I talk too much.
Didn’t always. I was one of those “quiet” ones when I was young. Seen, and not heard. I believed that “empty barrels made the most noise,” as the nuns taught us in grade school.
Plus, I was a student most of my youth, and, if I learned anything, it was how to pay attention, or at least to give that appearance. You can’t do it well with your mouth flapping all the time. Don’t know when I felt I needed to “switch” from being mostly an observor and a listener, to becoming more engaged toward action as a speech-maker. Must have been the army when I got commissioned an officer.
But, looking back, it seems that I continued to listen a lot. I listened to the career sergeants state-side. They had experience and with a little bit of street sense, I was able to figure out which were sincerely trying to help a brand new second lieutenant and not hinder him. Particularly, one like me who had not yet turned 21 years old.
I also did a lot of listening in Vietnam. Once again, a little voice within told me to “follow” the advice of those who been there before me, and to accept their guidance. Rank has its privilege, but not to be intentionally stupid and think you know it all. People said that the life expectancy of a second lieutenant in Vietnam was less than 10 minutes. Those new officers didn’t know when or how to listen, is what I think contributed to their major losses.
Back home and married, I went to college and then graduate school and continued being a good listener. I even entered a profession where listening well paid off. I became a newspaper reporter and prided myself on getting quotes as correct as possible. I learned that you couldn’t achieve accuracy while running your mouth at the same time.
I think I tried to develop a “gift of gab” when I took a leave of absence from daily news-reporting, and served as an “organizer” for The Newspaper Guild. I familiarized myself with labor law and “preached” the union message across three states, talking up a storm where ever underpaid and overworked journalists sought to improve their lot.
Went to law school to advance that cause, the union message, but ended up with a “D” in labor law. Became a trial lawyer — a public defender — and forced myself into public speaking and the rotten habit of “arguing” cases with other “talkers” who often out-talked me before some judges. Never could get that “last word” in, but not from a lack of trying. Learned I could speak better, and with more credibility, to a jury, and found my niche trial after trial by avoiding any legalism and all “highfalutin” words. I won more than I lost. And “hung” so many trials thereby providing a client with a whole new jury panel, that I created an internet ID at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will be inactive from the practice of law for almost two years soon, but I often get the urge to “exercise my mouth” at public gatherings. I ask questions. I follow-up with more questions. And then give my opinion whether asked for or not.
I want to put the brakes on. I really want to shut my mouth, “arrest it” for a while. Am now tutoring a person from Ukraine who is speaking English as a second language, and I find I have to listen more in order to help. Made a friend with someone from Venezuela and I’m keeping my mouth in check and listening more intently to understand better.
It’s nice to listen and not have to fight to get a point across for a living. Now, let me try it one day at a time in next few social settings I find myself. Silence, on my part, could be golden. For everyone concerned.