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Psychobabble: You Talk Too Much

Pedro Ribeiro Simões

We all have our quirks, which can sometimes make us endearing to others, and sometimes, not so much. 

At any rate, Lake Effect essayist Linda Benjamin has been considering those quirks – flaws, some might say – and how they affect our interpersonal relationships:

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a computer chip we could all wear that would tell us where we’re going wrong, like, “You have broccoli between your two front teeth.” Or, “Shut up and give others a chance to talk. And though you mean to look smart, you actually look narcissistic and needy.” Or, “Take another drink and you may make a very bad decision that will follow you for the rest of your life.”

My friend, Ed, becomes irritating because he’s always adding information into a conversation that is a complete detour from the point he is attempting to make---and I can often do this myself. But, he does it so often that it becomes boring to listen to him. As if he’s really talking to himself and not you at all. He might say something like, “Oh, there’s Bob, he’s an old friend of mine--He graduated from Harvard University and was an aide to President Obama, when Obama was a Senator.”

I guess many of us assume that what interests us, interests the people we are speaking to or maybe we just haven’t given it that much thought. It’s just that, unless it’s relevant to the subject, it may sound as if we are name-dropping or needing to show how smart and well-connected we are by showing off the people we know or the impressive things they do in life. It’s just that the irrelevance of the additional information, may say something unflattering about ourselves: like we are insecure or self-involved and insensitive to the interests of our listener.

Sometimes, I think, “Everybody knows, but him/or her.” Maybe we should do a personality improvement intervention, like calling in friends and family of someone who has a habit that is annoying others and hurting him or herself. After all, more often than not, we don’t know where we are making mistakes repeatedly. Our friends and family, if they are pretty well-balanced themselves, do. Why don’t they tell us?

Why? Because they are afraid we will become defensive or “de-friend” us, as they say in Facebookspeak. Or maybe we’ve tried and the repeat offender goes limp with Victimhood.

But don’t we all want to know if we have bad breath or we tend to stare in a leering and embarrassing-to-our-partner way at woman who’s a Babe or a man who is a Hunk? Are we so sensitive that we’d prefer not to know what’s tripping us up, rather than be told something that’s not pleasant to take but is ultimately helpful.

I mean, intention is important, too. If one is criticizing a teen’s prom dress as she leaves for the prom—other than make her self-conscious, ruining her evening, what will that do?              

I mean, we could say, as one does in an Intervention: “Sally, we all love you. But when you don’t let us speak, because you have so much to say, we begin to feel like you aren’t interested in anybody but yourself.” Of course, if Sally feels picked on and victimized and embarrassed in front of her friends and family, rather than sees that we all just want to help….She may not be very receptive to what we have to say.

I prefer the computer chip idea. That way, nobody gets hurt. Or if they do, the computer chip can be taken off. Of course, when I think of ways the chip could be misused---maybe it’s better to let people talk too much and wear their broccoli like a gold tooth---and those of us who are irritated by their flaws, we just learn how to live with them. Maybe we all, including me, could stand to learn some flaw-tolerance.

Lake Effect essayist Linda Benjamin calls her series for us “Psychobabble.”  She’s a Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Milwaukee.​