THE BLOG

When and Why Not to Talk About Everything

Talking is a balm for the lonely and afraid, but a poison for those who use it to replace the art of living.
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We live in a society that is obsessed with talking about everything. And for good reason. A great many acts have been committed that could have been prevented by just talking about it. Couples may have still remained together if they spoke up earlier about their troubles. People might not have killed themselves if they were able to speak about their feelings. And we might still be angry with our closest friends if we had not had that outburst and then "talked about it." Yet, the more I discover the way the world is working, the more I wonder whether it is enough to just talk about something, and in some cases, whether it is obstructive. Here are some reasons that I am wary about talking.

Firstly, when we talk, we make the assumption that the narratives we are generating are "the truth" about what we are feeling. But they may not in fact be the truth. You see, some researchers have reported that we make up stories to account for undefined feelings that float inside of us. They have shown this by sticking electrodes into people's brains and then eliciting responses that appeared to have had content more than the region that was stimulated. When they stimulated the anxiety area in the brain, different and elaborate stories emerged accounting for the anxiety. These stories were not even vaguely true. So when we are talking, we cannot make the assumption that the causes of our feelings are what we say they are. They may just have been the most recent event. Hence, my hesitation about making an assumption that our outbursts and reasons for things actually matter.

Secondly, many studies have shown that even the most logical of reasoning is probably motivated. So as logical and clinical as we are, we can't really assume that the tight connection between our statements implies any level of logical rigor. It may, but it is also probably packed with emotional biases even if we can't immediately see it. This again places into doubt our logical arguments which may in fact be a waste of breath.

Thirdly, I have found, even for myself, that there are some times when my talk is just talk and not connected to an intended action, especially when it comes to personal ambitions. My mind rises like a helium balloon when I am faced with inspiring statements like "Live your best life now," "You are only what you make of yourself" and "Be the best that you can be." I might even talk about how inspired I feel after this. But when it comes to doing such things, unless it is clearly spelt out, my brain just goes to sleep. I don't think I'm alone here.

There is a concept in the theory of innovation that refers to incubation: a period when you let the ideas live around inside of you without giving birth to them. Some ideas need to be nourished. They need to be fed before you can show them to the world. So, when we blurt out our intentions, we may be giving birth to premature actions that never come to breathe in our lives.

Perhaps my greatest pet peeve is when people who are angry with me want to "talk" to me-as though I don't know that they are angry, or as though their not screaming at me is somehow a relief to me. While I confess that I prefer not being shouted at, the soft-spoken anger has a weirdness all of its own.

So, based on my understanding that sometimes, talking is necessary and sometimes it is not, here is my list of recommendations about when not to talk about things:

1. When someone starts a sentence with "We need to talk about..." run for the hills.
2. If you think you have a great idea for an invention, book, product or song, wait until it is ready to come out. Don't wrench it from its womb while it is incubating.
3. If you feel you are not having sex often enough or as you want it, think again about talking about it. You may make your partner feel even less like having sex.
4. Obviously, when your partner asks for advice, shut up.
5. When talking replaces action, lose the talking in favor of the action. The next time you are inspired by someone telling you to live your best life now, sketch out an action plan immediately after. If not it will live in soap bubbles of inspiration and will serve the sole purpose of temporarily making you feel inspired without any follow-up impact.

Talking is a balm for the lonely and afraid, but a poison for those who use it to replace the art of living.