Tuesday, July 19, 2011


You know that tingling feeling in your spine where your head meets your neck that happens when you're talking and you impress yourself? No? Then you're probably a much wiser person than I, you probably choose your words carefully and are a great listener. I sometimes wish I was you.

I know this feeling all too well. It feels like someone just hit me with a snowball in the back of the neck, the endorphins releasing into my bloodstream like the burst of ink from a frightened squid. It feels good, and if I'm not careful I can tend to chase this buzz through every conversation, trying to narrate my own natural drug cocktail, all the while leaving casualties in my wake. 

I don't know if it's nature or nurture that makes some of us like this, but I think for me it was a bit of both. I'm from a big family whose ratio greatly favored the male gender, so the "shout-or-be-ignored" principle defined the dynamic most of the time (as well as the "stretch-or-starve" principle, which may explain why I'm orally fixated.) To put it bluntly, we were taught to ramble at a young age, because the more you rambled, the more of the intellectual spotlight you could hog. The more you talked the more valuable you were.

To this day you get two or three of my brothers in one room and you will not get a word in edgewise. It's not vindictive either, it just feels normal to us, and we get worked up talking over each other. My dad is perhaps the king of this. He owns every conversation, blinders on, tongue whirling, snowballs pelting the back of his neck. He's mostly regurgitating smart things he's heard, but he's also brainstorming, forming an opinion as he goes, developing an argument. At some moments the one-sided conversation will peak, like he's on the precipice of that magical moment of insight, and his eyes get excited and he rolls out line after line like a novelist in the throws of writing as his story's climax unfolds effortlessly. He's 'snowballing.' His victim could be a brick wall for all he is concerned, and no volume of eye-rolling or disengaging will cue my fathers pause button. To be fair, my dad is a man of many moods and is not always this manic, but when he is rolling there is not much one can do to stop him.

Studying my dad has helped me realize my own nature. There are moments when I walk away from a conversation and I jerk myself awake with a pang of regret from the realization that I've just dominated the airwaves and that person must think I'm a jerk. I don't know if my dad gets this feeling, but I'd probably be surprised to learn that he does.

There are a lot of negative consequences for those who ramble. You can rub people the wrong way if you're not careful and willing to listen and ask questions. That's been a tough one for me to learn. Also, when you speak before you think, you can end up saying the wrong thing occasionally. You can really hurt people without knowing it. I've been learning to form my words before I speak my mind, because my words are naturally like sharp daggers. Without me consciously enforcing a filter they'll cut people. I have to concentrate to dull them before they go flying out of my mouth. I hope someday I can present them like a bouquet of flowers, soft and patient and loving, like those of wise friends who patiently listen to me babble and then say five beautiful words that echo in my head for days. Flowers perhaps someday, but for now the best I usually do is butter knives. That's why this blog has been so helpful for me. I'm learning to grind down some of those sharp edges with the help of my right pinky finger and the backspace key.

There are some positives that come with being a talker, too. Verbal processing is one of them. Some people get confused, can't sort their thoughts out, and you have to coax the words out of them to get them to feel better. These are the types of people that usually pay money for therapy. I, however, can't help but talk. I can't help but divulge my deepest fears to my wife, a friend, a complete stranger. Anyone on any given day can end up being my therapist, and it doesn't cost me a dime. I don't want to let on like all I do is talk peoples ears off. I can sit in the background, and sometimes I'm not in a very talkative mood. In fact, I'd say 30% of the time I'd rather just watch people interact with each other and not have the pressure be on me. But if something is effecting me, I have no problem putting that into words for a few people until I finally figure out what it is. I usually find out what I'm feeling AS I'm talking, not the other way around. I just kind of start with something that is nagging me like an itch, and then I scratch it verbally, and snowball it to the source of the conflict. And then of course I'll impress myself with words and insights that seem to come out of thin air, and that cocktail of endorphins will go splat in the back of my neck and behind my ears, and I'll feel a lot better.


  1. Have you ever thought about writing a book? I'd totally buy it, as well as copies for all my friends. But in the meantime, thanks for always having something good to say, and thanks for doing it as honestly as possible. Cheers.

  2. It's funny that I cam across this post of yours. Lately I've been reading a book called "The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World." I've been learning about myself as an introvert, they are mostly things I already knew, but now I understand why I am so different from others around me. Such as, opposite to you, most of my insights come from internal thinking- I am hardwired to think before I speak. Your post has just given me a peak into the thought process of an extrovert.

    You mention that "Some people get confused, can't sort their thoughts out, and you have to coax the words out of them to get them to feel better." I disagree with this or at least I don't completely understand your meaning. I don't willingly give my thoughts up- people usually have to ask, but it's not because I am confused about my thoughts. With the temperament of an introvert I internalize my feelings and I need time to process them (it's how my brain works). Sometimes the people going to therapy are the ones who believe that something is wrong with them because they don't "talk out" their feelings (which was a major point in the book I just mentioned).

    Neither how you organize your thought nor how I organize my thoughts are wrong, just different (though because extroverts are 3 to 1 introverts it does sometimes make me think something is wrong with me when I can't join a conversation where there is little time to think of what I'm saying).

    Sorry if this comment seems like it's rambling your post is very intriguing and a wonderful insight. I hope I've written something noteworthy for you as well.