Talking About Talking

Mouth to ear

One of the reasons I enjoy writing so much is that I can express myself better through writing than through speaking. I find it difficult to communicate with other people face to face or on the telephone, to express my thoughts and emotions, to make friends, to become close to others. I do not stammer or fall into a paralytic muteness, but my words never flow, and when they do come out, they seem jumbled, haphazard, incapable of conveying what I think and feel. They never seem to be the right words.

In my mind, I constantly carry out persuasive monologues, discussing everything from literary matters to romantic problems to global affairs, and I must admit that there are moments when part of me enjoys hearing these monologues. But when the moment comes for decisive speech in real life, when I know that a few right words can turn the balance in my favor or lead to great things in the future, I am simply incapable of coherent speech. Which is bad:

“Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.” – Stephen Hawking.

Nor am I particularly good at discussing more sophisticated matters, recounting stories, or quoting from books. On the other hand, I am an attentive and patient listener. People open up to me and tell me things they don’t usually tell others. My short and frail appearance no doubt helps, because I appear (and am!) harmless and innocent. I also tend to refrain from judging others, which also helps.

Many times I am misunderstood, usually in a negative way. My verbal awkwardness and shyness conspire together, leaving others thinking I am rude, mean, or odd in a bad way. It can be really frustrating, especially when it happens with people that I want to get closer to, so much so that many a day I am thinking of renouncing society altogether and building myself a cabin in some snowy woods, to dwell among the wolves and the bears.

What keeps me here, among you? Well, first of all I am a clumsy, impractical person. I wouldn’t last a week in that cabin: the wolves and bears would eat me. Then there’s writing. While I cannot say I am satisfied with the way I express myself through writing – there’s so much progress to be made – I have to admit it helps me make sense of the world around me and deal with unavoidable disappointments.

Finally, I also have the fortune to meet sometimes, online or in the flesh, someone who seems to be on the same frequency with me, someone who may be different from me in many ways, who may be older, who may live far away, but who seems not to need my words to understand me because she somehow already does, as if in some past life, or rather in a dream, we have done things together, we have shared a solitude, we have been accomplices of some kind, and that past complicity of ours still lingers with us now, helping us understand each other.

“Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes.” ― Tarjei Vesaas, The Boat in the Evening

Do you say the right things at the right time or do you have problems expressing yourself? Does writing help?

43 thoughts on “Talking About Talking

  1. I have no problem speaking as long as I’m not emotional about the subject or the person I’m conversing with … when needing to explore my emotions in depth or communicating the depth of my passion, I have to turn to the written word. Otherwise my speech is garbled by stupid tears.

  2. Once again, another great post. You captured the essence of a lot of problems we introverts face. I too always feel a bit stifled when I speak to other people, which frustrates me because it feels as if I’m going against my own nature, and yet I can’t manage to shake off this awkwardness. All in all though, being an introvert is pretty fantastic, and our internal monologues can lend to good writing too. 🙂

    1. Plenty of extroverts have difficulties talking as well, don’t you think? I mean they speak a lot but don’t necessarily say much. Take politicians, for example.

      1. Most definitely! Society often loves exuberant, talkative people simply because they never leave us in an uncomfortable moment. However, like you said, they don’t have much to say.

  3. I started off reading the exact words I used to explain myself to somebody else this week. The difference is that I haven’t used a telephone (other than to text) for over 10 years now, and I do stammer and fall into paralytic muteness if confronted by a real life stranger who requires a verbal response that isn’t a raspberry.
    I’m told, and what I remember from my pre-idiot days is that in order to express yourself properly and coherently and to get your viewpoint over, is to speak slowly. Of course you may be taken for an idiot doing this too.
    Perhaps you should carry a pad and pen at all times and be sure to wear a scarf. That way you can write the flashes of brilliance while claiming laryngitis has robbed you of your voice. Problem Solved.
    I shall bill you in due course.

    1. Thanks for the tip, David. Better yet, I’ll take to wearing one of those painting/anticontamination masks flu victims wear in some Asian countries, to discourage conversation altogether.

  4. The world of the introvert is paved with societal challenges. But at least the written word does give the necessary outage to frustration. Don’t build that secluded cabin yet. Some of us do understand.

