Saturday, 22 July 2017

Chatterbox envy

I do envy those folk who can natter away effortlessly, without a hint of self-doubt or embarrass-ment or inhibition. They move seamlessly from topic to topic, the words bubbling up in a non-stop stream. Nothing seems to deter them, be it other people ear-wigging, loud music or scampering children.

How do they do that? I find it hard to think of the next sentence, never mind prattling on for half an hour. I get too self-conscious and too wary of my listener's reactions. Suppose I say something stupid or inappropriate or nonsensical? And will they be interested in what I'm saying or bored to tears?

Booze doesn't help. Far from loosening my tongue, a glass or two of alcohol is more likely to send me to sleep or freeze my brain completely.

It's easier if I know the other person well and I'm fairly relaxed in their company. Or if we get onto a subject I'm passionate about. If it's a stranger I've never met before, and they're just making routine small talk, I dry up rapidly.

It's not that I'm uninterested in people. On the contrary, I'm fascinated by other people's lives - their habits and problems and tastes and peculiarities. But I'm no good at that casual chattering that encourages someone to reciprocate. I can be with a person for quite a while and still know next to nothing about them.

Not saying very much seems to be a family trait. My mother, father and sister were always fairly taciturn, speaking only when they had to rather than spilling everything out. Entire meals could go by with no one saying a word other than "Could you pass the salt" or "These peas taste funny". Motor-mouths we were not.

Supposedly we get more talkative as we age, because we simply aren't bothered any more by what others think. Well, I keep hoping this magical nonchalance will make its appearance, but it never does.

I'd quite like to have the gift of the gab.

27 comments:

Ms Scarlet said...

Depends what mood I'm in really. I'm not bad at moving a conversation along when it's stuck....compliments and questions help.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet: The questions I think of asking always seem to be a bit intrusive or a bit rude. I've never quite mastered the neutral but revealing question.

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm guessing this is a skill you can learn if you put in some effort. Why not notice what other people do and do a bit of role playing at home?

Hattie said...

This is not really a problem. Your silence is probably just because you are too wise to waste words. I would describe myself as somewhere between average and high on an imagined scale of talkers. I'll let myself yack sometimes, if I'm around friends and family who indulge my ways. I have a cousin who is quite the talker, and we all go along with it. The only motormouth I can't stand at all is my brother in law. He KNOWS he is aggravating. He never, never shuts up, and it's all drivel.He never considers his audience, and his #1 topic is "vintage" cars (yawn). I recently gave myself the gift of not having any more to do with him!
I personally like silent types. My husband is one of those, although he talks more than he did when I met him 50+ years ago.

Dave Martin said...

I don't do small talk and I don't feel the need to fill a silence with inane waffle just for the sake of it.
I'm more than happy to participate in a meaningful conversation, but I find the kind of chatterbox you describe immensely irritating and will try to get away as quickly as possible.

Nick said...

Jean: I think role playing at home wouldn't be very realistic as Jenny and I know each other far too well and have plenty to say to each other!

Nick said...

Hattie: Listening to someone holding forth about vintage cars for half an hour sounds pretty dismal. Why do people not realise that their pet subject may be of no interest whatever to other people?

I think I also talk more than when Jenny and I first met. She's been a good influence on me!

Nick said...

Dave: Funny how some chatterboxes are so interesting I could listen to them for hours, while others are so boring I want to run for the hills after about five minutes.

Bijoux said...

If I meet a new person, I always ask them a lot of questions to keep the conversation flowing. I do have a few friends who talk too much (where they go on and on and it's all one-way) and it literally gives me a headache. They are nice people, but I have to limit my time with them.

Rummuser said...

I can be a chatterbox at need but by and large I prefer to listen and just comment at need. As I age and reduce my out of home activities, I find that I would prefer silences rather than chatter even when I am among friends and family,

Nick said...

Bijoux: See my answer to Scarlet. I'm not very adept at neutral but revealing questions. I tend to ask the questions that people would rather not answer....

Ramana: I much prefer restful silences to pointless chatter about nothing in particular. But there's still this lingering idea that it's polite to fill "awkward" silences.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Generally, I don't have a problem carrying on a conversation. Of course, my work is all about dialogue so I guess I have to be able to do that.

tammy j said...

sometimes introverts like myself chatter to cover up a nervousness around groups of people. I know I have done that.
it's not a planned thing. or necessarily a part of my personality. it's like a shyness in reverse!
I spend hours and even days alone with no discourse at all.
except for the written word of course. and I love it.
maybe you're more mysterious because you're quiet! it's not a totally bad thing at all nick.

Nick said...

Agent: Indeed, your work must sharpen your conversational skills. Coincidentally, this post was inspired by another therapist friend who is an excellent chatterer!

