Torah Tuesdays

Torah Tuesdays: Thinking before speaking

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Warning sign.

Because of our concert on Sunday (it was GREAT!!!!  Maybe even worth six exclamation points!!!!!!), my whole week feels off by one day.  I almost didn’t realize that it was Tuesday!  Thankfully, I did, and here is the latest TT post:

I talk a lot when I’m nervous.  It’s almost involuntary.  While I am able to be quiet, and don’t feel a compulsion to fill every silent space, in certain situations I tend to speak first and think later.

Once, while having a conversation with someone who is quiet by nature, I did just that.  She was telling me that she has never been “good with words.”

“Yeah, me neither,”  I shared.

“I find that hard to believe,” was her response.

Ironically, that exchange was a good example of what I meant.  Yes, I’m able to express myself fairly well most of the time, whether it’s through writing or speaking  (I prefer writing, as you can edit your thoughts before publishing them – a major perk).  I socialize easily and enjoy conversation.  But sometimes I just don’t know what to say and then blurt out a sentence which doesn’t quite fit in the context. What I should have said was,

“You know, I also have my moments where I just don’t say the right thing, or don’t know what to say at all.”

But I didn’t.  I choked.  I didn’t even have anything to say in response. to her response  Nothing.  Nada.  My brain just doesn’t process information that quickly sometimes.  I’m not sure what she thought about my comment, which, most likely seemed disingenuous, which was totally not what I was going for!

Just today I saw someone I haven’t seen for a while, and she mentioned that we hadn’t, well,  seen each other for a while.

“I really don’t get out much,”  I said.

Right, except for the major concert I was just in, all the rehearsals that it took to prepare for the concert, the classes I sometimes make it to, playdates, grocery shopping, the Children’s Museum … oops.  I really do get out a lot.  What I should have said was.

“Yeah, I guess our schedules don’t sync up too much, huh?”

Or, even better.

“Yep, so how have you been?”

These small gaffes in communication are relatively innocuous, but when added up, they can possibly create confusion at best, or ill feelings, in extreme examples.  Since communication in a relationship is important, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that whatever I’m saying is really what I want to convey, and to try and make sure that my message is coming across. Even though I may completely mean what I’m saying, and think it’s the clearest thing in the world, it could be perceived in a way which I wouldn’t have even thought of.

Also, perhaps even more importantly, in a marriage, it’s important to be sensitive with those comments. I’m reminded of the story of how when the angel came to tell Sarah (the matriarch) that she was going to become pregnant (at her advanced age), she responded by laughing incredulously, and mentioning that both her and her husband were past the age of having children.  When Hashem related this incident to Avraham, her husband, He left out the part where Sarah called Avraham “old.”

Communication and emotional openness are important, but there’s a way to say something, and then there’s a way to say something.  So, if there’s a nicer way to say what’s  needed, it’s probably better to do so.

To take it one step further, in addition to thinking about how to say something, also think about whether or not it should be said.  When I was getting advice from one of my rebbetzins about how to deal with trying situations, one of the pointers she gave me was to ask myself what to say, and what not to say.

That was a mind-blowing concept.  You mean, sometimes I shouldn’t say something?  Even if I really, really, really, reaaaalllllly want to?  She taught me that in some situations, there may be nothing gained from talking.  That’s a hard one for me, but in the events that I’ve taken that advice, I’ve been glad that I did.

What are some challenges you face in communication?  What are some tips you’ve acquired over the years?

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16 thoughts on “Torah Tuesdays: Thinking before speaking

  1. Awww, I was just thinking that your concert must be coming up and I’m going to post a comment wishing you much hatzlacha and now I see I missed it!
    (Sorry, totally off topic, I know, but couldn’t resist :-))

  2. First of all, the concert was at least 7 exclamation point-worthy. It was amazing! Second, I love your rebbetzin’s advice. I am not generally someone who is comfortable with silence. So I fill it up. Too much, sometimes. Another challenge for me is that when I’m having a conversation, and I think I know where the other person is going, I have been known to play “fill-in-the-blank” before they can even finish their sentence. Often, I guess wrong. So I’ve been working on being a better listener. Also, with respect to marriage, it’s so true that how you say something can make all the difference.

    1. Thanks! It was so fun!!

      I also do the “fill-in-the-blank” game. Maybe it stems from being somewhat impatient? Not sure, but definitely something I need to work on. Just being a good listener in general is something that I have to work on. Whenever I encounter someone who isn’t a great listener it really drives the point home how important it is to really listen, you know?

  3. oh this is SO me!!! My husband is much quieter and he taught by example (and by the fact that I used to frequently embarrass him and he’d turn red!) to think before talking. and better yet, sometimes I don’t even need to say anything! There is actually a lot of freedom in that.

    that said, it is still my go to talk my face of when I am nervous. Oddly enough, it bothers the heck out of me when my kids do it! go figure!

    sometimes now before going into a stressful situation which would generally leave me talking a MILE A MINUTE, I stop, take a deep breath, slow down, calm down, and if need be say a prayer. Then I walk calmy into the room and take in my environment before talking. It helps!

    1. There is a lot of freedom in silence. I also have found that “practicing” conversations before a stressful or nerve-wracking event can be useful. If you know you’re likely to run into someone, or have certain questions posed, you can “prep” yourself for potentially problematic situations. Even though the actual conversation is rarely what I imagine, just doing that exercise has helped me a lot.

  4. This is a great post and so true. I struggle with the opposite problem, in that I tend to keep quiet and not speak my mind or speak up when I really should. I’ve kept a lot inside because of that fear (mostly in my personal life, probably because there’s more at stake). But my mom — she is the classic speaks before thinks and doesn’t realize that her comments are often hurtful, even though I know that was not her intention. I guess we all have our communication challenges!

  5. Firstly, I’m so happy your concert went well! I’d love to hear more about it!

    This is a great post with such an important lesson.

    My grandfather a”h LIVED this. You can read more about it here: bit.ly/ThinkB4Speak

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