One of my nicknames growing up was “Mouth.” When I asked how I merited this name, it was simply told to me, “You talk too much.”
And I’m telling you it’s not just me, we all do.
It’s a natural male characteristic, the need to battle for supremacy, linguistically and literally. Matching mettle with our mouths is how we direct the meeting, make the sale—how we close the deal. And as my youth has shown, I’m arguably as bad as the next guy. Put me in any given situation, and I’ll often want to be the one leading the conversation.
But here is the draw back to all this vocal jousting: Most of us are great at talking, but we are not particularly good at listening? Oh we keep quiet listening for our turn to talk, but that is all we are doing—waiting for our turn to talk, certain that once those around us hear our steering logic, they’ll be swayed to follow our lead or be captivated by our wisdom and humor. Case in point: When was the last time you thought something went extremely well and then you quickly discovered you were on a sinking ship? Sound familiar?
Let’s harken to the words of my great grandmother and “exercise our eardrums.”
Growing up in the south we were surrounded with people who loved to talk, but through the idle chatter the only voices I heard were those who told stories. I heard stories of strength, stories of sadness and stories of which would be fit for the movie “Big Fish,” but in all of these tales I learned something.
Lessons embedded in parable have been the greatest teachers to me in my life. Trying to recall who exactly told me which story and in which moment, is futile, but what’s important is that I know these stories. As part of his manifesto “Desiderata” Max Ehrmann said, “Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”
So, my vocal warriors, which stories are loaded in your arsenal of words? Have you listened to any that have taught you a lesson or made you feel anew? We are always fighting to be heard, but among all of the cries, have we listened to each other? A man listens, and from what he has heard, he learns and he grows. Open your ears and fill your mind with new experiences. Perhaps you’ll learn something, or if you are still decided to be a man of words, you’ll at least add to your repertoire.
Have a question for Mr. Manners? Email firstname.lastname@example.org