Sunday, September 2, 2018

Talkaholism by Jenn McKinlay

JENN McKINLAY: Here’s the thing. I have a problem. I am a talkaholic. See? I know I have a talking problem. I do. I just can’t seem to zip the lips, shut my trap, close up the pie hole. Given a venue, an outlet, a captive audience, I will talk and talk and talk and talk…you get the idea.

Lorelei from the Gilmore Girls is my spirit animal.

Why am I like this? The first reason that leaps to mind is personal, but I’ll share because really when has self restraint ever stopped me? I like to think of my childhood as Crazy Train broke down in Dysfunction Junction. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but there is no question that things were so far from The Brady Bunch we were not just in another zipcode, we had left the state, probably with our possessions tucked into duffel bags and under the cover of darkness. That is what growing up in the house of a raging narcissist will do for you. Sorry, Dad, I love you dearly, but truly, it felt like an emotional hostage situation a good portion of the time. Side note: My dad passed away a couple of years ago, and I am ever grateful that we managed to become very close friends in the last few decades of his life. 

So, the talking. I think it developed to fill the gaps. If there was silence at the dinner table, I felt compelled to fill the void with humor, silliness, stories of self deprecation, anything really to short circuit the tension that ran through our house like a live electric wire. It also helped distract from the fact that I was hiding my zucchini between the seat cushion and the seat. Survival of the fittest, amiright? My mother and brother are quiet people. They most likely would have preferred that I downshift my motor mouth, but I was convinced that if I could just keep everything light and funny then we would all survive another day without drama. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much.

You would think that after I left home, I would retool the arsenal, develop some new skills, dial back the talking. Nope. At this point, being a jabberer was how I navigated every new situation. Seriously, I can talk to anyone and I will find common ground with them. I will make them laugh even if I have to herniate myself to do it. The Hub and Hooligans, bless their hearts, know if we go out to eat, the waiter will be my new BFF by the time the meal is done, or the clerk at the store, or the taxi driver, even the guys teaching us to surf on our trip to Hawaii became my besties. They also told us where to get the best authentic Hawaiian food, so being a talker has its perks, I’m just sayin’.

Here’s the other reason I think I'm a talker. Being a writer, for me, is like standing in a treasure trove of shiny sparkling objects that are scattered as far as the eye can see. I spend most of my days feeling like my brain is on fire! Sparkle! Whoa, there’s a kernel of an idea for a YA novel! Oh, look over there, a rom-com. Wait. Shiny alert! That’s the thriller I was thinking about. Oh, damn, I just stubbed my toe on the book that is actually due.

Sam Raimi GIF

This is the reason when the Hub comes home, and I greet him at the door already in mid-sentence, he smiles kindly at me and says, “Walk and talk, darlin’.” I then follow him around the house while he does his chores, and I tell him every single thought I’ve had since he left for work in the morning. Yes, he is a saint among men, and the talking helps me grasp those shiny nuggets sparkling in my head.

Now where did this bout of self-awareness about the chattering come from? Well, Hooligan 2 has the same history teacher that Hooligan 1 had a few years ago. This teacher noted that H2, a talker, was not like H1, less of a talker. He asked H2 which parent he took after in regards to the talking and H2 said, “Oh, my mom, definitely, my mom.” (Sigh) It was then that it occurred to me that I've been modeling talkaholism to my hooligans since they were born. Sorry, world!

On the upside, a big part of my talking problem is asking questions, so I’m a pretty snappy listener, too. I have a burning curiosity to understand my fellow humans, so I spend a lot of time asking overly personal and borderline intrusive questions. Clearly, I have boundary issues, too, but that’s a post for another day! Lucky you!

So, Reds and Readers, are you a talker? Or do you prefer companionable silence? Have you ever dumped anyone for talking too much? Asking for a friend. 

Lastly, the winners from our guests this week are...

Sparkle Abbey's The Dogfather to...Grandma Cootie
Heather Blake's audio To Catch a Witch to...Dianne Casey

Email me at jennmck at yahoo dot com and we'll get you hooked up!

86 comments:

  1. I’m chuckling, Jenn, perhaps because I am so much the opposite. Silence and I are the best of friends, although I don’t have any particular problem talking to people if we have something in common. But if you’re not someone I know, then I have absolutely no idea of what to talk to you about . . . .

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    1. I have several friends who are quiet, Joan. I like to think we balance each other out rather than me just wearing them out. LOL.

