to say, I’ll still chatter away until the people around me are beginning to think that they might like a little alone time themselves.

Part of the problem is that when I get nervous, I tend to start rambling on about anything that pops into my head.  But the biggest reason I sometimes talk too much is my long-standing, but misguided, belief that I am somehow responsible for making sure that everyone around me is okay, and that it’s my job to fix their problems if they aren’t.  That’s the reason that I sometimes jump into conversations that aren’t really any of my business, and offer solutions that no one asked for.  It’s annoying, I know, and I’m working hard to stop it.

Breaking old habits isn’t easy, but I am making progress.  Slowly but surely, I’m learning that there are many, many times when the best thing I can do is keep my big mouth shut and just listen.  Listen as someone else talks about their life, their problems, their grief, or whatever they happen to be dealing with at the moment, because that’s their time to talk and not mine.  They aren’t expecting me to fix their problems or take away their grief, they just need a sympathetic ear as they work through their own thoughts and emotions.

Don’t get me wrong, wanting to help other people is a good thing.  And when I’m busy telling people what they ought to do or how they should deal with a particular problem, my heart really is in the right place.  The problem is, I’m not actually helping.  Unless someone has specifically asked for my advice, I need to assume that they don’t really want or need it.  Sometimes the help we want to give and the help that other people need to receive are two different things.

There are words that we can offer that will always be welcomed, and when in doubt, it’s best to stick with those.  Words of compassion and encouragement, such as “I’m so sorry this happened” or “I’ll be here for you” are good.  Once when I was fretting about an upcoming oral surgery, I had a friend look me in the eye and simply say, “You’ve got this.”  Just knowing she had confidence in my ability to cope helped enormously.

IMG_4496So I will continue to work on reining in my tendency to talk when it would be far better to remain silent, and to choose my words carefully when I do speak up.  Because sometimes the best thing to be is simply…..quiet.

108 thoughts on “Be Still

  1. This happened today during a walk with the dogs. The woman I was walking with needed to talk about something that was on her mind, and I had enough sense to realize it and just listen…most of the time. I think this is a huge step toward maturity. Listening is sometimes the best gift.

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  2. I consider this post very insightful. Sometimes it’s so hard to see yourself as your really are, in fact, many people never do. But you’ve obviously given this a lot of thought, and you probably know what you’re talking about. I would like to add though, that maybe sometimes people do want to hear your opinion, otherwise, they wouldn’t be discussing certain things with you. However, must admit I too am guilty at times of offering unwanted advice. As a fellow introvert, I too tend to be a chatterbox at certain times too. Your post was really nicely thought out and the point well-taken!

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    • You’re right, Des, we never really see ourselves as others do, or as we really are. Sometimes, if we try hard enough, we can gain insights into certain traits, and I believe that realizing how often I talk when I ought to listen is one of those times for me. I’m still happy to give my opinion when it’s asked for, I’m just trying to learn to wait until it is requested! Thanks for your kind comment!

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  3. I tend to be like that, when that little voice in your head tells you to ‘shut up ‘, sometimes you just need to fill in gaps with inane babble….maybe that’s just me. Then I give myself the giggles and I just feel a complete idiot…..I get all hot and bothered,I don’t mean to be anything but quiet and graceful……alas…….

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    • Oh, yes, I’ve done that too! I KNOW I’m talking too much, but I keep right on going. That happens when I’m nervous too…wouldn’t it be nice if we could become quiet and graceful each and every time we wanted to?

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  4. a good lesson, and I admire you for working on yourself to be an even better you! I’m sure I’ve done the same many times, and I work on this too! thanks for the reminder!! 🙂 ❤

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  5. I think lots of us do what you describe. (IE, wanting to fix someone’s issues shared.) I, for one, have taken away good words from this blog each week, words I have used in life. Maybe just jotting your experiences is a terrific way to lift a burden or two.

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    • Thank you! And you know, that’s what I like about writing this blog. I just write about what’s going on in my life, or what is on my mind, and sometimes I find out that my words connected with someone and helped them. So I guess it is a non-intrusive way of trying to help others? But whether it is or not, writing the posts helps me sort out my thoughts and feelings, and helps me to grow as a person.

