Communication is usually one of my strong suits. It’s never going to earn me a medal, but I’m the goddess of the drive-thru. Back when I was taking orders, happy customers repeatedly commented on how remarkably clear and pleasant our loudspeaker interaction had been. Even today, my husband jokes that it would be better if he could back up to the speaker so I could place our orders from the passenger side, because it would up our odds of getting the food we actually want, and lower his stress levels.
Despite my ability to interact effectively and pleasantly, even without the assistance of visual clues, I’ve been troubled lately by my tendency to interrupt others. A topic piques my enthusiasm, someone says something intriguing or funny, and, next thing I know, I find myself verbally jumping into conversation gaps that aren’t gaps. This has probably been going on my whole life, but there are a couple circumstances recently that have made me realize I need to install a governor on my discourse.
First, I’ve had laryngitis. For the last week or so, speaking has been a labored effort. It takes so much extra breath to say something with enough clarity and volume to be heard, that when anyone, especially my kids, is inattentive, interrupts, or ignores me, I feel the burden of the added work it takes to repeat myself. I find myself surrendering my point, rather than repeating something that seems too inconsequential to muster the effort. It’s made me realize how important it is to be a good listener, to slow down and put more effort into hearing what others have to say.
The challenge of laryngitis has also heightened my sensitivity to a friend of ours for whom speaking is an act of deliberate effort. I have caught myself interrupting him more than once in the last couple weeks, and it humbles me. I should already be humble that someone values our friendship enough to work for it like that; I definitely shouldn’t be making him repeat himself by talking over him.
If I’m foolish enough to interrupt in those circumstances, it a guarantee that I’ve been interrupting everyone else, too. So, if you’re one of my victims, I apologize. I’m going to work on it. Maybe flick me on the forehead, if I interrupt you. That should shut me up.
Anyone who answers without listening is foolish and confused. Proverbs 18:13