This expression I heard growing up was a bit bewildering to me. Nevertheless, I remembered it after recently hearing another expression, the acronym for which is W.A.I.T. It stands for Why Am I Talking. When this fell upon my ears, I laughed a knowing laugh – out loud in church of all places – not an uncommon occurrence, by the way. I think all four of my children would modify it – on my behalf, of course – to W.A.I.S.T: Why Am I STILL Talking.
After hearing of Roger Ebert’s death last week, I listened to several interviews on NPR. One person mentioned that critics of Ebert thought he trivialized film with his thumbs up or down gestures which, in and of themselves, became classics. He goes on to dispute this notion, suggesting Ebert felt deeply that an important way to get to know ourselves is to learn about others – others who are NOT like us – through the art of cinema.
Upon reflection, I thought: how can we possibly get to know others, especially our children (and including ourselves), if we don’t stop talking and start listening? Here’s a serving of humble pie regarding my own children: I may have been listening, but do they feel heard?
I am the youngest of 7, and as the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As would be expected, I did other things to get noticed, some not quite as innocuous as talking. I tried that, too, naturally. Through my words, I figuratively and wildly waved my hands, yet I’m not sure I ever found my voice . . . until now.
Francis Bacon said: Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom. Silence is essential, yet it can also be harmful. In silence we may give tacit consent, argue using different means, not speak up and out when truly necessary, wield power over others. And our words, as we have discussed, have the power to silence. With them we also defend ourselves unnecessarily, threaten the emotional safety of others and interject our highly valued opinions.
Facebook is a relatively new forum for ‘talking’ in which we can come across as self aggrandizing and narcissistic among other things. It can be talking without regard for others – or at least anyone in particular – while at the same time having obsessive regard for what everyone thinks, uh, likes.
In the process of ‘listening’ and responding, we can become eerily voyeuristic. My children commented that I’ve been addicted since joining Facebook last month – they’re absolutely right – and I’m a bit ashamed. I am hereby extracting myself from the vortex of time consumption that I alone have allowed it to become. My hesitations in joining its ranks in the first place have been realized despite my efforts to tame this medium and rationalize its benefits. I’ve found it to be inauthentic at its core. You simply cannot form connections that are real with hundreds of people nor engage in meaningful discourse using sound bytes. I’m not directly posting these sentiments to my not-so-numerous ‘friends’ on Facebook because, well, I’m basically a coward.
On the other hand, I am not ashamed at all of my growing addiction to “Ted Talks.” The most recent one I viewed with rapt attention. It syncs up beautifully with today’s thoughts and likely contributed to my epiphany regarding Facebook.
Brene Brown, PhD uncovers a kernel of truth about the way we connect with others . . . or not. If you take time to watch it, it will take a whopping 20 minutes. Whaaat? You may see yourself in this truth, and you may see the person you live with. You may see both. Dr. Brown is magnificent, and her talk is entitled The Power of Vulnerability. I’ll whet your appetite with two of many insights which resonated: ‘Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort’and ‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy.’ Yes, I’ve watched it twice – laughing and crying both times.
When to talk? When to listen?
I once read that we should be more concerned with being interested than being interesting. When next in conversation with another face-to-face or on Facebook for that matter, ask yourself one simple question: Why Am I Talking? Or as I need to ask myself: Why Am I Still Talking? To play on words – or more accurately, acronyms – are you wasting your breath or someone else’s time? Is what swirls around in your head then comes forth from your lips allowing that person to even finish a sentence and you, to give him or her your full attention?
If you choose to say something, strive to be impeccable with your word as per Don Miguel Ruiz. According to scripture, our tongues can be like fire.
They can also be like life-giving water.
And guess what? So can our ears.
– Caroline Watkins