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Keri's Thoughts

No More Noise - Silence is Golden!

Just random thoughts and ideas

No More Noise - Silence is Golden!

Postby Keri Tom » Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:12 pm

I Finally Get It – Silence Really IS Golden! Or, Coping With Noise – When Being Lost Inside Your Own Head Is a Good Thing

Recently I had the opportunity to observe two different people, both of whom had lots to say, but in essence both said nothing.

So what causes this verbal diarrhea? What compels a person to feel like every moment must be filled with their own voice?

My first exposure was at a supposedly-quiet weekend away from civilization with a friend of mine. Granted, I had access to running water and electricity, but I was specifically there to enjoy nature in all her glorious splendor, not mindlessly watch TV or talk on the phone.

A woman in the common-area kitchen was there with her husband, grown daughter and 2 grandchildren. We were exposed to an ongoing flood of trivialities; I was actually rather impressed at how she managed to flow from topic to topic without ever coming up for air: the kids didn’t want any more eggs, they have enough ketchup, she likes cream but not sugar in her coffee and definitely not ketchup – that would be just silly, the coffee spoon she was using came from such and such, the same place she also found that gift for what’s-her-face, what’s-her-face was so nice, remember when she babysat the dog when they went on vacation? The dog was just fine after he coughed up that sock he swallowed, which reminded her she needed to do laundry, especially after the hike they just went on, where the kids found that oddly-shaped rock; when she was a girl she found a rock that looked like a heart, and it was right after Uncle Joe had his heart attack, and Uncle Joe was named after her great-grandfather who fought in the war…

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Just STOP!

I was not interested in eavesdropping and our dear lady did not let that stop her; I was exhausted after 10 minutes.

The second exposure I had was when I had lunch about a week later with my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, let’s call her J. She also has a gift – she can take one topic and all its subtle variations and run a marathon with it, all 26.2 miles. Just when you think there can’t possibly be more to say, she continues to run another without breaking a sweat. Her verbosity is more along the lines of an assault, aimed, locked and loaded towards my brother-in-law (we’ll call him H): He should’ve moved a couple of years ago when I told him to, that way he could be closer to where I am. But he didn’t listen, so now his house is worth less in this market, and now he’s stuck in a crappy job in a crappy market and can’t afford to get in his crappy car to come see me. If he weren’t so lazy/stupid/ignorant/fill-in-the-blank he could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. Her life is focused around possibilities, and not what IS -how things would be so much better if he would just be a good boy and comply with everything she says, if only, if only.

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How long can he hold her beak shut? Painful but worth it?

I left our lunch feeling as if every conversation with her is a Mad Lib, that fun kid’s game where you fill in a different noun or adjective for hilarious results; only this version was nowhere near as entertaining – it was actually quite sad.

Being often exposed to J at family get-togethers, I have experimented with various ways of coping so I don’t let myself become drained. Hopefully my strategies might work for you someday? I would like to know!

When I first met J, she jumped right in with how she is. I listened politely, but ended up embarrassed by not being able to talk with other people at the function since I could not find a way to gracefully escape, er, I mean mingle with other people. So I was oh-for-one there.

Once I got to know her better and was really able to hone in on her style, I actually interrupted her with questions – positive ones, like: Yes, but he DOES do XYZ, so that’s good, right? Strike two. In her mind, H’s one good deed here and there does not make up for a lifetime of slacking.

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Which brings us to method 3: My husband and I, H and J went to dinner, and I asked her (rudely interrupting, of course, but I was about to be on a roll): Why is she with him then? If he is so horrible and rotten, why does she stay? What redeeming value does he have at all? What does that say about YOU, dear J, that you stay with a guy who is such a jerk? He sitting right here, let’s hear it! Her answer – the only simplistic thing she ever said that had no addendum: Because I love him. Me: Do you REALLY? Because all I’ve ever heard over your last 8 years together is what a miserable excuse for a human he is. J: Yes, I really do love him. Me: Hey H – remember that time when we were 18 and we went here and did this? What a great time! Oh, J, that was before your time… This actually was quite effective in getting her to stop talking for the rest of the evening. I didn’t even end up feeling bad - she didn’t even notice.

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Obviously this method didn’t work either, since we were right back where we started when I went to lunch with her. Three strikes, I’m out. I have no interest in “fixing” their relationship – if they both want to be miserable together then they are free to do so. I need to limit my exposure to them in order to preserve my own sanity.

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I might need to get me one of these.

I have also tried letting my mind wander a little bit at a time, to see if she notices. I would throw in a random “Mm-hmm”, “yeah” or “uh-huh” while I mentally ran through my to-do list. She never noticed. I finally understood what the phrase “talking heads” meant.

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Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Now don’t think the irony is lost on me – writing several pages about how long-winded these two people are. But as far as coping goes, I know there is not much to be done about others in a public space; I hustled away from Grandma a little faster than I normally would have – a small sacrifice on my part in exchange for sanity, well worth the price.

And as for J? I am polite but firm, I tell her I don’t want to hear it. At first I felt rude by repeating this; I am hoping that by continually not allowing her to invade my happiness I can remain so even if she isn’t. I am happy to have the opportunity to learn or practice something new every day! She does not deserve my energy.

What has worked for you?
Fin2swim - Infant Aquatics Master Instructor Trainer "Life is Beautiful"
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Keri Tom
 
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