Speaking Makes It Real

"Candyman" and the slumber-party Bloody Mary dare aren't the only stories in which speaking the villain's name makes him or her come to life. It's a familiar folktale motif.

That's because the stories are true.

Well, they're not true in their particulars, of course. Rather, there's validity in the notion that talking about something gives it reality.

At least, there is for me.

I don't speak a word about a thought or feeling until I'm ready for it to take shape. I thoroughly sort it through in my mind to ensure that it is real--and that I'm ready to give it form.

It could be something as simple as a headache; the moment I mention it and receive a fuss, it's really a "thing." If I soldier through quietly until it goes away, the headache feels milder. (Note: If I ever mention to you that I have a headache, it's probably reached the migraine stage.)

The same goes for things more significant than headaches, too: When I ended a long-term relationship many years back, a few friends marveled that I hadn't talked to them about how I felt long before I ended it. I needed to be sure the relationship wasn't right for me before I said anything to anyone; the moment I spoke a word of unhappiness, I couldn't take it back. What if I changed my mind?

Once a thought is given voice, it lives outside me. It takes separate life.

This is especially true for complaining. If saying something won't ease a situation, I'd rather say nothing. Talking about it just exacerbates my unhappiness and, I figure, diminishes the happiness of everyone around me.

Yet I know there are many people who need to talk through a decision to see clearly all possible avenues and who feel heard and assuaged when they complain aloud. Speaking helps them think more clearly and makes them feel better. For them, talking is just talk. What harm in it?

So I wonder which is more normal: Talking to work through things or staying silent until conclusions require comment.

What's your tendency?

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Reader Comments (6)

For better or for worse, I’m very much on your side of the ledger here. For better because I think it helps me be comfortable with the consequences of decisions when I’ve come to those conclusions on my own before consulting others. If future discussions with others cause me to change my mind (I certainly don't claim to have a monopoly on all relevant info), then it’s easier to separate what facts I took into account in my original decision and what facts were introduced to me later by others. People are naturally quite susceptible to outside suggestion in times of indecision/uncertainty, so this helps to minimize that tendency and improve future decision-making. For worse because (at least based on personal experience) this tendency can complicate relationships if the significant other doesn’t also share this way of thinking or at least understand my reasons for thinking that way. The partner can feel excluded and diminished, which obviously tends to lead to all sorts of other relationship complications. Still, we are who we are…

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick

I have to admit, I'm a talker. I have to get to grips with things linguistically in order to really understand what I'm thinking.

But since I don't want to be the person who hashes out every detail of her life with others, (and boring them terrifically in the process) I keep a lot of the talking private. In other words, I talk to the cat. She's very discreet.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

"And never breath a word about your loss" - Kipling

I tend to keep these problems internalized because I find that there is more value in solving these problems by myself than turning to others for help.

This is dangerous in several ways. It means I can find myself with a problem that is inherently too large for me to handle and not try to get assistance for it before it gets to be too late to do anything. On the other hand if I had reached out and accepted helped the problem would get easily and quickly resolved.

More importantly it insulates me from others and keeps me from forming bonds with people in my life through hard times and not just good times. I think that it's the friends that see you through your hard times that are the one's that will stick around the longest.

So now I try to reach out more. Maybe it's a tendency when you get older to reach out more. I know I can probably figure these things out by myself but it's good to let others know you need them.

"trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too"

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

Peas in a pod we are, Nick.

And Rebecca and Will, in many ways, I think you are both more correct. Communication builds bonds. I'm still not a fan of talking just to talk, but sometimes I think sharing what we're going through--even if only with certain trusted advisers--helps people love and understand us better.

That said, I'm going to keep on keeping my complaining to myself. :)

December 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

Great post. I'm on team "suck it up." The truth is, if you have to talk about every headache or bad day, you eventually wear out your emotional welcome with people. I'd also add that people who choose to complain often also don't choose to be very positive through life. Both are choices (and not easy ones to make), no matter what you've been handed in life.

January 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteresther

Amen, Esther!

January 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

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