  5. I used to be really bad at conversing and carrying on a conversation and getting words out – but over the past decade I have gotten better at it – though I still have problems starting conversation to get rid of the awkward silence!

      1. haha…. well only that I had to make a conscious effort to become more ‘sociable’! and it was an effort…. although it comes more easily these days, it still does take concentration, especially in some circumstances!! So my only tips are to decide you want to do it & then dedicate energy to it – but that underlying feeling will never go away 🙂

  6. This is why I never understood the writer’s adage ‘write like you speak’. It is only several minutes after a conversation has finished, that the precise words I wanted to say come to mind.

  7. Reblogged this on overseashottieandme and commented:
    I can’t totally relate to this. When I was young, I used my diary to express myself. Now in the age of social media, Instagram and blogs writing my feelings is how I let go, let someone know and just evaluate my life at times. Great message.

  8. For all years of my life I was in love in language, possibilities to form the sentence and play with words, their sounds, their looks, their meanings. At school I was an exceptional speaker and writer. The one who helps others with this stuff. But then as my perception of the world was changing and I was learning more and more about myself, I suddenly lost this verbal skill. Language started to appear for me more as an illusion of communication with no possible way to understand each other fully. Probably due to depression and some social anxiety, I spend even some time in kind of paranoid mood, feeling completely unrealistic, as I strongly felt that what I see, hear etc. has nothing in common with other’s experiences and is inexpressible. Like I was using some foreign, unknown language. Now talking or writing still is a long way with many obstacles on it for me. On the other hand, thanks to that I have a lot of more tolerance for anyone. I don’t judge automatically, as I know that I have no real idea about their minds and their selves. Also, that is why I decided to start a blog. I hope to meet here some people, who I can show and tell everything that I am scared to do in real life. And maybe someone will like me just for that. Maybe we’ll find a common language. 🙂

  9. Reblogged this on Epenthesis and commented:
    This is me. Today’s society mantain that it’s good to talk at all costs and silence is always awkward. I think it’s precisely the opposite. In a world full of words forever losing meaning, here’s to all the introverts and their silences.

  10. This. Is. My. Life. And so beautifully and eloquently put. Brilliant piece. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. It’s an interesting thing, what writing brings out in us. I think it’s excellent that writing captures what you cannot say out loud. I always figured that it was more intimate to take the time to read what someone has to say versus trying to listen to the things they aren’t really saying in person.

    I, personally, talk all the time. For hours on end. But it’s nothing as honest as writing. Those monologues you have.. I have them every time someone asks me, “How’s life?” I hate answering that. The monologue in my head is always MUCH better than what actually comes out of my mouth when I speak.

    Knowing I’m not the only one is comforting. Good read. Thank you.

  12. I’ve always had a problem speaking my mind…which is frustrating because my mind is always on moto mode, yet my mouth always fails me. That’s when I wish that people could read mins, then my life would be so much better and I’m sure I’d have more friends then I do now.

    1. Smae here.. but be careful what you wish for. People reading minds seem more of a curse .Yikes!!

      1. Hahahaha they do don’t they? Well maybe there could be a rule like , ” only read my mind if I permit” ….that would be okay right ?

  13. I could so relate to this post and what you had to say here. I blabber and most times don’t talk sense especially if am with people I am not that comfortable with. Writing and those monologues somehow manage to be so eloquent from my side.
    Instead I am what they call a listener ( it has its mishaps, have a post out on that if you’d like to check out) .

    Glad to know I am not the only clumsy person 🙂

  14. “Many times I am misunderstood, usually in a negative way. My verbal awkwardness and shyness conspire together, leaving others thinking I am rude, mean, or odd in a bad way.” … This says a lot about the lack of empathy in the world today. The judges – those doing the judging – are worse than the judged

  15. Right there with you on the writing vs. talking dilemma. I feel more comfortable writing my opinions than speaking them, because the reaction isn’t immediate, which buffers me from possible confrontation. Plus, if and when someone does respond, I have that luxury of time to determine what MY response will be. So, I guess what I’m saying is, writing slows the conversation to a comfortable pace for me.

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