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  2. Definitely the quiet one, mostly because mom never let a word in edgewise, and I'm saving my childhood as Crazy Train broke down in Dysfunction Junction for future use. We all have different coping mechanisms.

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    1. Yup. I don't think my brother could ever get a word in around me when we were little - he was the muscle and I was the mouth. I'm a much better listener and he's a much better talker now.

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  3. I feel your pain, Jenn. I don't talk a lot at work, partly because I have a co-worker who handles that, all day long, without pause, and partly because I'm writing, and that takes a lot of quiet concentration.

    But I talk a lot after work--particularly on my drive home--because I've stored up SO MANY STORIES that I really want to tell to someone. Since my long-suffering husband is now beyond mortal suffering, I call my friends, and we chat while I crawl home through rush hour traffic. I know. It's not fun for them. They get to hear me jabber about stuff they don't really care about through the roar of traffic and the throbbing glory of my Mustang's dual exhaust system. They must really love me, because they always answer when I call. I do try to give them ample time to vent about their days as well, but . . . yes. At times like that I talk a lot.

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    1. Ah, Gigi, good friends who listen are the best.

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  4. I am not much of a talker, so when I'm with people I always appreciate the talkers since you all do the hard work of keeping the conversation moving. Hanging out with other non-talkers can be quite painful unless we both know each other well enough to sit in companionable silence.

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    1. My quiet friend say that, too. They like having that one person in the group who can break the ice. I am always happy to help with that. :)

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  5. I'm a talker, too, but not quite as much as you, Jenn, I think. ;^) I live with someone who can talk about politics and baseball infinitely. He's like a wind-up toy. Sometimes when he wants to go for a walk and I'd rather walk alone and plot but I want to spend that time with him, I'll go. I have mastered the art of murmuring "hmm" and "oh?" at appropriate spots while still working on that next scene in my head. How I know when something is bothering him? He goes all scary quiet on me!

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    1. Hubs and baseball - we should introduce them! Then we can plot :)

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    2. Perfect! He loves music of many kinds, too, although he doesn't play an instrument (and can't carry a tune, either...).

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  6. Jenn, you are a hoot! I am a big talker, which is realky weird, as I was terribly shy as a child. Something happened that flipped a switch in my 6th grade year, and I have yet to quiet down! I always talk to people, even if it simply to tell them I love their tie or their shoes! I even wake up halfway through thoughts or conversations, which is disturbing if I can't remember what the first part was about!
    Love your books!

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    1. That’s so interesting. H1 was painfully shy as a child, busted out of it in middle school, and is now one of the live TV news anchors in high school - I never saw that coming! So, we do grow and change, well, some of us do. ;)

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  7. Oh, you are so hilarious! And it is such a true joy to know you. I really have to say… Jenn, you are amazing. As for me, it depends. I am basically truly truly shy, and often in groups of strangers I can never think of anything to say. If you ask me if I would rather go to a party or stay home, I would definitely stay home. That said, if I tell people that, they look astonishing. So maybe how I feel about myself is different from reality. Possibly? Love love love you all today…

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    1. Aw, it’s a joy having you as a friend, too. I do not get shy off of you, Hank, but Hub is actually very shy and a journalist like you, so I’ve seen him bust out of the inner quietness to interview strangers. I have noticed he comes out of those situations exhausted while I come out energized. We’re all so different!

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  8. After the youngest left for college, I became capable of intelligent conversation which inevitably included a healthy dose of politics. I just realized that instead of "what did the kids do today?" we talk about the antics in DC. Different playground.

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    1. LOL - I am almost there! And DC does give us plenty to discuss!

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  9. We’re so happy to have you as part of our red community Jenn—I mean it! I’m very chatty with my hub, more shy out in the world. I’m going to channel you next week at Bouchercon!

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    1. The Red community is delightful and I’m very happy to be here! Do channel me - my opener is usually to approach a stranger and ask “So, what’s your origin story?” Because really aren’t we all super heroes?

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  10. So funny, Jen!! I’m a talker or a listener depending on who I’m with. Don’t tell anyone, but I especially like talking to myself around the house, on my walk to the bus or when doing errands in the car. That way I get to talk and listen all at the same time 🙄

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    1. Amanda- that made me snort my coffee! LOL! Thank you for that!

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    2. Amanda, you’ve made me smile. All the long conversations I’ve had with myself and you made me see that I was listening, not just chatting on. Thank you.

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  11. Cracking up! And also very moved (had a narcissistic father myself once... expert here at filling awkward silences).