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  6. And for some introverts the sound of silence becomes awkward and so terrifying that it spurs them to speak – even when they don’t have anything to say! That becomes a feedback loop and the anxiety ramps up until they either melt or flee!! Such is the life of an introvert.

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    • That’s a good point, and goes a long way towards explaining why I tend to chatter on and on about basically nothing when I get nervous. And you’re right, it ends up just making things worse!

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  7. Hey Ann, I love all your posts and this one in particular is so insightful especially at this point in my life. I also share a big heart that wants to make others lives easier and I can see how I should be more conscious in offering unsolicited advice and.learn to be still and just allow others to pour out their hearts and minds…

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    • It is hard, when all we really want to do is help….and helping others is a good thing! But yes, sometimes we need to just listen as others talk, because you’re right: they are pouring out their hearts and minds, and everyone needs to do that from time to time. Thanks so much for your affirming comment! Your big heart shows!!!

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  8. Regarding your problem with jumping in with advice needed or not needed and describing yourself nevertheless as an introvert who needs time off from all the chatter around you seem like a contradiction. Then from a higher point of view when the focus is on our human nature we find contradiction, opposites within ourselves, dilemmas aplenty in our daily living. They seem to be the norm rather than the exception. The good part of this phenomenon is that we live in a world that is full of diversity, which us adds colour and excitement in an otherwise drab human environment. Yet, there is no harm in advocating the ancient piece of wisdom: “Speech is silver and silence is golden.” Perhaps this was already too much talking. Haha!

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    • Ha! It’s not too much talking at all. After all this is the “comment” section, and just think how boring a “listen” section would be at the end of each post…. But seriously, I agree with you that most of us are a mass of contradictions and that is what makes life so interesting. And I love the saying “Speech is silver and silence is golden” because even though silence is more valuable, speech also has value. Thanks for the comment, Peter!

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    • I agree, overall, it’s not a flaw in that there are plenty of things in this world that need to be fixed. But I tend to take it to an extreme and try to do all the fixing myself, and I think that is a flaw. First, because it sort of suggests that I don’t trust others to find the right answers to their own problem, and secondly, because I’m so busy offering solutions that I’m not really listening to the problem. So, that’s what I’m trying to change. On a certain level, I’ll always be a “fixer.” I’m just trying to tone it down a bit! Thanks for the comment!

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      • Good points. I guess I’m like that with one far daughter especially who sometimes calls to get my opinion on her and boyfriend’s differences. I offer 15 explanations, possibilities, options hoping it’ll toggle something or rule it out… I’ll have to learn to listen more, *help* less (though she is always grateful).

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  9. Ann- this came as I struggled with the last 24 hrs with a heartbreaking situation. I could have used a friend that would have chatted endlessly yesterday and offered a “ man it is tough to be a mom!”
    We all have those moments when we just don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter what sort of personality we all struggle with it. As we get older we get better at “reading” people and situations and thus all get better at the “right thing to say “ or to be silent.
    I think if you go with your heart you can never go wrong. People that you are talking to will take out of it what the need and move on.

    Who are we to know why we are placed in a situation or with a person at a given time? So be yourself in the moment.

    I do know that your insightful words are always comforting to read.

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    • That’s a good point, and perhaps I need to be more accepting of my talkative and “fixer” personality. As long as I am not talking when I should be listening, of course, because listening really is a gift to those who need to be heard. But I do think you are right that if we go with our heart, we are never really wrong. Thanks for bringing that up!

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    • That is true, there is definitely a time to speak up! I’m just addressing those times when others need to talk, and I need to learn to sit quietly and let them work through their feelings and emotions. But that doesn’t mean talking is always a bad thing….there are times when our words can do so much good, and our silence can be harmful. Thanks for the reminder!

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  10. Fantastic piece. At some point we learn that we should live our life instead of trying to fix others even though they are just close family. We are here to help others when they ask for it.
    Have a peaceful day Ann.

