My friend and I were having coffee the other day, talking shit, shooting the breeze, and we got onto the topic of knowing when to shut your mouth.
I come from a family of talkers. We all love a good gas-bag in fact, growing up there was a period in our house when Mum and Dad instigated turn taking. Each child would get a turn to chat about their day, I can’t remember if parents were outside the rules? Given that there are four of us, this process worked nicely to get us through dinner most evenings. However, I vividly recall pretty much having to sit on my hands with suppressed frustration as I waited to speak. Bursting at the seams with some inconsequential nugget of Emma-truth that needed to be told asap!
So yes, I like to chat.
The problem with this ‘stream of consciousness’ style I’ve cultivated, is that like Pandora’s box in reverse, sometimes snippets of less productive information can sneak its way past my lips. Things like,
“It’s a disaster, a fucking disaster”, (yelled at the driving instructor during my first driving lesson whilst going round a tiny roundabout with my hands off the wheel, in the air).
“I think we really need to get a cat, I’d really like a cat, what about this cat?” (said for the twentieth time while pointing at kittens for sale on Trademe. To Rob. Who is allergic to cats).
“You look really Auckland-y middle class in that coat”, (to my best mate, who is presently living in Auckland and is indeed middle class. Just like me).
So anyway, I was telling my mate over coffee that I really fucking needed to start practising restraint between thought and action. As it generally feels better when I’m not behaving like an arsehole. The night before Rob and I had been joking around and I’d just taken it that step too far with a lame, passive aggressive comment. I won’t go into details suffice to say I instantly regretted it. My wise friend said that distraction is a great deflector and came up with a suitable solution. That every time I felt like my inner monologue was going to go rogue I was to text her instead. Something short and to the point. I came up with ‘Shut up Emma’.
And you know what, it actually worked. For the next three days instead of saying something unnecessary or border-line controlly I’d whip my phone out and text her, SUE (see what I did there). Nobody noticed me doing it either as I’m always on my fucking phone anyway. The basic act of pausing, distracting, then leaving the comment unsaid felt pretty damn revelatory, to be honest. It wasn’t a sustainable model to carry on long term but the three days were enough to make a difference. It was enough for me to realise that occasionally applying a handbrake on my communication filter is a very good thing. Plus it’s a lot kinder.