"Before speaking, recognize what motivates your words." -Lama Surya Das
When I was in college, I worked on a project with another student and one of my Religious Studies professors on faith development. We did in-depth interviews with people to discuss their faith journey. James Fowler's Stages of Faith informed the project, and, honestly, the book was one that helped me accept my own spiritual journey as valid and beautiful even though it differed from what was expected of me by my family.
That's not what I'm thinking about today though.
I'm thinking about one of the meetings we had during that project. The professor said to me, "What do you think, Bonnie? I like the way your mind works." I don't remember what I said, but I know what I wish I would have said.
I wish I would have said, "That's because I only talk when I have something to say."
I didn't. I felt pressured into speaking before I was ready, wanting to live up to some unexplained and possibly nonexistent expectation of one of my favorite professors.
The truth is, as a very introverted person, there's a lot of thinking that happens before most of my speech. Many, many, many times I think of the right thing to say--the thing that feels right in my mind--and the conversation has already moved on to something else. That's frustrating, but I think I'd rather have that than my life filled with inane chatter.
More than one person has suggested I become a counselor, typically after dumping their problems in a verbal avalanche. I think that sometimes people like to confide in me because I listen to them. It's not that I have some sort of powerful insight that puts all their problems in perspective; it's that I am able to be present in their presence and hear what they're saying without saying much at all back. I'm a sounding board, and that allows them to figure things out themselves.
In high school, when I would struggle with homework (usually math), Mom would sometimes tell me to explain it to her. I thought this was stupid. Obviously I couldn't explain it to her. I needed someone to explain it to me. But, often, it worked. In explaining it to someone else, in talking it out, the things I didn't understand became things I did. She wasn't able to help me with calculus, but she helped me with calculus.
I write this as a reminder to myself. It's okay to be quiet. It's best to listen and only speak when I have something to say. Consider my motivation and whether what I say will help, hurt, or just fill the world with distracting noise. Intention.