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.
So 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.