I Just Don’t Want To Talk About It
We often hear people say it is good to talk; but sometimes it really isn’t. Sometimes it is best for us to take time to clarify our thoughts before we speak and yet so many tell us to talk about how we feel. Some like me talk to think; and others think to talk.
For the external processors like me it is often quite useful to talk out what we are thinking but the person listening needs to have a thick skin. They need to be able to listen to things without taking them personally. They need to be able to listen without judging that I am waffling and not getting to the point fast enough or complaining that what I am saying makes no sense. I am not talking for you to understand; I am talking for me to do understand. I am quite often metaphorically sorting through my thoughts and all I need is for someone to ask questions and repeat back something I have said to help me notice what I am actually saying. But it doesn’t work to interrupt and correct me.
It takes patience and tolerance on the part of the listener to track as much as they can as a torrid of words, gestures and symbols come flying their way. Sometimes we tell others to speak and then we get frustrated when they don’t speak in just the right way for us to listen. What I suggest in these cases; is don’t ask them to talk if you cannot hold the space to listen without emotionally responding yourself.
Those that process internally need time to think before they can speak and so you need patience and tolerance to wait for them to have ‘something’ to say. But the likelihood is that when they speak they will do so clearly and succinctly.
Typically I am the external processor and I am fortunate to have friends, family and two coaches that I can talk to in order to clarify my thinking. But recently post my heart scare I just wanted to be quiet. I didn’t want to say anything I just wanted to be quiet and listen to my body and make sense of how I was feeling. I am lucky this is not new to my family as I have done sponsored silences and stayed at home for 5 days without speaking for 10 hours a day.
But it can be quite stressful for some family members if you normally talk and then suddenly stop. Equally for an internal processor it can be quite frustrating if you have a rule that you don’t speak until you have clarity if you find yourself needing to speak in order to get clarity.
Chatting with purpose.
Next time you speak or you tell someone that they should talk about how they feel think about what is your purpose? What is in it for them? What is in it for you?
Sometimes we are asking others to speak because it makes us feel better to understand what is going on and the truth is that the other person doesn’t really need to talk to process how they feel. You need them to speak to understand them. And that is okay to have that need. But the intention behind the request is different. Telling someone that they need to talk to make themselves feel better when in reality they feel much better not talking about it; is very different to; talk to me I need to understand what is going on for you; so that I can best support you. (And be willing to hear; that they don’t know. Maybe they are having feelings that they cannot find words for and trust them when they say they don’t know)
Those of us that start speaking without thinking about what our purpose is and whether the person we are speaking to is resourced to listen need to be more mindful of the state of mind of when we speak; who we speak to and for how long. It is quite a task to listen for long periods of time.
In the 10 step to confidence model, step 3 is understanding your needs and how to get them met. Understanding how you learn, how you listen, how you process and make sense of the world means that you can ask for what you need. Learning about how differently others listen and process means that you can have more compassion and understanding when their needs are different to yours.
Consider for a moment are you someone that talks to think or someone that thinks to talk?
Now consider before you either start talking or you ask someone to talk.
- What is your purpose?
- Why do you need them to talk or why do you need to talk?
- Be clear about is your desired outcome?
- When talking has happened then what happens?
- What is the thing you want to have happen post talking? For you? For them? For the relationship?
Then bear in mind that mostly we are seeking understanding and some people find it really hard to speak when they don’t have the clarity first or if they fear being judged.
This is why it is so important you have a good peer support network that can listen to you and give you time and space to make sense of how you process and make sense of the world around you.
If you are going to encourage someone to talk and they agree to share with you their thoughts; here are somethings to consider;
- Ask questions about solutions. What they want rather than what they don’t want.
- Ask questions and reflect back evidence of their strengths, past experiences that demonstrate they have the skills and resources to find their own solution because they have done it before. It might be that they are super organised at home and you can help them transfer that skill to work or vice versa. Maybe they are super kind and compassionate to others and you can help them transfer that skill to themselves.
- If you are going to share strategies that worked for you; be willing and open to hearing that they won’t work for them.
In essence sometimes it is good to talk and sometimes it is not; and the only person that can determine that is the person talking. Sadly, we often don’t know what kind of listening we need until we start talking and get a response that doesn’t work for us.
The magic of being heard
Don’t get me wrong there is something magical that happens when we can express ourselves and it is witnessed without judgement. Over the years I have learned that whilst I am someone that talks to think; sometimes I talk to avoid feeling so whilst for others talking might help them feel their emotions for me it can be a really good avoidance strategy. It keeps my energy and attention outside on the person I am talking to and it prevents me from going within and listening to myself.
Which is why during this period of healing I took a whole morning not to speak; to notice how I felt and notice if and when I experienced pain. It was great to get the news that there was nothing wrong with my heart but that left with me with pain and no solution, so I needed to pay more attention to what happened just before and during pain so that I could answer the Dr’s questions as accurately as possible in order to get a better diagnosis next time.
Sometimes when our loved ones are not talking it is not that they are not ‘dealing’ with their problems; it is in fact the complete opposite. Men often get told off for not talking about their feelings assuming that talking makes them feel better when in reality many can and do process those things internally just fine and it is more to do with the partners need to know they are okay than their need to talk to feel better.
As you can imagine in my household I do need to give fair warning if I am going to retreat within, as it is quite obvious when I go quiet and quite rightly my husband checked with me by asking; “Is this the same or different to depression?”
To which I could confidently reply; “No. I am not depressed I am a little embarrassed that I told everyone there was something wrong with my heart and now that turns out not to be true and I just need to give that emotion some space to be heard, acknowledged and then released and I can do that better by saying it once and then being quiet.
Having spent most of the weekend caught between relieved and disappointed; I am now emerging to a place of hope and compassion for myself and others. I have a physio appointments booked as it is most likely that this pain has something to do with my spine all along.
I trust that sharing this story will create curiosity about your purpose for talking and invite you to be curious when you want others to talk. Is it to meet a need for them or you? And when you ask someone to talk can you listen? When you ask someone to listen; are you asking the right person at the right time?
For many the number one reason they don’t listen is because they are short of time. They don’t make time to listen to themselves or those that matter to them. If this is you then check out our Free Tame Your Time Monster guide with regular time monster munchies.
For those that are interested in discovering more about their own needs when it comes to listening then please do check out our next 90 day programme that includes the 3 day live retreat which provides invaluable experiential learning where you will learn about all kinds of listening and what kind works for you when. For information about Motivate, Manage or Mentor click here.
“For a Better Perspective Call The Listening Detective.”
Listening with your strengths and solutions in mind.
Founder of Step by Step Listening, Sheryl Andrews has always been keen to create space where other people felt safe to speak their truth no matter what that was. She is well known for her ability to motivate manage and mentor others through change and loves nothing more than turning overwhelm into a clarity and confidence that change can and is happening.
Sheryl and her team now runs retreats, one to one coaching and online group coaching course that provide you with a space and time to gain clarity, focus and direction whilst unraveling what is really holding you back and plan your next best step with confidence. For regular updates and examples of how listening skills can resource you to manage yourself, time and others through change check out Free Success without stress newsletter
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