In the best of communication, there is a kind of give and take between talking and listening, a sharing of who is the speaker and who is the listener based on mutual respect and caring about each other’s feelings. Some people who talk a lot are not able to engage in this interactive rhythm, not because they do not care, but because they cannot tolerate the emotions that might emerge as they listen to another person. In fact, in the course of my work as a therapist, I have found that many non-stop talkers actually use their words to stop themselves from knowing what they are feeling.
This is what happened with Max*, a smart, articulate man with two young children. His wife was threatening to leave him because, she said, he did not care about or understand her. Max talked his way through two sessions, almost without taking a breath, before I was able to interrupt him and ask how he was feeling. His eyes filled with tears and his voice cracked as he replied, “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me that. I don’t want to feel how I’m feeling. I don’t want to think about how I’m feeling. I don’t want to feel.”
I asked Max if he thought that might be part of the problem that had led his wife to ask for a divorce. He nodded and said, “I haven’t been able to let myself feel anything for a long time. She thinks it’s because I don’t feel