How can someone say that they are speechless

Speechless in the communication society?

Many people do not use the potential that lies in personal conversation. And often realize the consequences too late.

I am quite a communicative person. Sometimes too communicative, says (not only) my wife. Okay, there seems to be a good standard that I don't always get right. But you can also fall off the horse on the other side. Lately I have been getting the impression that many people are unnecessarily restricting their lives by being speechless and cutting themselves off from many good opportunities. Maybe more men than women, but certainly women too.
The word “speechless” is of course not entirely appropriate at this point; But I would like to use it to provoke, to stir up.
Could it be that a culture of “speechlessness” has developed around us? A culture of keeping still as the method with which one is the least offensive, supposedly the least likely to experience difficult things? Of course, a person can make a conscious decision and then just bear the consequences. But I suspect that too many have unconsciously grown (shrunk?) Into such an attitude. And still suffer the same consequences.
I don't care how many words someone says a day. Even someone who expresses an opinion on anything and everything can be “speechless”. I mean conversations that take us further.
Of course we need small talk, we need discussions about big politics and about the new car. We need conversations about outward appearances and about people whom we (would) prefer to avoid. But we also need conversations about inner life, about how we deal with one another, about longings and long-term reality.
Many will say: This is actually not a problem for me. If I ever want to talk to someone about something like that, then I'll find someone and do it. That's good! That’s not all I’m getting at, but it’s definitely “half the battle”. There are enough people, including many men, who think: It would be nice.
But I would like to go a little further, at least for the “advanced”. It is certainly good if I find someone in a corresponding situation who listens to me and maybe doesn't say so much about it. Even if we pray together for a cause that I have. What I also mean are situations in which I may not see any need for discussion myself. Or where I have specific questions or prayer requests, but the heart of the matter may be elsewhere.

Before I pass on a few general and also more specific thoughts, here's an example:
Steffen is in her early 30s and would like to get married. He has not only had this wish for a few years. Actually, uninterruptedly since his youth, i.e. for over 15 years, he has longed for a girlfriend. He has also had two relatively short friendships, the last one when he was 19. He has developed very positively since then. He is always interested in women he gets to know, but if a woman seemed to be interested in him, it was lost after days or weeks at the latest. He tells himself that he just hasn't found the right one and continues to pray that God will solve this big problem in his life. The men with whom Steffen occasionally does something could name many points that should actually make him attractive to women, but not a single disadvantage.
On a Sunday afternoon, Steffen takes a walk with Peter, a married man ten years his senior, with whom he has had little to do with. In the course of the conversation, when that fits well, Peter tells us something about his life and also about his single time. This in turn encourages Steffen to tell Peter a little about his hitherto unsuccessful wish for a girlfriend. In the further discussion about various topics, Steffen trusts Peter more, and Peter asks him a few specific questions about his dealings with women and his single existence. In the conversation about it, one or two points emerge that may actually light up the “caution lamp” in women. In the course of the next few months, Steffen and Peter talk about the subject area two or three times, and Steffen sees some connections more clearly. He reconsiders attitudes towards women that affect his behavior. He also sees his life as a single in a new light.
One year after the first walk with Peter, Steffen is still single. But a happier one.

In this example, I am not concerned with the subject of involuntary single existence, but with the difference that being willing to talk openly can make. I would like to summarize it in a key sentence: For every situation I find myself in there is an additional potential of information, possible paths and support that I can only develop if I talk about it with others. And to top it off: Sometimes the sticking points are in places that I would not have brought into the conversation on my own initiative.

