We all know this cliche phrase, but how many of us have ever taken it to heart? I have trouble letting it resonate with me. Do you ever have a constant inner dialogue going on? I wouldn’t call it “talking to myself” because that makes me sound crazier than I am, but I don’t want to sugarcoat things either. I am constantly talking inside of my head.
What do I need to do next? I need to plan when I am going to work out, write, read, pray, email people and plan next weekend. Okay, when am I going to work out? 3:30. Done. When am I going to make time to write and how much should I write? 8:00PM tonight and 1,000 words. How long am I going to read? 30 minutes to an hour, but no more. I need to make time to pray before bed so I am not tired. Where do we want to go hike this weekend? Do I need to call my boss or email him again?
It goes on and on and on. It is a blessing and a curse. I have all of these things flying through my head and I am constantly moving from one thing to the next. According to the Strengthsfinder assessment, my number one trait is achiever. I get things done and I take great satisfaction in getting things done. So, all these things running through my mind normally get done, but I am always talking to myself and when I talk to people it is normally because I am in the process of getting something done and they are a piece of that puzzle.
So I talk, talk, talk, and when that happens, I am not a great listener. In fact, I am not a good listener in any situation, because my inner dialogue is always on the war path to getting things done, and I cannot magically turn it off when I have conversations with people. It is constantly running in the background, and so I am constantly fighting to listen to one over the other. I either drown out my inner voice telling me what I need to do next, or I drown out the person talking to me and half-heartedly listen to what they are saying. Unfortunately, that happens far too often.
So I am making a change. I am trying to talk less and listen more, and not just talking with my mouth. I am working through calming and quieting my inner dialogue, at least to a point where I can hold conversations with people and not lose focus every few seconds. I want to be a better listener.
Here are the top three things I have learned about talking too much:
- When you talk more, you have less time to think – This one is obvious. You can do one or the other, but the chances of you successfully talking and thinking at the same time are not good. Quality thoughts come from quality thinking time when you aren’t splitting your focus between thinking and talking.
- When you talk, you have less time to listen – When you are talking, you cannot be listening at the same time. So if someone is trying to talk to you, but instead of listening you talk over them or immediately respond to everything they say, you are more prone to jump to conclusions, and we all know how that can turn out.
- Information Overload – Often when I find myself talking too much, it is because I am afflicted by information overload. I have consumed too much information in too short of a time frame. So, I try to talk through it to process it, but the more I talk, the more frantic I get and I feel overloaded. It is a vicious cycle.
I reached a tipping point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, I have been working on how to talk less and listen more and not just listen like I have been, but really beginning to listen to people. Engaged listening is what I am after. So far, I have found two cures to my ailment. They are by no means perfect and they just the beginning of my journey, but so far, so good.
- Writing – You don’t have to be a writer for this to be an effective habit. It is a way to get alone for a few minutes and process all of your thoughts. My mind is much quieter after I have taken some time to sit down and write. Even if it is just journaling and getting thoughts out of my head and on paper, I have found that it critically reduces the amount of junk floating around in my head.
- To Do Lists – This has been exceptionally helpful. Being an achiever who thrives on getting stuff done, it has been a huge deal for me to take the list of things constantly running through my mind and putting it on paper. Instead of mentally tracking everything I do, I am able to write it all down with a little square next to each item. As soon as I finish something, I check it off.
These two simple things have been incredibly helpful in helping me organize my mind. It reduces the clutter in my head and allows me to really focus and engage in conversations where attentive listening is required on my part. If you have ever had issues with being the person who talks too much and doesn’t listen enough, then try writing up some to-do lists. If that is not your thing, then try writing a couple of days over the next week and see if it makes any difference in how you operate when conversing with others.