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The Columbia Press

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Senior Moments: Listening can make you more popular

Emma Edwards
By Emma Edwards, Thursday, November 7, 2019

My focus this week is on boredom. Seniors often are accused of being boring. Most of the time we are totally innocent, not knowing or wishing to be thought of as such.

It’s hard to believe, but often family and friends endure long conversations from us mostly begun and accentuated with “I,” “My,” or “Me.”

I was introduced to a word that’s new to me, abstemiousness, or lack of self-indulgence.

We need to wean ourselves from talking too long about ourselves. Admittedly, that is something we all enjoy doing but need to work on.

If just making conversation (often about oneself), perhaps five minutes could be our max. Since most of us can speak 150 words every minute, that would be sharing approximately 750 words. To give you an idea, this column averages 500 words. Overheard, “No, no please continue to talk! That glazed over look in my eyes doesn’t mean you are talking too much!”

We really want to be included in occasions with family and/or friends and would not want the person hosting to say something like “No, let’s not include her or him as they talk too much and it takes them forever to tell a story.”

Yikes! Is that me?

Once upon a time, there was a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, translator, historian, mathematician and teacher by the name of Thomas Carlyle. He was born in 1795 in the village of Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire. It’s fun to glean knowledge from such a unique individual.

He was a leading social critic of early Victorian England. “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder” is a saying attributed to him. Most of his quotes were short, to the point.

A 1940s Readers Digest condensation of a short story from the Atlantic Monthly tells a story about Carlyle. He was out to dinner and a diner was monopolizing the conversation to the extreme limit of boredom. Carlyle was quoted as saying “Take me away and put me in a room by myself.”

That is where abstemiousness fits in, not only in regard to conversation and listening but in other limitations such as food or exercise.

So, do women talk or use more words than men? A 2010 article I wrote spoke of men saying 7,000 words to a woman’s 20,000. Recently, however, I learned that that statistic has been debunked. In more than 25 studies, we learn that words aren’t gender-determined.

A good way to limit the chance of “talking too much” is to practice the art of listening.

I would not say abstemiousness fits into that particular art. In fact, listening carefully can increase one’s popularity, with others wanting to have you around.

My closing thought: “People who don’t know me think I’m quiet. People who do know me, wish I were!”


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