This evening I sat with an ice pack on my shoulder following physical therapy, listening. There were conversations all around me between patients and their therapists. It was a struggle to not join in. I’d hear one subject and realize I had a story about that, or an opinion on something else, or a desire to laugh – one guy told a hilarious story about how his darling princess daughter tackled a pig. I restrained myself because those were not my conversations, didn’t involve me, and comments from a stranger probably wouldn’t be appreciated. But when I am included in a conversation, it’s very easy to talk. About anything, to anyone, anywhere.
The thing is, it wasn’t always that way. All throughout school I talked only to my small group of friends. I’m sure most kids didn’t know I was in the room. Except when called upon by the teacher, when I would flame brightly into existence, the blush putting me right on everyone’s teasing radar.
I used to think the ability to be comfortable talking to people, or being in front of a crowd came about because I took on a job in the 70s that required my having to talk. But now I’m not so sure.
One thing that seems to make a difference is having something to talk about. I now have life experiences. I’ve been through many things that allow me to relate to those around me, which creates a sharing environment. At eighteen my life was still very sheltered. What was there to talk about? Heck, at age 30 my life was still sheltered but that’s another story.
A teacher tried helping one time as I stood, shaking, contemplating an oral report. He said, ‘pick something you know’. It didn’t help then, but now I see the wisdom of that. If there are things you know well, that inspire you, then it’s going to be easier to talk to someone. Might even be hard to get you to stop talking. So I think that helps some, too.
And then there’s the simple blossoming of a storyteller. As we’ve talked about here before, there is a story behind everything. From a simple trip to the grocery store to the spider in the bathroom, to the latest headlines. We all have tales to tell that connect us to one another.
Of course not everyone wants to talk or tell a story. My husband, for one, would be very happy if, when out in public, he didn’t have to interact with anyone. Which works out great because I fill that silent void. Give me an excuse to tell a story and I’m off and running.
Like the princess and the pig: the little five-year-old girl dressed up for dance class, and dad stops at a friend’s for a quick visit. The little girl got charged by a pig and before the dad could react she grabbed the pig, bit its ear, yelled ‘take that!’ and sent the pig running, squealing.
That little girl is going to go far in life. And I bet she’ll be talking the whole way.