Last weekend while I was hanging out with a mate, he announced his thoughts incessantly, there were very few minutes of silence, zero questions, and seemingly no consideration from my friend as to whether his words were meaningful or relevant to either of us.
I felt as though my head was being stuffed fuller and fuller of shredded paper.
After a few days of no silence, I’d really started to notice how much I value and NEED silence.
When I started to notice my agitation, before caving in to judgemental ranting, I spent another 10 minutes half-arsed-listening while pondering what it was that was so exhausting about this situation.
I have a few good friends who talk and talk with little pause and few questions, but, I realised, so long as the conversation is relevant or at least slightly meaningful to either my friend or me, I can listen at length and be highly engaged without becoming drained, even when I barely get a word in.
But a stream of consciousness with no relevance nor respite?
Draining as all bejaysus.
In my first few years of learning mindfulness; of learning to listen to Neville, the voice in my head, I slowly became aware of just how much bollocks he has to say.
I used to think that my thoughts were incredibly important and worthwhile. The more time I spend unattachedly observing my thoughts in meditation and brief pauses of silence during my day –
the more it dawns on me that my thoughts really are boring as hell.
This new self-awareness has helped me to stop inflicting the boring rambles of my mind on the world outside my head (at least, less often than I used to). That is to say, I’m now much less inclined to announce my thoughts without first considering whether they have a little bit of relevance or interest to the person I’m announcing them to.
Persistent worries are different – they often need to be expressed even when they may not be relevant or interesting to the listener – so don’t get me wrong -I’m not suggesting anyone stops confiding in friends.
But I do think it’s valuable to consider that
before you thought-vommit on your mates and turn their head into a pile of shredded paper, you take a moment to pause and ask yourself:
• Is it really helpful to empty the contents of my head right now?
• Could I let some of these thoughts fade into the background without being given undue credit?
• Would silence suffice?
• Perhaps a question instead?
For thoughts that keep on bothering you, talking to mates is great, and I highly recommend supplementing it by seeking out a coach, counsellor, therapist, or even a pen and paper, so that your thoughts can be fully expressed and processed.
If you notice yourself regaling your mates with the blow-by-blow details of how you caught the train and were 7 minutes late for work this morning after you burnt your toast but before you cleaned your teeth;
if you’re a big talker; if you leave conversations and realise you’ve gained no new knowledge about your friend, or you notice people zoning out or becoming irritable when you talk – self-awareness is going to be a game changer for you and your friendships.
By practicing taming our minds, we become more self aware, and with self awareness comes the wisdom to be silent and to listen just as often as we spout.