The Seinfeld Dictionary has tongue-in-cheek definitions of close-talkers, high-talkers and low-talkers. Here’s a positive one I’ve coined: short-talkers, 1) people who speak in short stints between long stretches of listening.

Experience has taught me to say less and listen more, especially to people who are ill or in pain. Those who have been through deep waters often seek to give their suffering meaning by sharing it with others.

The need to vent also applies to many who are in emotional or spiritual distress. They seldom realize they are dominating the conversation. In monologues motivated by pain, the listener’s role is to absorb, not engage; to affirm, not argue.

In healthy dialogue, on the other hand, there’s a give-and-take with each person processing and responding to what’s being said. This creates a verbal dialectic of thesis, antitheses, synthesis. It’s not like dancing where only one party leads: it’s more like a volleyball game where the same player can’t touch the ball twice in a row.

Short-talking not only facilitates good listening, it’s also a better fit for how our brains are wired:

(Y)our brain is only capable of consciously holding a handful of concepts—approximately four to seven “chunks” of information—in its working memory, and it can only hold them for twenty to thirty seconds. … If you engage in an intellectual dialogue for longer than thirty seconds, your frontal lobes may begin to disconnect from the emotional centers of your brain. How God Changes Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg

Centuries before comedians, psychologists and neuroscientists weighed in, the Elder James advised:

Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Wise counsel for dealing with both God and man.


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