When You Are Comfortable With Not Talking…..

“Four Weddings and a Funeral” is a delightful movie that I have watched a number of times, although not recently. I would mangle the quotation if I tried it, but there is a scene in which the older gentleman from the ensemble group of friends discusses his theory of why people get married. He more or less says that two people are in a relationship and one day they run out of things to say to each other, so the man proposes because he doesn’t know what else to talk about. This is similar to the wonderful “Bus to Abilene” story used by Jerry Harvey, a well-known management expert who illustrated that managing agreement can often be more difficult than managing conflict because there are situations where no one necessarily agrees with a point, but everyone is saying they do because they think that is what “someone” wants to hear. In the “Abilene Paradox”, everyone agrees to go into Abilene on a sweltering Texas day with all sorts of things that go awry during the trip. Afterwards, it become clear that no one really wanted to go in the first place and when the individual who originally suggested the idea is queried as to why, he basically admits that he just said it because they were all sitting around and it seemed like something to say.

This is a long introduction to discuss that becoming comfortable without talking is something that many of us often overlook. I am not into Zen, yoga, or meditation (though perhaps I should be), and I am about as Type-A as they come. I can chatter with the best of them and when you get my sister and I together, there is rarely a gap in conversation. The disinclination of men to “chatter” has been written about and discussed at great length, and as we have just celebrated our twenty-third anniversary, I had occasion to ponder our ability to now sit quietly and comfortably as we read or watch television. Television of course can launch conversation – or at least exchanges, but when we sit outside by the pool (or wherever) with respective books, it’s different. And it’s okay. If you had asked me twenty-four years ago about the traits I wanted in a potential husband, I don’t believe that I would have said, “Someone I can be comfortable with not talking to.” I understand that now and appreciate it. Mind you, there are most assuredly emotionally unhealthy reasons for not talking, but that is the stuff of a different post.

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