    I AM a talker. Love talking to new people. Listening. Finding common ground. Or not.

    My kids used to be so humiliated going to the supermarket with me because I chat. A lot. These days I also make a conscious effort to be *nice*. Just nice. Offering to help someone who can't reach... Getting out of the way... Ceding that choice parking spot...

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    2. The Hooligans hate shopping with me, too, but they know the talking is so much better than when I feel compelled to do an interpretive dance to a Muzak version of a Katy Perry song in produce - LOL!
      If we lived closer, Hallie, I’m sure we’d talk each other out, we, maybe. LOL.

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  12. I'm with you, Jenn and Hallie! I'm definitely a talker and I'm always nice to people. I have no idea why. Could it be related to being born with hearing loss? Maybe I'm trying to compensate or distract myself/other from it. I never thought about it until now.

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    1. I love the “nice” portion of Hallie’s post. If everyone did that just think how pleasant the world would be. Part of the reason I talk to everyone is that I think so many people stumble through their days not being seen. I try to “see” people and then open them up with chatter. Making someone smile is the best :)

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  14. I'm laughing because...I am not a talker. Until I get to know you.

    Then I'll probably talk your ear off. :)

    Mary/Liz

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  15. For me, being a talker depends on whether I'm interested or not in what people around me might be talking about. If it is sports, music, TV, books, movies or some other topic that I can actually weigh in on and not sound too much the fool, I'll talk your ear off.

    If you go into politics of any kind or something else that I know little to nothing about, then I tend to shut up and wander away from your completely disinteresting conversation. Sorry, macro and micro economics does nothing for me.

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    1. There is nothing funny about economics, macro or micro. I’d ghost right out of there with you, Jay!

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  16. You're so funny! I would love to meet you. It depends on who I'm with if I talk a lot. I don't really like talking about myself so if I'm with someone who likes talking a lot, I let them at it.

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  17. I’ve always been shy and have always preferred to listen. Growing up, I always had to put up with adults asking “cat got your tongue?” or “why are you so quiet?” This always caused my stomach to knot up. I’m more talkative when I know people well. As an adult, I no longer feel intimidated by people who expect others to be constantly yapping! My listening skills are pretty good, and I believe it’s because I’m usually the quieter person in a conversation. Nowadays, people commend me for being a good listener, instead of demanding that I speak!

    Jenn, my dad was the chatty one in our house when we were growing up and very chatty out in public, too. He was one of nine children, and I wonder now if he had to be gabby in order to be heard? We used to tease him about his gift of gab! My youngest sister inherited the chattiness gene, and did enough talking for all the rest of us!

    DebRo

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    1. I’m sure your Dad is a talker because of the big fam - I’m technically the youngest of six (some half subs in there) and I know I became goofy partly to be seen! I don’t like it when quiet people are badgered. My bro was quiet and when I saw it was painful for him I began to talk for both of us.

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  18. Not a talker here. I can go whole days without speaking to a soul except for the animals. And talking on the phone is ever fresh hell to me. Except with my daughter. However, "Lippy", as we fondly call her, keeps up both sides of the conversation.



    Interesting that you see yourself as shy, Hank, because I found you quite the opposite. And Hallie, I thought you were very quiet when we met. Yet both of you are delightful beyond words.
    It takes all kinds to balance this scary world doesn't it.

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    1. Ann, if I went a day without speaking I would explode. It would be a carnage of words!

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  19. I enjoy talking to strangers too, Jenn. Great piece, by the way. I can chat non stop with friends... Lunch in November, Jenn? Or talk for an hour to the daughter I saw yesterday but I also like periods when I'm alone and quiet.

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  20. Three guesses, and the first two don't count. A friend once called me Wordy McWordyperson. Every report card I ever had included at least one demerit for talking in class.

    But, Jenn, my dad was also the source of much family drama in our house. He was a raging alcoholic, and would storm at us for the least provocation. I was very often the target of his rages, maybe because I was safer to yell at than my mother, who once clobbered him with a frying pan. Cast iron. I have been known to rush into awkward silences and fill them with bright chatter. I am getting a light bulb moment here, thanks to your perceptive essay.

    As parents we just don't realize how every single thing we do forms our kids. It's a heavy responsibility, isn't it?

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    1. Your mom is the bomb! My dad wasn’t an alcoholic, he was just moody (artist) and you never knew when he was going to go into one of his black moods. It was exhausting. Wordy McWordyperson - hilarious!

