Do You Live in Your Head?

istockphoto-503314091-612x612I’m a monologist. By which I mean I’m a dedicated one-way communicator. Writing and lecturing come naturally to me. But conversation? Well… Did I mention I’m a monologist?

An old girlfriend once stared at me in disbelief and said, “You live in your head!” My first thought was, No I don’t! Then I went on to ponder that while she talked about other things which, being lost in thought, I never heard.

Flash forward a few decades: My job supervisor asked for a self-assessment. “Well,” I said, “I kind of live in my head.”

“Kind of?!” he guffawed. I guess that kind of confirmed it.

I’ve known for a long time that my Achilles heel was conversation. It’s not that I don’t understand communication theory. Heck, I’ve taught it at the college level. And I’m a big believer in active listening. It’s just that I kind of suck at it. Instead of saying something, and then waiting for a response, I always seem to go on with my next thought…and my next thought…and my next thought…

Oh, I occasionally listen well. But occasionally isn’t enough. I care about people too much to say, “That’s just the way I am.” I want to demonstrate by my attentiveness that I care about their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns; not just to pick up on some tidbit they toss out and begin monologuing on it!

So I’ve been praying for guidance. Recently, I sensed the need for a prompt, something that would be there every time I entered a conversation. And then an acronym came to mind: TOLL, as in “pay the toll.” It stands for:

  • T = Think – Do I need to say something?
  • O = One – Say one thing—one thing means one thing! (I focus on this throughout)
  • L = Listen – As in actively listen to their response (or ask for one)
  • L = Learn – As in learn what they’re thinking, then respond accordingly (i.e. stop at the next “TOLL booth”), and possibly learn something you never would have if you’d stayed in your head! (Thank you Jane Tawel for suggesting this last step.)

Paying the TOLL seems to be making a difference (it should be a bona fide habit by the time I’m on my deathbed). How about you? If you answered “yes” to the title question…

You might want to give it try.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Do You Live in Your Head?

  1. Laur M says:

    Great! I’ll remember TOL, but, of course, I will jump ahead in my thoughts and try to come up with another L so it can be TOLL, or maybe a D for TOLD, or EDO for TOLEDO, or maybe…

    Liked by 3 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      ;>) Yep. “Look,” as in “look for a response,” works pretty well for a second L. But, honestly, once I’m in a conversation I do well just to keep imagining holding up one finger and thinking, “1 thing!”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alive And Well says:

    Where else would you live if you don’t live in your own head?

    And, I guess the same could be said of me!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Eliza Ayres says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    You’re amusing, Mitch. I can carry on a conversation with some people. Start with a mutual interest and then maybe you’ll listen to what they have to say…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Janet says:

    Hauntingly relatable! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. tanaka_tkzy says:

    Many of us live large in our heads!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. stolzyblog says:

    reminds me, Jimi Hendrix: “Knowledge speaks; Wisdom listens.” 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I am a monologist. I have two approaches: 1. Slow down and 2. Knowing I need all the help I can get , I see a Christian therapist twice a month.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Kim Petitt says:

    I tend to live in my head too. I think I need to give your technique a try, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Clever Girl says:

    That’s a great tool to use. I’m all about acronyms. As far as conversationalists go, they seem to be a dying breed.

    People could realize that God gave them two ears and one mouth for a reason. TEOM

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Doree says:

    This is so true ❤️😊

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A group of nuns I spent some time with gathered each day to share thoughts. One would speak and no one responded until several minutes had passed so that everyone had time to ponder what had been said. They spoke one at a time with time in between. A good lesson.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Alien Resort says:

    Hi Mitch how’s it going? Oh never mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. pkadams says:

    Nice to know someone I admire so much, you, have similar weaknesses to me. I blame ADHD, but I know I must fight that tendency to not focus on what others are saying to me. I really do want to listen! I can listen better when I’m out on a run with a friend. Happy Thursday!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Yet another thing we have in common. (Are you my long lost twin brother?) I’m pretty sure I got it from my dad. When he would say, “I don’t remember that …” my mother’s prompt response was always, “That’s because you were talking when you should have been listening.” #ouch!#

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Eliza says:

    Good thing to try. I hope it helps! I want to try to listen, compassionate listening, more.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Yes! As my friends and family will no doubt attest! BUT – I only mean to be helpful…Yes, I know. When I get to talk to someone again, I intend to at least remember, “One!”

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      That’s what I find easiest to remember most of the time too, Martha. And thank you for not robbing the world of your wisdom, by the way–even if it has to come in small doses.


  17. Jane Tawel says:

    Boy, oh, boy do I have this problem. Yep. I thought of maybe something — if I could be so bold? In order to actually have your acronym spell TOLL Correctly, (and I love the idea of an easy acronym to help and ideas you have for it) You could add L for Learn — learn one thing from what the other person said, and affirm it by putting it in your own words back to them. ?? Just a thought. Love this post for me especially — thank you. (I tend to talk alot mostly because I think out loud AND that is how I often think I am “giving” to other people in conversation — ugh!) Thanks, Mitch — Jane

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Yes, I do live in my head. It’s where all the action is.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Oh yes, I answered “Yes!” as well. T.O.L. is a great idea and, I admit, I’ll have to work at this one before it becomes a habit. 🙄 Thank you, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Wow! I can use this! I feel like you… know me. It’s comforting but a little frightening. I’m gonna need to ponder this one. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  21. HAT says:

    Thanks, Mitch!!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. K.L. Hale says:

    This is a great tool! I tend to live in my head and have conversations with myself too. 😬

    Liked by 2 people

  23. smzang says:

    You should bottle this and sell it…I feel as if you were just in my head
    and saw way too clearly. I am triggered by a word or a phrase that sets
    me off on a soliloquy that may or not be related. And now I”m thinking,
    there I go again.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Patty H says:

    Your suggestion sounds like a great idea! I will try it.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. ok this made me laugh out loud, literally! Conversation is not my thing either. I guess that’s why I enjoy writing. TOLL is a good idea, although I usually prefer to avoid paying tolls when possible. ; )

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I’m giggling at paragraph #2. Oh, how I get it! Yes, we’re good at conversation, but not at listening. But we’re learning.

    God loves a teachable heart. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  27. gpavants says:


    The Lord made us all different so we could work together. This has bee a time of self-reflection, right? I hear you. It’s easy for me to build lots of quick shallow relationships, but the building lasting ones take time. I see that with my introvert wife. We all are learning how to grow in Christ,

    Thank you,


    Liked by 2 people

  28. Jenorillo says:

    Oh yes yes. I did have a problem with this. I overthink my responses and sometimes I get disappointed if the other person won’t take my responses seriously or not get them at all. I had to learn to be more relaxed in conversations when I worked in hospitality.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Pingback: My Experiment in Becoming Human | Mitch Teemley

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