There’s a line in the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous,” that gives the reader a suggestion to determine if he or she is an alcoholic. It says, “…you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking.” Thankfully, I don’t need to figure out whether or not I am an alcoholic…that was determined almost a decade ago. But how does this idea apply to my current vocal situation? I am, afterall, an admitted (diagnosed) extrovert, right?
Although I’m much better now, there were times in my life that I could not control my speaking. My father’s nickname for me was “Mouth Almighty, ” and below is a picture of one my favorite T-Shirts of all time.
Maybe I’m a speech addict.
In fact, just the other day, I woke up from several vivid dreams in which I’d had my surgery. I dreamt that the procedure was completed successfully, and that I had entered the period of Grand Silence. Now, in my dream, I understood clearly that I could not talk. I knew that to do so would potentially cause further (maybe even irreparable) damage to my vocal cord. I had let everyone around me know that I was ordered not to talk so they could support me in my ‘verbal abstinence.’ But then I talked. Just like that! I hadn’t wanted to talk, I hadn’t planned to talk, but I talked. In my dream, and even after I woke up, I was completely stunned with this realization and then filled with a broad array of emotion. I was completely powerless over speaking. Sound crazy, or does it? Am I addicted to speaking? This dream made me wonder.
I pondered the dream. I talked it over with some trusted friends as is suggested to people like me who are in longterm recovery. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not addicted to speaking. But I do have a condition called extroversion. I didn’t choose to be an extrovert and I can’t NOT be an extrovert, so I need to just accept reality.
And what is reality? NOT speaking is an activity (yes, my introverted friends, being silent is an activity) that takes conscious effort, commitment and practice. I have been given 26 days to get ready for Grand Silence. Had my doctor diagnosed me and scheduled the surgery for the following week, I would never have been ready to be 100% silent for two weeks. It would have been beyond stressful for me to quit cold turkey.
A friend said today, “I don’t think I could be silent for 2 weeks. I don’t know how you’re gonna do it.” Well, I’m gonna do it for two reasons: first, my voice depends on it and my livelihood depends on my voice; and second, by the time I push the mute button on April 15th, I will have practiced being quiet for 26 days. I will have done some controlled speaking.
How have I practiced controlled speaking? By saying no to invitations that will put me in situations where I will be tempted to overtalk. For instance, networking meetings. If you put me in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know, I’m going to over talk. I’ve tried to not interject every thought that enters my mind during every conversation. I’m actually really listening to people on a whole new level. And rather than giving a quick response, I am pausing, and allowing them to completely finish their story or continue their thought. (Makes me wonder how much more I could have learned over the years by doing more controlled speaking.)
It’s common knowledge that practicing something for 21 days makes it a habit, right? So, I’m golden!