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  21. Fun post, thanks for the morning laughs. It's too bad we both didn't venture out more in Dysfunction Junction. We probably would have been best buds! I kind of swung back and forth between the talking to change the subject and lighten the mood or completely shutting up, pouting and refusing to talk to anyone. I think both extremes carried over into adulthood, although I do try to limit the pouting these days. So there are my very quiet days when I am offered a penny all day long for my thoughts or a smile and then the days when I don't realize I've been blabbing all day until someone remarks on what a talkative mood I'm in. Of course even growing up the talkative me didn't extend to "outside" folks. As far as I was concerned we were Ozzie & Harriet, Donna Reed & family or My Three Sons.

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    1. Sounds like you have one foot in both camps! Nice balance.

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  22. And thanks to Sparkle Abbey for picking me!! Sending email to Jenn now. xx

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  24. So not a talker - at least not until I get to know you. My self-imposed cone of silence has made me very sensitive to detail though which does come in handy as a writer.

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    1. An observer - yes, I’ve noticed that few things get past the quiet ones.

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  25. Great post, Jenn! I think of myself as shy, like many writers I guess. But when I 'm nervous I turn into a chatterbox, complete with nervous laughter. It's not pretty!

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    1. Vickie, I have a quiet friend who has a cackle for a laugh and it is positively infectious! I try extra hard to make her laugh.

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  26. Jenn, you can talk all day to me! Maybe it comes from Dysfunction Junction, or maybe your brain is just super-wired, and that's how you can write ten books a year!!!!

    I do talk to strangers, and like Hallie, these days I'm making extra effort to be "nice." And I love chatting with my friends, but around the house I can go for days without talking. My husband makes up for that, believe me.

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    1. Thanks, Debs. Yes, my Hub can gab with the best of them, too, when I finally let him speak.

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  27. When I’m with a group of people I do not know I just listen. I try to avoid social get togethers of this kind. I was shy as a kid and groups just throw me. I am naturally quiet but if I know you I can talk your ear off. I find it easy to chat with strangers in stores or restaurants. That usually involves a sentence or two and a smile.

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    1. It's true, Pat, the short convos are pretty easy. And smiles are always welcome.

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  28. My dad and my sister were both talkaholics. My nephew is also (takes after his mom). I was painfully shy as a child, and my sister always talked for me. As I got older, I got better about talking to people. I still don’t talk a lot when I’m in a group of people I don’t know well, but I have been known to talk to a stranger or two.

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    1. Quiet people fascinate me - probably, because I am an oversharer. My best friend is quiet but she busts loose with me, which is nice because I can be quiet for a change.

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  29. I've always been a quiet one, and have spent my life hearing people comment about me being too quiet, or joking that I should tone it down. I'm most comfortable with talkative people or other quiet folks who appreciate a comfortable silence. My youngest is extremely talkative, and we often call her Chatty Cathy. She is very appropriately named Gabbie.

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  30. I am a talker myself so i would not dump a friend for talking to much . When i am with a group then it is different as i am very quiet but home or with a friend then i talk. Peggy clayton ptclayton2@aol.com

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    1. So, you're saying it's possible to be both. LOL.

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  31. Shalom Reds, I was always a talker, Jenn, born gregarious and outgoing. Going into my 30s, however, I met with some heartbreak and some really humbling difficulties. These difficulties included mental illness. Because of the stigma which attaches to that, I became jealous of my privacy. Not willing to make small talk, I simply stopped talking. Growing older has its downsides. But one of the upsides is that with acceptance and satisfaction with one’s self, it is possible not to be so concerned with what others might think. I have a few good friends and they let me talk but are tolerant of my quieter nature. Not talking so much, I have time to read. And I love to have conversations in my head.

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    1. Growing older does have that wonderful upside, I agree. Sounds like you have eased into it nicely, David.

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  32. My Dad also left us going on four years now. For the last six years of his life I would be the one to make my way from the suburbs of Philadelphia and travel by bus and subway to the Bronx to spend an afternoon with him. I would also call him on the phone every week or two. He had a stroke about 3 years before his death. At first he used a wheel chair and then with physical therapy he was able to use a walker or a cane. None of his mental faculties were worse for wear. During that whole time, I didn’t know what to talk about with him. Now, in hindsight, I have a thousand questions that could have been the ice breakers. For me however, it was just easier to endure the silence. We would watch sports on broadcast TV together. Didn’t matter what. Baseball, golf, tennis, football, basketball, (college or professional). During that time, we all went to the funeral of a younger brother who died at the age of 92. Then, later on, we had a small memorial service at the grave of his older sister who lived to 96. He was 94, almost 95, when he passed.