1. Speechless because I'm self-employed?

Most of us have been driven to self-employment through school, training and internet use, which is actually very good. When it comes to services, the motto today is: help yourself, inform yourself, otherwise it will be expensive. My own way of dealing with the situations I find myself in fits this line well. I talk to my wife a lot, but before I confide in someone else, I tend to exhaust all possibilities to find a way myself, even if it may not be the best.
A lack of time, regardless of whether it is felt objectively or only subjectively, can prevent conversations from reaching a fruitful depth or from taking place at all. In this way one experiences situations in a forced independence. I know the feeling of constantly having to be effective from my own experience and don't want to go back to it. A transitional period, in which it certainly makes sense to bundle all forces on one goal, is imperceptibly turning into a permanent state of emergency, as it was for me almost continuously for over ten years. Now, after this phase is over, I want to maintain the state that I have time for people, and not just for the most urgent and important things. And that I also have time to communicate with others. Then conversations can arise that bring us further.
Probably every person has a "never-again-automatic", which sets all inner levers in motion in case of extremely negative experiences so that one never experiences something like that again. Unfortunately, mostly with a number of additional effects, which are often destructive. If a person has experienced at some point in their life how a personal concern was handled badly, then the never-again-automatic mechanism may prevent them from ever confiding in someone again. Self-employment as the supposedly only safe way. It is not easy to retrain such a behavior pattern. However, by gradually “probing”, starting from normal interaction with one another, you can be relatively sure that a person is handling a personal topic well.
Your own parents may also have contributed to the fact that you stiffened on wanting to sort everything out on your own. If, as a young person, you are overwhelmed with warnings and tips without being asked, the healthiest reaction to start with is to first internally block everything that comes from outside. After all, you want to gather your own experiences and master life independently. However, as an adult, it is possible to respect your parents by listening to their suggestions and warnings, putting information somewhere on the edge and then making your decisions based on all the information. It is also possible to seek advice from others, but still ultimately decide for yourself which path to choose.
There may be Christians who think: If God wants to make something clear to me, he can do it without me telling other people anything about my situation - by living with God I am independent. If you are really sure that God will always make everything necessary clear to you - great! What I am writing in this section is aimed at everyone else who - like myself - have so far experienced that God works on us in many ways and that he often does so through people.
Overall, of course, it is good when people are as independent as possible. Nobody wants to be asked for advice and help all the time about every little thing. But even the most independent person should not completely miss the potential that lies in talking to others. He continues to make the decisions himself, but hopefully on a broader, firmer basis.

2. Speechless with the next of kin?

I would like to refer to the people I live with as the very closest people, be it as a married couple, as a family or as a shared apartment. Also, my first-degree relatives (parents, children), even if I no longer live with them under the same roof.
When I was 23, I lived in a mixed flat-sharing community. One day my roommates came up to me about a topic I was uncomfortable with. It became one of the most positive experiences in my life, and I am still grateful to them for it today. I am sure that my life would have taken a different, less favorable course in many places if they had not done that back then. What was it about?
As a young man, I had believed for years that I was "tough on myself and on others" and that it was a good way of life. My roommates opened my eyes to the fact that this almost exclusively concerned points in which it was easy for me to adhere to a standard that I had set myself, while making life difficult for others. My own weaknesses - in other areas - were easy to explain to me, but I kept bringing up the weaknesses of others.
It took some courage to address such a self-righteous person like me directly about it, especially since I hardly ran out of arguments on any topic. But my roommates managed to “shake me up” so that I came to my senses.
When criticizing the next of kin, you can often estimate beforehand what the reaction will be, especially if you have known each other for a long time. That's why you usually leave it right from the start. But this takes away the chance for change for yourself and the other.
However, there is also constant criticism, nagging. You have to ask yourself whether the inner attitude behind it is not a fundamental and perhaps also a special dissatisfaction. The complainer unconsciously signals: If I'm not feeling well, I would at least like to make sure that others around me are not doing well either. It is obvious that nagging is not a way out of speechlessness and rather prevents fruitful conversations.
In addition to the constant complainers, there is also the outbreak critic. He mostly tries to create a positive atmosphere without nagging. But sometimes, rarely, possibly when he is dissatisfied with something (other), all the pent-up criticism breaks out of him. So intensely and so long until - like a thunderstorm - it is "discharged" again, at the expense of the insulted. He is usually overwhelmed by "disposing" of everything unjustified and exaggerated from the whole heap of criticism and filtering out the one or two points of actually appropriate criticism, especially if there was little love to be felt during the outbreak.
We are just human and in our own interest we shouldn't eat aggression. But constructive communication also means that, after a phase of nagging or an outbreak of criticism, we reflect and ask the others for forgiveness for the wrong type of communication in as relaxed an atmosphere as possible. Once that has been resolved, one could ask whether he would have the inner openness to speak constructively about a (!!) topic that is still up in the air. However, this question must not come across as rhetorical, i.e. the other person should actually have the opportunity to say that he does not have this openness (at the moment), but that he might want to talk about it again on another day. In a relatively relaxed situation where mutual benevolence or love prevails, a topic can be addressed in a way that enables understanding and, if necessary, change.
Especially after my experience in the shared apartment described above, it was always important to me that I signal to others that I would like to be open to criticism. And my personal goal was even that this should apply regardless of the tone in which and under which conditions (e.g. in a larger circle) the criticism was raised. But I have to admit that my willingness to argue against it and to shut myself off from criticism usually increased to the extent that there was a lack of relaxed atmosphere or confidentiality. Even with good experiences with criticism, there are probably good and not so good framework conditions for it.
But it's not just about criticism. With our very close ones, especially (but not only) with our children, we should of course send positive, encouraging signals. In problem areas, encouragement should start as early as possible, with recognizable efforts and not only with actual results. We should signal willingness to talk, let trust grow, offer and maintain confidentiality and, overall, create an atmosphere in which one can talk to one another. About superficial things, but occasionally also about deeper things. You don't need too much imagination to imagine that this will change ways in life. With everyone involved.

