Let’s Talk About Talking

A lot of us are talkers.

Although I am a Myers Briggs Introvert, I can talk with the best of them and I talk for many reasons: I have things to say, I’m trying to fill an awkward silence, I’m curious, I’m nervous.

At a family wedding over the weekend, the bride was coming down a beautiful long staircase while the organ played O God Beyond All Praising and I whispered to my brother, “This is one of my favorite hymns.”

Why did I need to say that? Was it a way of making the moment a tiny bit about me? What is to show that I know my old hymns? Why couldn’t I just be quiet and enjoy the majesty of the moment?

We’ve all experienced the scenario of someone telling a story and then someone else needs to top it or share a similar story. Why do we do this?

In these days of Zoom Meetings – especially in breakout rooms – I’m finding that even when we break into smaller groups to have more personal conversations, some people still dominate the conversations. When one person speaks more than once during a limited time frame, others will not have the chance to speak. As someone reminded me in (yet another) Zoom meeting yesterday, “People who speak more than once in a breakout room or in a large meeting with time limits are actually preventing others from speaking.”

Learning how to speak in meetings is an essential practice. Sometimes we need to teach each other:

  • It’s not necessary to offer a comment for everything.
  • Some things are said neutrally but we take the words personally. (i.e. Don’t be so defensive.)
  • Listening is not waiting for our turn to talk.
  • If we are from the dominant culture (i.e. white) it’s thoughtful to let those of non-dominant cultures speak first.

Notice in church meetings what’s going on. Is this meeting primarily a social time without much agenda but it lasts for an hour because people want to chat? Have we veered off the agenda and the moderator either hasn’t noticed or can’t reel people back on task? Are people talking over each other? Are there private conversations happening in the corner? Is there a person who never speaks up? Is there a person who always speaks up (sometimes to the detriment of actual discussion and debate)?

No church board meeting should last longer than a worship gathering unless the board is dealing with a crisis. And those attending the meeting need to come prepared so that we aren’t talking about matters that were discussed previously.

A lot of us are talkers and we would be wise to consider how our practice of talking needs to change.

Have a lovely weekend. I’m on study leave next week and hope for some nourishing one-on-one conversations as well as some quiet time.

One response to “Let’s Talk About Talking

  1. We can’t have just silence – spaces even when driving down the road need to filled with words – like the reading aloud of the signs. A friend suggested years ago, “What if we only have a certain number of words that we can say out loud and then you are done?” That’s what a stroke with a side dish of Aphasia did for my husband. Now I long for idle chat, reading of road signs and abstract metaphors.

    Liked by 1 person

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