Conserving Our Words
Recently my mom lent me a stack of books. There were some must-reads, a few maybes, and a couple heck, nos. One of the maybes (which later turned into a heck, no) presented an interesting concept – more interesting than the book itself, as it turned out.
The concept was conserving our words. The book framed this in context with a group of women living in a convent and why it might be a good idea in that setting to limit casual conversation. But it was not a stretch at all for me to see how valuable it could be to monitor how we use our words and how many words we use in our ordinary conversations as well.
The idea at its core seemed to revolve around the energy found in words. Each word has a meaning and that meaning is linked to both an intellectual definition and a corresponding emotion. Some words have a great deal of intellectual meaning but little emotional impact, while other words sport the opposite. Some words are neutral until added together with other words. Still other words are rich in both intellectual meaning and emotional meaning whether on their own or connected with other words.
I think I like the idea of conserving my personal words for a couple of reasons. One, if I do less talking this will help me continue to work on my goal to become a better listener. And two, word conservation can help me choose the words I do speak more carefully. This can help me avoid committing to things before I’ve thought them through, saying things I don’t mean and other word-based actions I want to avoid.
Over the last few weeks I have been practicing conserving my words, but not just when I am in the company of others or on the phone. I have also been practicing word conservation when I am alone. So instead of allowing my mind to chatter endlessly to me in my head, I might repeat a mantra or listen to soothing music. If I am with others, I notice when I am about to speak just to fill a silence, and I encourage myself to let the silence be.
I wouldn’t say this has changed my interactions overly much when viewed at the surface level, but I will say that I have felt more peace within myself whether I am alone with myself or spending time with others. I feel less anxious and more confident, and even conversations I might not ordinarily find myself enjoying are becoming interesting as I experiment with silent periods and see how others react to them.
I have also noticed it takes discipline to conserve my words and the energy behind them. It seems my mind does enjoy casual chatter (ie, “small talk”) even if I don’t. I don’t like small talk because as an introvert, it saps my energy and, frankly, often bores me after awhile. I’m also not especially good at it. But my mind will chatter at me or others all day long if I let it, no matter how unpleasant I find it to be.
For this reason, I have to continually work to remember my newfound preference to conserve my words and to encourage periods of silence. I also have to remember that, just because no words are being spoken, this doesn’t mean that no communication is taking place.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, I am noticing that in the absence of words, it is easier to pick up on and translate accurately the nonverbal communications that are continually taking place within me, between me and others and all around me.
Today’s Takeaway: What is your reaction to the concept of conserving our words? Does this sound like something you might like to try out as well? If so, how would conserving your own words possibly change your interactions with yourself and others, whether in business or personal interactions, for the better?
Woman saying “ssshh” photo available from Shutterstock
Cutts, S. (2013). Conserving Our Words. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2013/01/conserving-our-words/