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Talk Less!

Time for another of the Life Lessons on my list. This probably doesn't qualify quite as an Exclamation Mark as it's still a lesson in process. It's something that I wish I practiced better than I do, even though by nature I'm a quiet person--and that is, talking less. I rarely regret  the things I didn't say. On the other hand I've lost count of the times I've wished I could just press the "undo" button on words that have popped out of my mouth in the emotion of a moment.

And at times that others come to talk to me, why is it that I think that I have to talk so much? Usually people already know the answers to their dilemmas. Talking it out helps them to realize that--if only the listener focuses on helping them think things through.

A professional coach once told me that she had the letters W A I T on the wall of her office, strategically placed so that she'd see them behind the person she was meeting with. The letters stood for:


I now have my own set of these letters, carved in wood, and given to me by my friend Jane, for Christmas. They stand in a window in our family room, where I look at them often in the hope that their message will sink in.

One tip I've found that helps me stop talking and listen, is focusing on my breathing. It helps me relax, stop thinking of what "I" have to say, and listen to understand. 

I think back often to conversations with my father, where he was combative and provocative. The two ways I typically reacted were withdrawing in frustration, or arguing back, with disdain for his point of view.

How I wish that I could go back in time and break the pattern. If I could, I would answer his questions with my own. I would hear him out and try to understand his point of view. One of my deepest regrets is knowing that probably not one person on earth ever fully understood or knew him. I had the chance. I missed it with him, but it isn't too late with the people still in my life.

It is a gift to truly know someone else as well as you can, and the only way to do so is to listen.

And at the very least, if you are not so outspoken people think you are far wiser than you actually are!


Susan said…
This is good stuff, but there's a bit of balance that we need to shoot for too, I think. People always need to be affirmed and their feelings validated. And you kind of need words, most of the time to do that. Also, true empathy in a relationship is an very rare and precious thing. (Perhaps the most precious thing) and that can only be expressed through our words. (For whatever that's worth.). But for someone who just talks too much in any given situation, I probably shouldn't have anything to say at all!
Leslie said…
A post I can surely relate to and I think I will get myself my own W.A.I.T. sign!
Sometimes I get so passionately into a conversation, because I'm loving it, that I scare people. They think I'm angry or upset rather than completely absorbed and enthused. I have to learn to talk a little less, listen a little more and speak a little softer. My experience of you is that you are a good listener ... I worry that you wouldn't describe me the same way - yikes.
Belinda Burston said…
Susan, balance is a very good thing! I hope that I never hesitate to affirm or say a kind word. Don't worry, I am not about to take a vow of silence or anything like that. :) I laughed at your final comment. Thanks for making me smile.
Belinda Burston said…
Leslie, knowing this hit a chord with someone means a lot! Good luck with your own quest for quiet! :)
Belinda Burston said…
Dave, please don't change one iota; I love you just the way you are. You say so many wise and clever things that I'd hate to miss any because you were not being "you." And you do listen; somehow you listen to people's hearts--and you eavesdrop better than anyone else I know! Ha ha!
Jane said…
Belinda had forgotten that she had Mention "WAIT" at a Bible Study." (Note to self remember WAIT, Several weeks later I found the letters simply walking around a store... isle shopping not window shopping' Had them at home for several months wondering when the ideal time waste give them. Boxing day, I and a friend get to Paul and Belinda's for turkey. I forgot them @ home ... just enough time to go homes get them a return.

Note to self ... someone is Concerned about an appointment - send email.
A student has exams :-send email.


To Encourage,


Belinda Burston said…
Hi Jane,
I love your take on WAIT. And you are a great encourager and always so thoughtful!

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