I love to talk. It is a natural state for me. I think by talking aloud. For 25 years I made a litigator’s living by talking. The fifth of eight children, talking was a serious survival skill.
I enjoy talking to a room of hundreds or walking into that same room and making a connection with another person within a matter of minutes. I’ve been known to delight a stranger with the story of how I fell in love. While many of my dearest friends are tortured by social events, I leave a party exhilarated while they decline my invitation to talk into the wee hours over a late night breakfast.
I talk because I love ideas. I talk because I’m afraid people won’t think I bring anything of value if I don’t. Sometimes I talk because I think what I have to say will be helpful. Other times I talk because the silence scares me.
I may love to talk, but what I love more is connection. My connection with people comes less from my talking and more from my listening. When I talk I am not listening. When I am not listening I am not connecting. When I am not connecting I am not being my best self.
As a lawyer I got a lot of years of practice listening to the stories and the detailed facts. As a coach I got training and feedback on being attentive and present without words. And seven years of being a widow gave me more quiet practice than ever.
I finally have learned to choose to place myself in the quiet or to quiet myself. Lighting a candle for a morning meditation rather than rushing into the world of words. I no longer use the absence of a companion as an excuse to skip a walk. A solo winter retreat with no one to talk to but myself has become an annual ritual.
I am a wisdom gatherer. Plenty of it has come to me through failures and funerals. Much of it has also come to me in the thousands of hours I have spent sitting across the table from others, listening. It is the quieting of myself that has allowed me this gift.
After a lifetime of talking, I remain a student of silence.
In the quiet with others means I listen well to them. In the quiet with myself means I listen to the wisdom within myself. Either way, while it may not come naturally for me, I know it’s necessary if I’m going to hear what really matters.
How will you allow quiet throughout the season ahead?
How might you listen better?
What do you need to hear what matters most?