Stop talking just to talk

Take a second to think about your last conversation. Who did you talk to? What was it about? It might have been brief, nothing more than “Hey, what’s up?” “Nothing much.” Maybe you don’t really remember what you said. This is alright once in a while, but our lives cannot merely consist of shallow conversations. We don’t actually connect to other human beings when we only speak casually and carelessly. 

This is why the content of our conversation matters. Life is precious, and we cannot squander the breath we are given. Instead of wasting our words, we need to consider what we are actually accomplishing with our sentences! I have been thinking about this lately as I watch and participate in the myriad conversations happening all around campus. Too often, I do not take the time to filter my words as much as I should; rather, I just state the first thing on my mind, but when those spewed conversations fill our ears and minds 24/7, they don’t move us towards building authentic relationships with one another. I am urging you, reader, to change this narrative.

Are your words snarky and sharp by default? Are you known more for your complaints than your compliments?”

I emphasize this topic because our society is increasingly falling into the trap of easy, lazy rhetoric. Generalization, exaggeration, and self-deprecation are worked into the fabric of quotidian living. “Ugh, I hate myself.” “That class is so stupid.” “They’re all so weird.” Often, we do not mean what we say, and we do not say what we mean. Every sentence, no matter how subtle, has a motivation behind it, but we need to consider more carefully what that motivation is. What is the well from which we draw our words? 

I am suggesting that all of us should be people who save lives with our speech. Let this motivation be the fuel that spurs our words. There are far too many lives that have been taken too soon because of harsh or thoughtless words. A few years ago, I watched my own community shatter when a high school student took his own life. Few people knew about the battle he was fighting, and it is not as if every human in his life taunted him cruelly. The majority of people may have been kind — they may have considered themselves his friends — where were the words of genuine love? Would things have been different if people had stopped to intentionally see how he was doing, rather than merely asking an empty, “How are you?” I do not have the answers to these questions, but there are many other people out there who are starving for a bond with other humans. Their trajectories could be altered — but it is in our hands.

Trevor English

What you say truly matters, and that is both amazing and terrifying. Just as you took time to think about your recent conversations, it would also be valuable to identify just where you fall on the scale of dialogue. Are your words snarky and sharp by default? Are you known more for your complaints than your compliments? Or perhaps you do not fit in that category, but it has been a while since you had a “deep” conversation with another person.

You see lots of people every day, but you only have time for a quick “hi” because you are busy or stressed or tired. These are all valid emotions, but they provide all the more reason to focus on diving beneath the surface of conversations and relationships. It may be hard, but it is so worth it.