I don’t know about you, but I used to never collect my thoughts. Rather, I shared them. If I didn’t like something, I’d say so. If I felt frustrated or tired, I’d announce it. If I had an opinion (and I almost always have an opinion), I’d share it. Basically, every thought and feeling I had was spoken.
My feelings were a faucet.
I cannot tell you how long it took me to get it and how hard it was, at first, to stop talking so much. Every time my husband would say something, I would try really really hard to zip my lip, but invariably I’d interject my thoughts or opinion.
But my husband doesn’t always want my opinions. Sometimes he does, but sometimes he just wants me to be quiet and listen.
To just sit there and say nothing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever learned to do. But it had to be done. And what I learned is that silence is powerful.
I have a friend who, when she comes to me with a problem, actually does want my help or advice. (Same when I talk to her.) But that is not what my husband wants when he comes to me with a problem. It’s not that he doesn’t care what I think, but he almost always knows what I think. What he wants, ultimately, is to figure it out on his own.
My husband doesn’t need to me to tell him how to handle things. He needs me to reassure him that he can.
My talking wasn’t just a problem in the course of conversation either. Throughout the day, I would typically air every thought I had. I would also ask my husband to do things, or I would expect him to do things and let him know, either verbally or nonverbally, if he wasn’t doing those things.
I tried to stop, but my halfhearted attempts were hopeless, so one day I decided to go overboard. My new mantra became “I choose to be quiet. I choose to be calm.”
The calm part was important to add because that’s another thing I’m not and wanted to be. I’ve always marveled at people who can remain calm despite emotions fluttering around inside them. My emotions were always on the surface—sometimes they still are—but as with silence, there’s power in calmness.
I still have 1,000 thoughts and feelings on any given day, but now I decide which of those thoughts and feelings, if any, are worth sharing. (Hint: very few.) This is especially true when it comes to my insignificant day-to-day woes, especially ones my husband can’t fix. My husband does not need to hear about everything that happens to me during the day. Discussing the minutia of daily life bogged him down with unnecessary drama he can’t do anything about. Airing my woes made me feel better, but it made him feel awful!
So now I’m going to suggest you give it a try. Get out the duct tape and for one week, and talk only when you absolutely must. Before you open your mouth, think about why you want to say whatever it is you want to say, and then ask yourself these three questions: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? (It’s a Buddhist thing.)
Or you could use the mantra I did: “I choose to be quiet. I choose to be calm.” The goal here isn’t to turn you into a mouse. The goal is to help you take stock of your speech and to try to determine whether or not you talk more than necessary. If your goal is to be heard— and let’s face it, whose isn’t?—you really can accomplish this using fewer words.
This is true across the board, but it’s especially true in marriage. The less you say, the more your husband will hear you.