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    • It isn’t easy, and sometimes advice is a good thing…after we have listened to everything they want to say! Especially if they ask for it. But I think the desire to be heard is within each of us, especially when we are facing hardships, which is why listening is so very important. Thanks for the comment, Ellen!

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  11. Great post! I too get chatty and want to fix things for people. I think people need both our quietude to listen and hear themselves talk, but sometimes, our ‘chatter’ may uplift someone as well.Good post to ponder…listening is a skill we all need to work on. We learn so much when we listen long before we speak. Mostly, people want desperately to be heard, to know someone cares enough to hear their story, whatever it may be.

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    • Listening is a difficult skill to learn for most of us, I think. But it really is such a gift to those around us, especially when they need to work through a difficult time. And you’re right, there are also times when our chatter is welcomed, which is a good thing!

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  12. This is so me that it was heartening to read. so many times I drive away from encounters thinking – why didn’t I just shut up? And I absolutely crave that alone time – and dread group times, yet no one believes me when I say I’m an introvert. I do think, though, sometimes we are placed in a particular moment at a particular time to say words that someone needs to hear. My problem is that I say them over and over again and then expound on them when I should have just responded from my heart and let it be.

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    • That is so me too! Even when I say the right thing (and I agree that sometimes we are in a particular place and time for a definite reason) I tend to say it more than once, which really isn’t needed at all. But we’re learning, and our heart is in the right place, and that does count. Plus, isn’t it odd how many people think that introverts are always quiet? Some are, and some aren’t….we just need some alone time on a regular basis.

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    • I believe as you do that we are often placed in a particular moment at a particular time to say the things we say. You have made an important point here. We sometimes meet someone and think our encounter is by chance…many times there is a reason behind it. As it is said, life is a mystery to be lived…and some of these chance encounters and chance conversations can altogether change someone’s day…or life.

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  13. I think many of us have found ourselves in a situation where we have offered unsolicited advice when perhaps it may have been better to just listen.

    I remember going to a funeral years ago where a granddaughter spoke about her grandmother. The granddaughter had experienced a number of ups & downs & she spoke about how her grandmother was such a strong influence in her life, mostly because of 4 little words, “it will be okay”. She went on to explain that her grandmother would sit & listen to whatever struggle she was facing, just patiently allowing her to unload and each time reassuring her with “it will be okay”. That has always stuck with me.❤️

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  14. Ann, life would be just beautiful if I had a friend like you here!

    I know you think you need to quiet down and listen more, but I like you just the way you are – because however chatty you claim to be, you’re not the sort that drowns out other voices. Just look at this blog. Everyone here can be themselves. I don’t see anyone trying to bend and conform and contort to have their opinions accepted. That’s all due to the way you listen to us and accept us for who we are.

    About the advice giving part: that comes from a heart that loves. Not everyone who dispenses advice – loves. But you do. And it makes a difference to the advice you give – whether it’s accepted or not. Look at all the wisdom you’ve put out here. No deaf, babbler could do this.

    Ann, if you ever gave me advice I didn’t want, I would not take it. But I’d take the heart that gave it, ‘coz such hearts don’t come by often.

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    • Thank you so much! Honestly, yours is the nicest comment I’ve ever had on this blog, and I’ve been blogging for four years. I try very hard to make this a blog where all opinions are welcome and everyone (as long as they are not attacking others) can be heard. And I take heart in what you said about advice. I may give it too often (just ask my kids) but I do it out of love for them. So maybe they will just do what another commentor suggested and take what they need and ignore the rest? Meanwhile, I’m working on my listening skills. Thank you again…your presence on my blog has been a huge gift in my life!

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  15. My father-in-law was over for a visit when I was installing a new lockset on my front door. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the mechanism right, so I struggled and struggle for the better part of an hour. My father-in-law, a man who could tear down and rebuilt a combine without consulting a manual, sat and watched me the entire time without saying a word.

    He neither encouraged nor criticized what I was doing.

    He just figured that once I got it right, I wouldn’t make that mistake again.

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    • Your father-in-law was a smart man, certainly smarter and more patient that I’ll ever be. But I bet you didn’t ever make that mistake again, so what a gift he gave you!