3. Speechless in marriage?

Everything that was said in the previous section naturally also includes the spouse. Because of the enormous potential of marriage, for both the positive and the negative, I would like to pass on a few additional thoughts on this.
The following communication killers are not only found in marriage, but in marriage it is most worthwhile to consciously defuse them:
  • One partner is (supposedly) stronger in arguments and tends to discuss away any statement that is not acceptable to him. That was the case with me in the first few years of our marriage. At that time we made the general agreement that my wife could simply say: “No matter what you want to say against it, I will stick with it.” We were then usually able to find a sensible solution despite the abbreviated discussion. And, to be honest, over time I have come to appreciate my wife's opinion, even if she has not always been able to put forward any number of arguments in favor of it. It must have been well over ten years ago that she had to refer to our previous agreement for the last time.
  • One partner tends to defend his point of view so massively that the other knows (from experience) that now only immediate and unconditional consent will save him from disaster. A general agreement would also be conceivable for such cases, e.g. the rescue formula: "Let us first assume that we will decide this in your favor. But first I would like to understand the reasons for this even better. ”With this I would also hope that such cases will become rarer over time, because one partner notices that he cannot shorten the conversation with a massive appearance.
  • One partner is apparently open to criticism; But if the other person actually expresses something that makes his behavior appear in a less than ideal light, you suddenly find yourself in a discussion about what the other is doing wrong, or how impossible everyday life is under these conditions, or what he is doing does for the other partner, and anything else that would have to change fundamentally. Much can be justified, i.e. in the simplest way you can find out what is actually suboptimal in your own marriage. But joking aside, that sounds pretty bad at first, but it can simply be the (unconscious) attitude behind it: If you don't criticize me, then I won't criticize you either. In the best case, paired with a high willingness to understand if the partner's behavior is actually worthy of criticism. Nevertheless, you should just start a basic conversation in a relaxed atmosphere about how the partners (want to) deal with mutual criticism. The conversation should have the best start if the assumption is made at the very beginning that there is a lot of understanding for one another and little inclination to criticize.A general agreement could then be such that each partner has the right to say: “Please let us first talk about the point that I originally mentioned. And then you could calmly mention topics that we should also talk about, if you want. ”With this I would combine the hope that the criticized partner can classify the criticism positively and then hardly has a need, many to discuss other points.
Anyone who thinks that such things shouldn't necessarily be addressed in principle is accepting that the wall of speechlessness will gradually grow little by little.
I would also like to encourage that you do not allow a single blockage issue (initially) to drive you into a more and more comprehensive speechlessness. Whether after a difficult conversation with a partner the “never again automatic” has started, or whether someone agrees, nothing sensible can come of certain topics from a conversation with this partner: Don't just let silence gain the upper hand. Instead, try to find a solution, possibly in conversation with others, that will get you out of your speechlessness.
The result of a conversation does not always have to be agreement. It can also be that one now knows the different points of view and can understand them to some extent, but neither wants to switch to the point of view of the other and no compromise seems possible either. Nevertheless, you can almost always find a way how life can go on without this issue repeatedly causing problems. If both agree (or can become) that it would be better to exclude a certain, not too central topic for the time being, why not? Then the conversation is possible again in other areas.
There may be a marital state in which it seems like one can live quite well with speechlessness. Especially when you know people who seem to have been able to live quite well with speechlessness in their marriage for a long time. I ask provocatively: Do you even know how satisfied your partner is with your marriage? If you ask him whether he is satisfied, he will always say yes (to some extent, goes like this, ...), because otherwise your speechlessness would end in a "terrible" way. So when will you find out about his dissatisfaction? When he can't take it anymore. The chances of finding a new basis for your marriage (in arduous conversations!) Should be rather slim if you have practiced speechlessness for so long.
Suggestion: You arrange to meet an experienced couple or a marriage counselor for an interview. You prepare for this by each writing down the subject areas on a piece of paper that they would prefer not to talk about at all or only under certain conditions. In a conversation with three or four people you can then work out and agree on “special regulations” for the difficult topics (if in doubt, continue with “speechlessness”). This clears the way for you to be able to talk to two people about topics that directly or indirectly affect the relationship.