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    1. David, I would bet that your quiet, consistent presence with your dad was comforting for him.

      DebRo

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    2. Agreed. How lovely for your dad to have companionship.

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  33. I do have a friend who I would, at times, like to cut off, for talking too much. He just started calling me and would stay on the phone for an hour or more every night. My compromise was to just not pick up the phone when I wasn’t willing to spend an hour with him. He would leave messages that would tax the limits of my voice mail. My carrier finally gave me a plan with unlimited talk anytime. This went on for perhaps 10 years. Then he started driving for Uber and he became too busy to call. And just like the calls started, they ceased. I send him a text message every now and again to make sure he is all right.

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    1. Text friends are the best friends at times :)

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  34. With groups of people, ones I know and ones I don’t, I am very quiet. I prefer quiet conversation to noisy chatter. Hate, hate answering questions about me and hate, hate asking questions of others that seem intrusive. I tell people what I want them to hear and assume others do the same. But with one or two friends — I seem to never run out of things to say. Thanks, Jenn, for this essay for a Sunday afternoon. Wish there were someone in my other rocking chair to discuss it with.

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    1. Thank you, Elisabeth, for sharing with us. I always thought I was just a hardwired talker but it took me a while to realize it was life that made me that way. I'm still a work in progress - as are we all. :)

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  35. I was shy as a child and even voted "Shiest girl" in my yearbook. When I started working, I had an epiphany. One of my co-workers said she only read the newspaper, and she was proud of it! Realizing how much crap I had listened to over the years, I decided you all can listen to me, too. I'm not a talkaholic but I am more comfortable talking with strangers and can talk a lot to my friends.

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    1. I love that. Isn't it amazing the things that are life moments for us to pivot and rethink everything we thought we knew about ourselves?

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  36. My father was a talker. Of course, he was in real estate, not only selling houses and such, but developing subdivisions, so talking was part of his job. But, I can't tell you how many times my mother and I were with him (I was the youngest and so it was often just the three of us)and stuck because he kept talking. It used to irritate me that he never met a stranger. Now, it seems I've grown up to become my father. With Bouchercon coming up, it's probably a good thing that I like to talk, as there are so many people I want to talk to there. However, for me, I sometimes have periods where I enjoy the quiet, too, and being a reader, I treasure that time as well. I don't think I really found my talkative self until I was grown up though. In high school, I was much quieter, and in college, I think I was still a bit in the shell, too.

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    1. Both my mother and my mother-in-law have good-byes that last for days. Seriously. It used to drive me nuts - mostly because I was getting the nudge from the Hub to get going - but now, I realize they have something to say and it's important to listen, so I do.

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  37. I don't mind talking when it comes to speaking to groups or to specific people in my life, but in general, I'm pretty quiet. I think it's one of the differences between being an introvert or an extrovert: do you get your energy from being quiet or from interacting with other people? The book "Quiet" by Susan Cain is all about these two personality types, and it's a fascinating read.

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    1. Oh, I'm going to check that book out, Ingrid. Thanks!

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    2. I recommended it to a friend who has a quiet kid, and my friend said it changed her whole perception of her daughter and helped her relate to her in a better way.

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    3. Quiet! I absolutely love that book!

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  38. I'm more quiet. I appreciate the talkers in my life. They usually have the best, entertaining stories.

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    1. Agreed, it's the talkers who are not entertaining that I run from much like the Hooligans run from me. LOL!

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  39. Fantastic topic! Jenn, your article is funny and touching at the same time. I like the back-and-forth flow of conversation, especially when it's just between 2 people. So it's not one person dominating, but both taking turns and enjoying that creation together.... Personally, I find that the more people present, the quieter I am. I go into watch-and-listen mode. But a quiet tete-a-tete, that's the best. Probably why I'm a psychotherapist. A real conversation can be healing.

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    1. Thanks, Keziah. And I absolutely agree, a real one on one is the best.

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  40. *raises hand* Talker here! It takes all kinds of folks to make this world go 'round :)

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  41. LOVE Lorelei Gilmore :-) And I'm a talker ... and years of journalism make me sound like an investigator. Drives my husband nuts, he's like ... do you have to know everything about someone else's life in the first 5 minutes? On the other hand, he drives me nuts. He can golf with someone for 5 years and not even know if they have kids, are married, etc. Super post!

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