Sources: Nerves And Common Sense
THERE is more nervous energy wasted, more nervous strain generated,
more real physical harm done by superfluous talking than any one
knows, or than any one could possibly believe who had not studied
it. I am not considering the harm done by what people say. We all
know the disastrous effects that follow a careless or malicious use
of the tongue. That is another question. I simply write of the
physical power used up and wasted by mere superfluous words, by
using one hundred words where ten will do--or one thousand words
where none at all were needed.
I once had been listening to a friend chatter, chatter, chatter to
no end for an hour or more, when the idea occurred to me to tell her
of an experiment I had tried by which my voice came more easily.
When I could get an opportunity to speak, I asked her if she had
ever tried taking a long breath and speaking as she let the breath
out. I had to insist a little to keep her mind on the suggestion at
all, but finally succeeded. She took a long breath and then stopped.
There was perhaps for half a minute a blessed silence, and then what
was my surprise to hear her remark: "I--I--can't think of anything
to say." "Try it again," I told her. She took another long breath,
and again gave up because she could not think of anything to say.
She did not like that little game very much, and thought she would
not make another effort, and in about three minutes she began the
chatter, and went on talking until some necessary interruption
This woman's talking was nothing more nor less than a nervous habit.
Her thought and her words were not practically connected at all. She
never said what she thought for she never thought. She never said
anything in answer to what was said to her, for she never listened.
Nervous talkers never do listen. That is one of their most striking
I knew of two well-known men--both great talkers--who were invited
to dine. Their host thought, as each man talked a great deal and--,
as he thought--talked very well, if they could meet their
interchange of ideas would be most delightful. Several days later he
met one of his guests in the street and asked how he liked the
friend whom he had met for the first time at his house.
"Very pleasant, very pleasant," the man said, "but he talks too
Not long after this the other guest accosted him unexpectedly in the
street "For Heaven's sake, don't ask me to dine with that Smith
again--why, I could not get a word in edgewise."
Now, if only for selfish reasons a man might realize that he needs
to absorb as well as give out, and so could make himself listen in
order to be sure that his neighbor did not get ahead of him. But a
conceited man, a self-centered man or a great talker will seldom or
That being the case, what can you expect of a woman who is a nervous
talker? The more tired such a woman is the more she talks; the more
ill she is the more she talks. As the habit of nervous talking grows
upon a woman it weakens her mind. Indeed, nervous talking is a
steadily weakening process.
Some women talk to forget. If they only knew it was slow mental
suicide and led to worse than death they would be quick to avoid
such false protection. If we have anything we want to forget we can
only forget it by facing it until we have solved the problem that it
places before us, and then working on, according to our best light:
We can never really cover a thing up in our minds by talking
constantly about something else.
Many women think they are going to persuade you of their point of
view by talking. A woman comes to you with her head full of an idea
and finds you do not agree with her. She will talk, talk, talk until
you are blind and sick and heartily wish you were deaf, in order to
prove to you that she is right and you are wrong.
She talks until you do not care whether you are right or wrong. You
only care for the blessed relief of silence, and when she has left
you, she has done all she could in that space of time to injure her
point of view. She has simply buried anything good that she might
have had to say in a cloud of dusty talk.
It is funny to hear such a woman say after a long interview, "Well,
at any rate, I gave him a good talking to. I guess he will go home
and think about it."
Think about it, madam? He will go home with an impression of rattle
and chatter and push that will make him dread the sight of your
face; and still more dread the sound of your voice, lest he be
subjected to further interviews. Women sit at work together. One
woman talks, talks, talks until her companions are so worn with the
constant chatter that they have neither head nor nerve enough to do
their work well. If they know how to let the chatter go on and turn
their attention away from it, so that it makes no impression, they
are fortunate indeed, and the practice is most useful to them. But
that does not relieve the strain of the nervous talker herself; she
is wearing herself out from day to day, and ruining her mind as well
as hurting the nerves and dispositions of those about her who do not
know how to protect themselves from her nervous talk.
Nervous talking is a disease.
Now the question is how to cure it. It can be cured, but the first
necessity is for a woman to know she has the disease. For, unlike
other diseases, the cure does not need a physician, but must be made
by the patient herself.
First, she must know that she has the disease. Fifty nervous talkers
might read this article, and not one of them recognize that it is
aimed straight at her.
The only remedy for that is for every woman who reads to believe
that she is a nervous talker until she has watched herself for a
month or more--without prejudice--and has discovered for a certainty
that she is not.
Then she is safe.
But what if she discover to her surprise and chagrin that she is a
nervous talker? What is the remedy for that? The first thing to do
is to own up the truth to herself without equivocation. To make no
excuses or explanations but simply to acknowledge the fact.
Then let her aim straight at the remedy--silence--steady, severe,
relaxed silence. Work from day to day and promise herself that for
that day she will say nothing but what is absolutely necessary. She
should not repress the words that want to come, but when she takes
breath to speak she must not allow the sentence to come out of her
mouth, but must instead relax all over, as far as it is possible,
and take a good, long, quiet breath. The next time she wants to
speak, even if she forgets so far as to get half the sentence out of
her mouth, stop it, relax, and take a long breath.
The mental concentration necessary to cure one's self of nervous
talking will gather together a mind that was gradually becoming
dissipated with the nervous talking habit, and so the life and
strength of the mind can be saved.
And, after that habit has been cured, the habit of quiet thinking
will begin, and what is said will be worth while.