Sometimes there’s much to be said for thorough self examination.
My sweet spouse always warns me against overthinking. That advice has served well in numerous occasions, far too many for me to count.
But this time I am taking careful note of the words I say, whether they’re cued up for oral departure or if they have exited the plane, sometimes rip cords in hand at the ready to thwart gravity’s attempt to send my words crashing into the earth.
The intent is not necessarily to editorialize my speech to prevent wounded feelings or to avoid statements that can no longer be rescinded due to carelessness. Rather, it is to examine the function of what I’m saying, to ascertain what the purpose of each statement is trying to serve.
I truly believe that we say each and every sentence we utter for a function. Sometimes the function is innocuous. Many times it is in an attempt to influence the listener’s view or perspective on us… who we are, what we’re about, what position we take on this matter or that issue, what kind of person we are.
The funny thing is these attempts are purely for our own benefit. It’s always a spin of the big pegged wheel with the thup-thup sounding rubber inicator as to whether or not someone will prescribe to the magazine we’re peddling at their audial doorstep. It might land on “hey, that guy’s right” or “I learned something new there” or “when he finishes saying what he’s saying I can say what I want to say”. But what I’m trying to examine here is what it is I’m trying to communicate beneath the carefully arranged vowels and consonants, what the truest distilled intent is once it is extracted from the fricatives and plosives.
I’ve found it is quite often the function of my statements to impress, to serve to influence how I appear in others’ eyes. I choose words to throw into the conversational pot that ensure the listeners I am not ignorant in certain areas, that I have acquired the prerequisite knowledge to participate in contributing to a given subject, that I was already aware of what they were trying to tell me.
Other times it is to tilt the spotlight onto myself during the conversation, to make sure I stand out. I may momentarily attempt to hijack the focus with a bit of pithy wit. I might share an anecdote that may get and honorable mention in the Most Humorous Story category for the night.
So once I look back on the game film to analyse the plays, I look at what I hoped to accomplish with each statement, what role I chose to take on. Right there… pause right there. Watch during that play how I was concerned about appearing like I didn’t know what was going on, how I nodded affirmation to that subject to which I had no idea about rather than saying “I have no idea about that particular area”. The fear to appear the fool. Or during that other moment… back up about 17 seconds… where I started to feel like I was in camouflage during the conversation, where I felt I needed to be acknowledged.
My contribution to conversations can sometimes seem to serve as cards I am handing out that have a description as to how I want myself to appear to the participants. If others see me as knowledgeable, witty, and warranting of attention and acknowledgement, they can serve as independent contractors to do the heavy lifting of picking up my self-esteem so I don’t have to do the work myself?
So more recently I try to look through those index cards before handing them out. I will tack the appropriate ones on the mirror for my own consideration, to serve as litanies to recognize in myself, for myself, that which I am trying to sell to others. At the same time, I want to be careful not to be critical of myself for having handed out those cards in the past. It’s that sort of criticism that has made me believe in my self assessment that I have fallen short somehow. That’s what I’m correcting at this point.