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  16. I do the exact same thing, Ann! I most like the solitude of myself in a room with a computer to type my stories, my guy nearby quietly working on his ‘stuff.’ Put me in a party or a roomful of people and I squirm and start TALKING, too much. I feel like I have to fill in those empty spaces. I’m trying to learn that it’s not my responsibility to do that. I can be silent and smile sweetly – maybe Mona Lisa like. 🙂

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    • Yes, filling in those empty spaces is why so many of us chatter, I think. We’re trying to put others at ease, but in doing so, we’re making ourselves so very uncomfortable…and possibly even them! One of the things I like about blogging is how often I find out that others struggle with the same issues I do. And this topic has certainly made me see that. Thanks for the comment!

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    • Thanks, Alan! Honestly, I think writing is a good substitute for talking. We get to give all the advice we want, but others get to choose whether or not they actually read it. It’s a win-win!

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    • Yes, that’s probably the main reason we talk even when we don’t really have stuff to say…we’re just trying to keep the conversation going, or we’re trying to help. And sometimes we do help, I think. The important thing, and what I’m trying to achieve, is not talking when I need to be listening instead. Thanks for the comment!

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    • It is comforting, isn’t it? It takes away some of our “guilt” about our all too human flaws when we realize that other struggle with the same issue. Which I think suggests that we need to be a little more forgiving of ourselves!

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  17. I get advices all the time from the people in my life, when I actually just trying to tell a story or simply vent. I guess, it is a hard thing to do, to try listen. Though, I am also guilty of providing advises even without asking. I need to practice more listening skills as well.

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    • Oh Svet, I think so many of us struggle with just listening! And sometimes advice is needed and talking is good. I think the trick is to learn not to talk and to just listen when that is what the other person needs and wants. And maybe to tell the difference, even ask. I had a good friend who said when her sons would start to tell her about a problem, she would simply say, “Do you want my advice to do you just need me to listen?” And they’d tell her. So then she knew exactly how to respond!

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  18. Hi Ann – it’s hard not to offer help and advice and I bet the advice you give is heartfelt. I try to listen more than I used to – lots of times people just want to vent, but it’s hard to know. Great post. I relate to everything you say – keep the words coming.

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  19. It’s sometimes a bit scary how I often think that you’re actually describing me instead of yourself in your posts, Ann! 😂
    I’m working on my try-to-fix mode but still catch myself every so often how I fail. I tell myself then that at least I try. 😉

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    • I think trying is the most important part, Sarah! And take heart from the comments of some other readers, who pointed out that there are times when talking and offering advice is the right thing to do. The problem is when it’s the ONLY thing we are doing! LOL! And thank you for your kind comment…we do have a lot in common!

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  20. It took a while for me to learn that, in many instances, less is more. I understand what you’re saying, nervousness or the feeling that you have to be the one to say something that will make someone feel better is always on your mind. But sometimes a few words, like your friend said to you, or holding a hand, or really just being there, speaks so much. It’s a great lesson.

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    • I think you’re right, George. It’s not so much our words, it’s the intent behind them that people respond to. And sometimes just listening the best thing to do. But when we do speak, all that matters is that we speak from the heart and not from a nervous need to fill the empty space with our words. As someone else pointed out, if we follow our hearts, we can never really go wrong.

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  21. I should have known this about you, Ann. You are obviously a lover of words, both written and verbal. Being a quiet person, I am actually more of a listener than a talker. As such, I am usually relieved to meet someone who talks more than me. The dreaded awkward silence between two quiet people can be deafening.

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    • Yes, I do love words! Although I’m much more comfortable expressing myself via the written word. Still, I share your dread of those awkward silences…which is when my mouth really goes into overdrive. Thanks for the comment, Joe!

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  22. It takes the wisdom of Solomon,just to get through an ordinary life. You reflect a lot-and that makes a difference.. Best wishes in your dealings-somehow I think you will do just fine-and I too will join you in knowing when to hush and listen-

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    • Yes, I think it’s a work in progress for most of us, but all we can do is try. And I agree about the wisdom of Solomon. Life is so complicated sometimes, and getting more so by the minute. Thanks for the comment, Michele!

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