by Sheila C. Bentley
Today I publish on behalf of Sheila C. Bentley with her authorization this stirring article originally published in “The Listening Post” #119 (an ILA International Listening Association’s publication).
Hi. My name is Sheila, and I’m a talkaholic—and a lousy listener.
I want to stop being a talkaholic, but so far, I haven’t been able to. Other people drive me to it. Sometimes they are so boring that I have to stop them before I am completely catatonic. Sometimes they are saying something so stupid, I have to stop them to keep them from embarrassing themselves. Sometimes I know something really important that the other person should know, and frankly, sometimes I just know more than they do, so I have to educate them. And I feel really compelled to help them be informed when I have some research to cite! Also, I’m older than a lot of people I talk with, so I feel that my experience will be interesting and valuable to them. And unfortunately, sometimes, I just can’t stop myself.
I realize it isn’t always someone else’s fault and that if I really want to change, I’ll have to take responsibility for my behavior, but really, most of the time, someone else drives me to being a talkaholic.
I know I talk too much, but I’m a pretty good speaker and have a good sense of humor, so I’m sure they are entertained. And in groups, well. . . I just know lots of relevant information that they need to know.
When I’m at my worst, I interrupt, or enthusiastically let them know that I have something to say so they’ll stop talking. Sometimes I listen critically or judgmentally for what they are saying that is wrong or needs correcting. And often, I make sure that my body language lets them know that I’m not interested or paying attention.
I think I need help to really change my behavior. Maybe I should wear a big button that says “I’m a talkaholic” so that people won’t get in the car with me alone, or get cornered by me at a party, or accidentally sit next to me during a meal or meeting. But I’m not sure that even that would help. I’d probably just hide the button and find someone else.
I know that there is a ten-step program to help talkaholics. Maybe I could just work on following the first three rules for awhile:
- Stop talking.
- Don’t interrupt.
- Hear the person out.
And perhaps if people would give me feedback or cues when I’m doing these things, that would help.
I really think a support group would be helpful so that I would know I’m not alone and that other people have made it and are successful recovering talkaholics.
My name is Sheila. What’s yours?
Visit the International Listening Association’s website at www.listen.org if you or someone you know needs help.