Not long ago, I wrote about my goal of talking less and listening more, of focusing on others. Still, goals aren’t touchdowns, they’re just h-shaped things 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 in Part Two.