Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
July 8, 2001

Some people never seem to know when to keep their mouths shut

One of my wonderful grandsons is a compulsive talker. Once he gets started, he never shuts up. After awhile his constant chatter begins to get on my nerves. His Dad insists that he gets that trait from me.

I think my son is kidding but perhaps, behind his smile, there is a bit of truth. So lately I have been listening to myself a lot. Since in one way I make my living by speaking, perhaps I also talk too much in my conversations with others. Do I give others as much opportunity to speak as I take for myself?

Am I constantly making the mistake of assuming that other people have little to say and are waiting eagerly to hear the words of wisdom that gush forth from my mouth? Do my friends walk away from conversations with me always wishing that I had taken the time to hear what they had to say?

As I ponder the questions I recall one of the clever sayings of my father: "Son, try to remember that you cannot learn anything while you are talking." While that may not be totally true, it is surely true that we all learn best when we are listening.

So how can I recognize when I am talking too much? Here are a few tips:

One, as you are talking, look at the mouths of your friends. If their lips part now and then, somewhat like a fish gulping for air, that is a good clue that you are monopolizing the conversation. Feel free to imagine that your friends are thinking, "Why on earth donít you put down a period and let me say something?"

Two, if you look at your watch and realize that you are an hour late for an appointment, and you are out of breath, that is a good indication that you are talking too much. Ask yourself, "Just how many of my wise words can these dear people endure without going bezerk?"

Three, if you begin to notice that in spite of the brilliance of your comments, your friends are gazing off into the distance as though they were looking for the Goodyear Blimp, that is another good clue. At that point consider uttering one of those phrases that almost never enters your mind, like "What do you think?"

Four, if, wonder of wonders, it should occur to you that you are indeed talking too much, then end your speech with this comment and question: "Friends, I am embarrassed. It occurs to me that I am talking too much. Tell me the truth: do you think sometimes that I have diarrhea of the mouth?" Here is the clue: if they all turn away laughing, then you have your answer, and it is a resounding YES.

Five, the best clue may be to observe the feet of your friends while you are talking. If you notice that they are slowly walking backward, consider that a warning sign that they are weary of your talking. When all of a sudden they are a half a block away, and waving to you, then you know it is time to shut up. Resist the temptation to figure you have bad breath; most people can tolerate that if you allow them half a chance to get in on the conversation.

Fortunately compulsive talking is not a fatal disease. Those of us who have this problem can overcome it by training the tongue to rest more. It helps to remember that God gave us two ears and one tongue, suggesting perhaps that we should listen twice as much as we talk.

Shorter sentences will help. Try it; you may like it. Practice participating in a conversation by sharing a brief sentence or two, instead of burdening others with William Faulknerlike paragraphs. You will be amazed at how happier your friends will become.

Another remedy is logic. Think about the human body. A normal person has two small ears, one on each side of the head. A person is NOT simply a huge ear with a sponge inside ready to soak up a barrage of words.

If none of the above works for you, there is one foolproof solution. That is a roll of duct tape. Put a strip of it over your mouth in the morning; take it off in the afternoon. You will know it is time to take such a drastic step when you start talking and your friends take out a roll of duct tape and starting playing with it as you talk on and on.

In about a week I am checking with Wal-Mart to see if they have had a run on duct tape. If they have run out, I will know I have stumbled onto something.