My baby girl is a chatterbox. She talks ALL. THE. TIME. And I love it! She chatters constantly whether she is "reading" books, building block towers, rifling through cupboards and drawers, or eating. She is excited to share words she is learning and happily invents others to fill in the gaps. Her nonsensical babbles bring such joy to my heart.
As a child, I was also a talker. I was the first to raise my hand to answer a question in a classroom or blurt out a trivia response. I could - and did - hold court for hours with family and friends - and the occasional complete stranger. I was consistently admonished by teachers, "Annie, you need to let someone else answer a question for a change..."
But somewhere along the line, this changed. A growing appreciation of appropriate social behavior likely played a role, but so too did insecurity. Run of the mill teenage angst transformed a Chatty Cathy into someone who wanted to be sure of how something would be received before sending it out into the world. I began to allow fear of saying the "wrong" thing to prevent me from saying anything at all.
Being reserved has its merits. When I entered the professional world, I quickly learned the value of listening before speaking. Pausing long enough to gather and process information before speaking enabled me to provide reasoned guidance and a measured response in high pressure situations. And more often than not, I gained valuable insight by listening to the more seasoned souls around me.
Regrettably, reticence also has downsides. I have lost opportunities to comfort a friend in need by over-thinking the perfect consolation. I have failed to voice my opinion at critical times while internally debating the most diplomatic way to deliver a conflicting point of view. I have missed chances to transform an acquaintance into a friend by hesitating to move beyond exchanging pleasantries.
As I look ahead to the next month in my year of imperfection, I am setting a goal of saying the wrong thing. Offering an imperfect, but sincere, consolation to a friend who recently experienced a significant loss. Delivering a valid, but unnuanced, opinion in a board meeting. Starting a conversation with an incompletely formed suggestion and inviting someone to help me shape and improve it.
What might you gain by letting yourself say the wrong thing?