My Life as a Talkative Person –
I’ve heard, time and again, that I am an extrovert. I can talk to just about anyone – about just about anything. As my grandma once told me, I definitely have the ‘gift for gab.’ Speaking with people on a one-to-one basis is natural for me. Many of my friends are introverts. The fact that I have the ability to fill up empty conversation spaces made them instantly comfortable around me. My friendly chatter caused them to relax around me as they assumed the role of active listener. Over time, they developed a sense of trust with me and would begin to make more comments; these infrequent comments turned into more in-depth conversations. These conversations became the foundation of developing a relationship. I value my friendships with my introverted friends. They are as witty, intelligent, giving, and compassionate as my more extroverted friends. It just took a bit more time to get to know them – time that I inadvertently provided by being my goofy, chatty self.
I also have the ability to converse with people from other countries, usually in broken English and hand gestures. My desire to connect, to learn, and to communicate with someone unique and interesting overcomes traditional language barriers. My husband has always been amazed that I have the ability to amuse people from other countries with my lame jokes. I have learned that our American slang rarely translates well and mean-spirited, sarcastic jokes seem incomprehensible. Most jokes one would tell a child are appropriate and appreciated by most foreign nationals.
Once, I met a woman from Senegal while I was shopping in a mall. She had a small child – an adorable boy with big, doleful eyes – who was being rather fussy. My impromptu game of peek-a-boo quickly turned his whining into a shy smile. The mother and I began an animated conversation, using bits of English, French, and hand gestures. We spent over 15 minutes talking about children, Africa, racism in America, and the level of noise in cities. When our conversation ended, she thanked me for taking the time to talk to her. She then bent down (because I am rather short and she was definitely very tall), giving me a hug and a soft pat on my cheek. It was such a sweet gesture, gentle and kind. I never saw this woman again but those 15 minutes conversation, as well as her expression of gratitude for our brief connection, has become a treasured memory for me.
The Shadow Side: The Curse of Over-Share
As with any gift, the shadow side is often a curse. I do have a tendency to suffer from ‘over-share,’ which falls under the category of TMI – too much information. I have never gone so far as to pull down my pants in a social or professional setting, asking people to check out my c-section scar (Oops, a prime example of over-sharing!) [Author note: You have no idea how amused I am with creating this visual for comic effect but, trust me, I am laughing out loud as I type this example]. I tend to push the boundaries of what may be considered acceptable topics because of my desire to connect with others. I am not a gossip nor do I enjoy tearing down others in conversation. My over-share tends to be centered on the fact that I share too deeply about myself. I rarely share information that makes other people completely uncomfortable, setting the stage for a huge moment of awkward. What I have found to be true is this – I have shared personal information that has been used against me by those who like to gossip and have less-than-honorable intentions.
My shadow side of my gift of gab, my curse of over-share, has many layers. It isn’t necessarily about what I have shared with others, but more with who I have shared information with and how they have spread this information to unintended audiences. I use examples in my own life to create a symbiotic relationship with the person I am conversing with at the time. I cannot tell you how many times, months after having a conversation with someone, I come into contact with another person who knows details about me from this previous conversation. This is the way gossip spreads – it may take months for me to find out that someone has repeated personal information that I shared in confidence. I find that what may have been a truth for my life three months ago has changed, evolved, or become obsolete but it is still considered ‘present, relevant’ content for the gossipmongers. Often times, the details of my over-sharing conversations are misconstrued and misrepresented as well.
Can I Overcome Over-share?
Since I am a talkative, friendly type of person, I find my over-sharing tendencies to be the biggest draw-back to what I consider a positive personality trait. I still believe that I can use my personal life to relate to others and express my commonality of the human condition. What I struggle with is deciding how much information to share to make the connection with another person. I definitely know that I need to be more selective with who I share information with because I am currently experiencing the effects of a gossipmonger. This has not been a pleasant life lesson and I can only hope people will identify this person’s inappropriate behavior. I guess I consider myself a work-in-progress as a person, as I learn to bolster my strengths and adapt to my weaknesses. These negative lessons are as equally important as my more positive learning experiences.
As someone who enjoys communicating with others, I would love to hear about your gifts and the shadow side – the mirror opposite of the gifts. What do you find to be your greatest strength and yet can become your greatest weakness?