Tammy: Yes, I guess chatter is often a response to nerves. Do people see my quietness as more mysterious? I've no idea. But I think I'd rather be an open book than a baffling enigma!

Christina said...

My grandma used to say, "you have one mouth and two ears, that's so you listen twice as much as you speak"
I too don't speak unnecessarily.
We live in a very noisy world don't we. It's nice to be quiet.

Nick said...

Christina: Yes, I know that saying, it's a good one. Not many people are skilled at listening (including myself). To listen with full attention, without your mind being somewhere else, is quite a talent.

CheerfulMonk said...

Nick,
"I think role playing at home wouldn't be very realistic as Jenny and I know each other far too well and have plenty to say to each other!" Role playing wasn't my main point. It's that if you really "do envy those folk who can natter away effortlessly, without a hint of self-doubt or embarrassment or inhibition," then if you're willing to put in some effort you could learn to have less self-doubt, etc. One alternative to envy is thinking "It would be nice, but it's not worth the effort to me." I was extremely self-conscious, especially about public speaking, years ago and I worked to change it. It was a good choice for me but it did take time and effort.

Wisewebwoman said...

Can't bear small talk, am hopeless at it. I think you've written on this before. However, I do have the skill of allowing people to open up deeply.

I truly don't know how I manage. They say I have a kind face but I don't see it, it is usually (I think) the Resting Bitch Face, unapproachable I would have thought but last night, case in point, the owner of the restaurant where I was meeting my daughter for dinner hugged me on entry, followed in succession by some of his clientele that he introduced me to.

I am always astonished that people think so kindly of me and share their darkest and deepest so willingly (restaurant owner shared fertility issues with me). LOL

XO
WWW

joared said...

think there have been scientific studies revealing some individuals are more introverted, usually including being less talkative than others. Genetics, experiences growing up are influencing factors, also. Books and articles abound on ways to change our conversational skills with suggestions about ways to do so. I suppose each person has to choose what works for what they want to accomplish and how much effort they want to invest in changing.

For me, becoming more comfortable being myself and focusing more on whoever I was speaking with became more comfortable as I experienced more work and social occasions encountering new people throughout my life. Sometimes I meet people I enjoy talking with, other times not, but likely not everyone enjoys conversing with me either. I tend to not be too revealing about myself until I know someone well, so I typically don't engage in in-depth personal talk though others often surprise me with how much they reveal about themselves -- maybe because they perceive my genuine interest, true listening, comfortableness with instances of silence. Many people like an opportunity to talk about themselves.

Alcohol that flows at many group social occasions does affect the inhibition level of some at these affairs "loosening their tongues" which is the intent, or need of some to feel comfortable, but can render a few of them undesirable conversationalists.

Nick said...

Jean: I don't think it's a question of effort, more a matter of having the confidence to speak my mind without constantly monitoring what I'm saying and finding reasons to be silent.

Nick said...

www: It's intriguing that so many people are happy to confide in you. There must be something about you that suggests empathy and a non-judgmental attitude. But never having met you in the flesh, I have no idea what that something is. Clearly the Resting Bitch Face doesn't put anyone off!

Nick said...

Joared: Some people surprise me too with how much they're willing to reveal, while others are totally tight-lipped. I think your point about genuine interest is a good one. You can tell pretty quickly if someone is just asking about you out of politeness or if they really want to know all about you.

There are no obvious quick-fix remedies for being too silent. I think it's one of those things that either naturally changes or doesn't. I've always assumed it's something you grow out of, but clearly that ain't necessarily so.

kylie said...

I talk a lot when i am relaxed and feel safe, i didnt realise just how much until I caught a friend rolling her eyes at her husband. If only she knew what a compliment it was!
If I am nervous or uncomfortable I get more and more quiet with my level of discomfort.
My quietness in new situations makes it more difficult for me when I meet new clients and have to try to form some kind of bond but it I suspect my silence is a godsend to them during the long and intense hours of labour.

keep asking the tricky questions, Nick. It means you actually think rather than making meaningless chat. Most people will be able to skirt a question they dont like.

Nick said...

Kylie: I guess I'm much the same. How much I talk does tend to depend on how comfortable and relaxed I feel. My natural reaction to nervousness is to close down until the nervousness disappears. That's nice of you to encourage the tricky questions. As you say, why waste time on meaningless chat?

CheerfulMonk said...

Nick,
You don't believe you can develop self-confidence in situations like that? Maybe you can't, but plenty of people have. Including me! It does take some learning and commitment and practice.

Nick said...

Jean: I'll see what I can do!

CheerfulMonk said...

Norman Vincent Peale was plagued by self-consciousness and self-doubt and overcame it. But maybe the U.S. and the world would have been better if he hadn't? http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/donald-trump-2016-norman-vincent-peale-213220