My Experiment in Becoming Human


Processing My Thoughts Aloud In My Head

In a post entitled Do You Live in Your Head? I wrote about my goal of talking less and listening more, of focusing on others. Still, goals aren’t touchdowns, they’re just big “H”s at the ends of playing fields. And there are a lot of defensive tackles along the way. Here’s one of my biggies:

I tend to launch into stories at the slightest provocation, or even lack thereof. I once thought this was simply because I was an extrovert. And there’s truth in that–maybe. According to some experts, extroverts process their thoughts aloud, letting others in on everything they’re thinking.

A friend of mine was driving past a supermarket with his wife recently. “Oh!” she blurted. “I need spinach!” So he whipped into the parking lot. “Why did you do that?” she asked. “You said you needed spinach.” “Well, yeah, but I’m going to the market tomorrow.” He put the car in gear and started to leave. “Oh, wait!” she shouted. He screeched to a halt. “What?” “I can’t go tomorrow,” she said, “our advertising team is staying late to finish the quarterly report. I’ll go on Thursday.”

But others say extroverts are better defined by what energizes them: being in a group rather than being alone. So on that basis, I’m an introvert. Because it’s being alone, at my computer and during morning quiet times, through reading and prayer, that I refuel. Interestingly, however, even when I’m alone I tend to process my thoughts out loud. In other words: I talk to myself.

And that gave me an idea.

I recently began experimenting with processing my thoughts in my head, even when I’m alone. But I’ve found abstract thoughts are too vague. So I put my thoughts into mental words and sentences.

Research shows that people process information more clearly when they think in words. I once read a study of a particular indigenous tribe whose word for “humans” only applied to members of their tribe. Hence, they they considered outsiders non-human creatures.

It’s still early on, but I think I’m making progress. It’s starting to become a little more natural for me to process my thoughts internally. And as a result, when I’m around others, I’m finding it easier to speak only my key questions or responses aloud. Result? I actually seem to be listening better. Plus, there’s a side benefit: I sound a lot smarter…

When I don’t drown others in a sea of fragmented thoughts.

There’s a deeper reason for this experiment. I’ll address that next.

About mitchteemley

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

46 Responses to My Experiment in Becoming Human

  1. I once had a boss in a new job who told me she wanted me to visit all our domestic and overseas programs within the year. I started with Argentina and then lost a few months because of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/2001, then crammed the rest of the visits in between January and May, 2002, which included 4 other countries and 6 U.S. cities. (Plus my dad had a stroke and died 3 months later in the middle of all this). At the end of the year, I reported I had met my goal, and she had no idea what I was talking about. She told me she was an extrovert and had only been thinking out loud. I was exhausted–and a bit smarter; I got clarifications from her before I followed her orders.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Mel Wild says:

    Well said. You’re explaining pretty much the first 25 years of my marriage. My wife is an internal processor and I’m an external processor. It took us that long to figure out where the problem was! Just knowing this about yourself and your spouse (you’re usually opposites) will save a LOT of grief. 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  3. smzang says:

    For me reading this intuitive piece is like looking into a mirror!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. smzang says:

    love that birdie pix!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. djhamarman says:

    Great work! Quality>Quantity, eh? I’m an introvert, but I think I use my words pretty well. I’m not shy or silent and try thinking outside myself when in group settings as to be there with my words when they’re necessary. I’ll say that I do get a little excited sometimes and trail off in to stories when they might not be necessary and get responses like, “oh,” and a smirky smile and head not, and I get a little embarrassed.

    From my introverted perspective, when an extrovert gets carried away with their words it feels like I’m being put in to a box, and then I’m the one saying, “oh,” with the little head nod and disinterested look. People are born either introverted or extroverted and both types have a job to learn how to be most positively expressive — both need to learn to use words in order to make true progress.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. My reaction to this post? “I can’t even…”

    Best of luck to you! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tiffany says:

    I guess I am an extrovert. Ha! But I do enjoy my alone time, being in crowds can be overwhelming

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s really interesting Mitch. I’m definitely an extrovert, people used to call me aunty, by the way that was when I was really young and I did offer my personal opinion and wisdom. But now that I’m older instead of talking to myself and trying to reason things out. I have started to write my thoughts down instead, this way I don’t look too crazy 🙂 So I suppose I’ve turned into an introvert…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Another reason to do more listening than talking: Your ears will never get you in trouble. (I’m still working on this too!)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am mostly an internal processor, but often find when I try to tell my idea to someone that something completely different comes out of my mouth. Strangely, these out of nowhere ideas are often better …

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Interesting. I look forward to the next installment. I tend to launch into the history of clocks when someone asks me what time it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kellie says:

    Great post, we can all learn more about ourselves and there is always room for improvement 😉 Plus I find you learn more if you listen.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Your interesting post reminded me of the book, Quiet-The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I highly recommend the book, whether you are an introvert, like me, or someone who “can’t stop talking.” The book was published in 2013, but still relevant and packed with research.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Paul says:

    I’ve definitely found writing down my prayers in a journal, word-for-word, helps me focus and process what God’s doing in my life

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Jane Tawel says:

    Thank you for this. I really struggle with this and hence, appreciate so much the idea on what one of my inclination might say is rather a “spiritual discipline”. Good thoughts with practical ideas. Appreciate it. Wishing you a “thoughtful” day, Jane

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Mark Johnson says:

    This is a topic we can all relate to in one way or another. I’m definitely an external processor, but have become far more introspective as I’ve aged. I now relish the quieter moments.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. LaRonda Bourn says:

    I’m an extrovert. When I was in a Myers-Briggs training, we were divided as extroverts and introverts. The trainer posed a question to the introverts. Too much time passed in my opinion. No one had answered the question. So I did! I was always jealous of introvert and the way they actually THINK before they speak. My husband and daughter are introverts and work in retail. They love helping people, but they’re exhausted when they come home. My daughter usually walks in and hollers, “I’m going to my room to introvert!” But the one thing I’ve learned is that while they think before speaking, once they start speaking I can’t get a word in edgewise! I once told my husband how nice I thought it would be to actually have conversations once in a while. And we tried, but eventually I had to tell him that I sorta thought we could BOTH talk. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I used to be able to process thoughts in my head, hashing situations and information over and over. I was a quiet child, actually a genius child; I thought a lot! After I went through an incredible amount of stress and family problems, ALONE, I found myself finding answers and understanding things by talking about them out loud, and with others.I had not realized how much talking to myself I had been doing.
    No wonder brainstorming sessions work.
    They say that women need to talk things out and men internalize them but now that my husband and I are talking more,I see that he, also needs to flesh thoughts out, so to speak,by talking them out. I think that we are all two types of thinkers, sometimes one works one way and somethings the other way works for us; I think we just get into one way of doing things and find it hard to change I did. .

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Jennie says:

    There is much of me there. I was always an introvert, and then I became an extrovert over time. I thought it was maturity, but I think there’s much more to the story.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Love it. I am with in the whole idea, brother. Not everything going in inside the old melon needs to be opened up. Writing and podcasting has really helped me. I am glad you are doing this fun exercises .

    In Christ,


    Liked by 1 person

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

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