I’m at the table with three of my teenage grandchildren – cousins. I’m listening, they are speaking – sometimes loudly. It’s not a fight or argument, they’re just chatting about nothing in particular. Still, no matter the subject, each feels the necessity to participate verbally – sometimes simultaneously. I find it fascinating…
Why do they speak? Why do I speak? I wonder.
Sure, speech is one way we communicate ideas with others. Yet with verbal communication accounting for less than 15% of the total, I have to wonder why speak at all. What’s in it for me, the speaker?
In listening to the cousins’ conversation, no one seemed to be adding anything of conceptual significance or personally up-lifting, or even useful – so something else must be involved. I wondered if they speak perhaps to “join” – hoping for signs of acceptance from the others, thus bolstering their personal sense of importance. I’ve experienced that feeling and motivation.
Why does each member of the group feel a need to contribute? Why do I feel that I must share this post with you? How important is it to me that I contribute to US? And why do I feel that what I have to contribute is important enough to share verbally? Ego? Instinct?
It seemed to me that the more accepted and safe a member of the group I was observing felt, the more he/she would speak – and the more important they felt their input was to the overall conversation – judged by how loudly they’d contribute and how often they would interrupt someone else in the group. Each was comparing themselves to the others in a complex network involving multiple egos, group/pack dynamics, sexuality, and human imagination.
My Aha? Could it be that I never speak for the reasons I think? Could the CONTENT of my speech be completely discreet from WHY I speak it?
Why do you speak? WHY do you feel the need to get your ideas across – especially in a group? Why do you feel the need to have others “hear” you? What is your payoff for participating verbally?
I ask these questions of myself now. WHY?
Why may be more illusive than we might imagine. Perhaps the what we are saying actually helps camouflage the why we are saying it.