Monday, October 4, 2010

Self Improvement is Our Watchword

I do this thing, and I've done it for years, maybe most of my life.  I will finish your sentence for you.  Not that I interrupt you and jump on your story, in fact I never supply more than a phrase.  But when you are talking and I am listening and you reach a moment when you pause, looking for just the right synonym or a choice verb, I open my mouth and supply it.

Now, did I know what you were going to say?  No, but apparently I think I know how your sentence should end. I do this to Matt all the time. It's a normal conversational mode for us.  I do it to the kids.  I do it to friends and acquaintances.  It's like a part of listening for me.  Matt gracefully accepts it, or at least he's never seemed to mind.  I am such a talker that even his talking has two voice parts.

The problem is, I think, that when I do it I'm closing down some shades of meaning that were available in that person's sentence, and I channel him into other meanings, which he accepts and move on, but did the word we went with really capture what was in his head in all its potential richness?  This is what worries me. I like to squeeze the most possible semantic juice out of a conversation, and I don't want to, like, jump in there and overly disambiguate, ya know?

Yes, you know.

Excessive Disambiguation: A Problem Plaguing Our Streets.

I think I need to quit doing that.  But I don't know if I can change, Reader.

Or is this just known as Being Married?  Being Married and Mouthy?

13 comments:

aimeewrites said...

I do it, too. To my husband (who also does it to me), to my close friends, and apparently to a bunch of other people. A coworker called me on it, once, telling me how disrespectful and insulting I was. I was in a bit of a shock for a while, wondering just how horrible a person I'd been being and for how long. Eventually, a few other people told me she was way off base, but still, I wonder...

Star said...

My husband does this to me all the time. It's infuriating. I asked him for years to stop doing it, but he just can't help himself. I've solved the problem. I let it roll off my back like water off a duck (I try to, anyway). I wait (semi-)patiently until he's done, then just pick up right where I left off, and complete my own sentences how I want to complete them. This, now, infuriates him! There's no winning!

Bren said...

People should just step back and allow you to paint their canvas if you're handier with the brush.

Did you guys pick it up from each other, or are you really that much alike? Houston graciously presents me with just the right phrase. My speech has evolved into long pauses at the end to allow the presentation of the phrase. Really. Like, my brain has become so lazy and accustomed to it that I give him that verbal space to complete my thoughts. It works for us. I bet you do less of this, though: "The pastor had a good point but he almost sounded like...." "monkey butts?" "indignant rage?" "chocolate rain?"

Amy said...

Bren, you slay me!

Beck you could also interpret it as a desire to show empathy towards the speaker--that you understand what they're saying and where they're heading with the thought. I do that and sometimes I have to tell myself to chill out and let them finish! I do it with Jason too though, so it may also be a marriage thing.

But yes, you are a bit mouthy. I say that in love.

Elle said...

I am not sure if I express it in the same way as you describe here, but I, too, am an active listener, as a sweet dude who is also a character in my blogging once called it.

When the language of child-development entered our lives, my husband described it as parallel talking. But you know what, Becky? Most people call it interrupting. Even if we are like Oprah or Terry Gross -- in their slipstream & excessively disambiguating & wholly participating in the communication -- and not at all like Larry King, blurting and redirecting -- it matters not to the people who think of it as interrupting.

I was surprised to learn this, and sad, too. Because interrupting really is bad behavior. But in my own defense, if I am not talking, how will you know that I am listening? Right? So, yes. I hear you.

Hootie said...

Becky, our interruptions are gifts we give freely... I think our spouses (cardamom?) get this. It's up to them to either think of England or just enjoy the pretty colors.

Kolein said...

I do it, too. *bobbling head foolishly up and down like a maniac right now*

Why I was just thinking the other day....I NEED TO STOP THIS!

My husband has groaned slightly when I do this to our boys. (Subtle groan like when a dog lets out a sniff kinda sigh.)

So.

I'm gonna try. And now that you've made blog world aware of this condition....well, there's finally hope!

~K

Stacee said...

Oh my gosh! I totally do this all the time too. It's really embarrassing when the other person says, "actually, I was going to say ____".
Sometimes other people just talk to slow....they need to spit it out!

My Kids' Mom said...

Is this mostly women? I wish I could stop, but even if I prepare myself going into a conversation with new people... I still do it and come out at the end all angry at myself. I'd rather think I'm being helpful actually....

Jane said...

I do this, too, and for the same reason Amy mentioned. I do so want people to feel understood!

Keely said...

Were you holding back at BlogHer? Because I didn't notice you doing this.

Or maybe I do this too, and we cancelled each other out. Now I have to pay more attention to how often I finish people's sentences.

Casey said...

Becky, you're totally famous now. I'm trying to find my way back to blogging after a little lull then here I am stopping by Ohdeedoh and I see your purty picture. You rock!

gretchen said...

Okay, see, I do this too. But I DO know what Jimmy's going to say. It pisses him off, but I always know what he's trying to say, and, frankly, I say it better. And, yes, disambiguate. Because often what Jimmy says is ambiguous. And I know better. I swear I do.