4. Inner steps against speechlessness

Anyone who notices that they deal with many situations on their own should develop a greater willingness to involve others and, if necessary, to pray with others for personal concerns.
Another step is to be more open towards people whom you trust (gradually more). When others get more of you, you can benefit from their experiences and thoughts. They can support you in good ways and alert you when you are about to go down a path that is not so good.
There are typical situations in which it always makes sense to talk to others about it, even if you don't see any need for discussion yourself. Examples:
  • As a young person: topics that you do not want to talk about with your parents or feel that you have not understood them.
  • As a teenager: Longing for the opposite sex.
  • Moving out of the parental home.
  • Beginning of a friendship.
  • Further rapprochement in the course of a friendship.
  • Steps towards engagement and wedding.
  • Start of a marriage.
  • Unfulfilled desire for partnership / marriage.
  • Pregnancy, the birth of a child, the breakdown of the usual schedule.
  • Childlessness.
  • The children are not developing as one would hope.
  • Disagreement with the partner on essential points (e.g. timing, parenting style, dealing with money, sex).
  • Dissatisfaction with everyday life, desire for more or less work.
  • Problems with professional tasks or with colleagues / superiors.
  • Upcoming decision for or against a further career step or other professional change.
  • (Imminent) separation from partner.
  • Disease impairment.
  • Loss of a close relative.
In a partnership, this does not mean blaspheming about the partner. It can be useful as a couple to discuss certain topics with another couple. Everyone will also have one-to-one interlocutors, and the partner should be informed that they are also being talked to about situations in the marriage. It should be absolutely clear that what is said remains confidential.
I would like to divide the possible interlocutors into three groups:
  • Friends who are usually about the same age and are in roughly comparable situations.
  • People who have more experience in the relevant subject area than you do yourself.
  • Professionals (e.g. pastors, psychologists, psychotherapists).
The boundaries between the groups are often fluid. E.g. friends of the same age who have been married for a long time and have children. Or experienced pastors who do not earn their money with pastoral discussions.
It is advisable not only to talk to people in the first group, even if that is of course the most obvious. And I don't just mean conversations that have been deliberately agreed upon beforehand. But also encounters in everyday life or on the fringes of events, where you can glimpse something of what is currently on your mind.

As strange as it sounds, I am writing this text to myself. As I said, in some areas I have not really had the motivation to open up to others. Especially since I am actually completely happy at the moment, also and especially in our marriage. But that wasn't the criterion, was it?

October 2004 Walter Schittek

Back to the homepage