This week I’ve been thinking about Mama. She passed away two years ago on April 30th after gracing this world for ninety-six years. People knew her for her kindness, her warmth and generosity, her adventurous spirit. They also knew her for her ‘gift of gab’ her Scotch-Irish roots that showed in her red hair and her love of conversation. She was the reason we were often the last family to pull out of the Shallow Well Church parking lot every Sunday; Mama was engaged in a delicious conversation with a friend, testing Daddy’s patience in having to wait to eat the lunch she’d prepared– the mouth-watering fried chicken and crusty, vanilla-flavored pound cake.
Mama’s gift of gab made you feel comfortable; even the most reticent person seemed to relax in the conversation with her, enjoying Mary Rosser’s company. I think she passed that trait onto her three daughters– in varying degrees. My sons have sometimes been embarrassed by my ability to “talk to anyone” including strangers in our path while we were on family vacations. Overall, that trait has served me well.
But sometimes, my talkativeness has been a hindrance, a weakness– the flip side of the coin like is true with all our strengths.
I’ve been aware of this throughout my life. I got in trouble for talking when I was in school– no surprise to those of you who know me! There have been times when I was so quick to come back with a response that I’d put my foot in my mouth, or say something I wish I could retract.
Recently, a woman who knows I’ve been dating through the online sites, recommended the Netflix show The Single Wives. Now before you think, I’m not looking to date again, or I’m happily married thank-you-very-much, or anything else that causes you to click out of here, this post applies to most everyone. What I learned from watching the first few episodes had to do with talking, this gift for gab; one episode challenged me to examine my words.
To give you a little background, per Wikipedia The Single Wives is an Australian reality television series hosted by Fifi Box which screened on the Seven Network. The show features four women who were formerly married, searching for another chance at love. They are assisted by dating coach Matthew Hussey.
Matthew Hussey is a 31-year-old British relationship coach who’s been described as the “world’s top dating expert.” He has a warm, engaging style. While he’s younger than my two sons, I’ve found him to be spot on in what he tells the women after observing them in real-life dating encounters. Specifically, I’ve listened to what he shares with them about their patterns in conversations with men.
With perky Emma, he tells her that she comes across as charming and entertaining; she has no problem meeting the guys for the first time. But when she’s given an assignment to show her vulnerability she hides behind a story that demonstrates her father’s vulnerability– not her own. She avoids risks by superficial talk that doesn’t lead to connection–the goal of meeting that potential love.
The twice-married Sheridan has a different issue in talking with guys; she has a sharp tongue and quickly reveals a sarcastic, angry side that, like Emma, hides her true self. Matthew gets at her underlying issue of being afraid because of her unresolved hurt from her ex who cheated on her.
The beautiful widow, Nikki is still grieving her husband’s tragic death and having a hard time moving forward. She holds back, quiet and hesitant to put her heart out there. Nikki fights back when Matthew challenges her hesitance, and eventually she starts to share more with Kiel, at ease in the warmth of his smile and easy nature (that’s my interpretation!).
The coaching session that got my attention was when Matthew observes Sunnie. On her first date, and in subsequent interactions, Sunnie talks constantly and doesn’t let her date get a word in. When she sees the replay, she is surprised by this. Matthew is gentle with his coaching and eventually leads her to a greater understanding of why people tend to overtalk.
“When people talk too much it’s usually for one of two reasons; they are either nervous or controlling.”
I considered this in what I’ve observed about myself and others; it rings true.
When there’s a situation that causes anxiety– for me, most any kind of conflict that’s hard to address, it brings an awkward silence. My first instinct is to gloss over by changing the subject, saying something humorous that deflects from the issue at hand. In my discomfort, I talk because I want to escape. When I’m anxious, when I feel nervous, even my prayers are filled with many words, my sign that I need God’s reassurance.
It takes longer for me to see how I’ve used overtalking to control the situation; it’s easier for me to remember this in conversations I’ve observed. Years ago, I knew a woman who would phone me on occasion to catch up. I always felt controlled in those conversations because it felt like she was leading through her own agenda, her list of what should be covered in that call. What I wanted, instead, was a spontaneous conversation that meandered through subjects as they rose to the surface, not forced by one person but flowing forth naturally.
It occurs to me that one way I’ve been controlling in my conversation is in my work with a therapist. As I’m not ashamed to admit, I’ve been seeing a therapist since the ending of my marriage. It takes courage to engage in therapy, to hear truths that sometimes are hard to take in. What I realized a few sessions ago, is that sometimes I overtalk, providing accounts in too much detail and that uses up time when my therapist could speak, urging me to explore more deeply; that’s been my unconscious-until-now attempt to avoid the uncomfortable, to control the conversation.
In thinking about talking, the outcome of words, I Googled “What the Bible has to say about Talking Too Much.” There were many verses that speak to the tongue, to what comes forth from a man/woman’s mouth. Out of the list from the open bible source that’s listed in the Reference section below, these two verses from Proverbs spoke to me:
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds back.”
Proverbs 29:11 English Standard Version/ ESV
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
Proverbs 18:2 ESV
I have much to learn about this gift of gab that my mother gave me. I hope that in time, I’ll be more wise in how I use or choose not to use words. Whether it’s letting go of control, or resting in my anxiety, my nervousness, may my words, may your words, matter and bring you to a higher connection with others.
Blessings to you and Thanksgiving to Mama,
Relationship coach Matthew Hussey:
What the Bible says about talking: