Recently, I attended a dinner party where the host regaled his guests with stories of his successes, stories that were entertaining and engaging, even impressive–at first. But, after about twenty minutes, I realized that every other word out of his mouth was “I” and the only words anyone else got to say was “oh, really? hmmm….”. Honestly? It was #teamtoomuch. Eventually, I drifted…found something more important to do–anything was more important than this!
Unfortunately, though, this is not a rare occurrence. I often have to retreat to a quiet corner to escape this rising epidemic. There seems to be an increasing number of people with an apparently insatiable need to talk–about themselves!
While their conversation may cover many topics, one way or another they find a way to turn everyone’s attention back to one person:
“I’m not bragging” she says just before launching into a long litany of her achievements.
“I’m an amazing writer,” he says, jumping head first into a detailed description of his process and procedure. (By the way, truly “amazing writers” never say this.)
“Some wonder how I project such a calm and cool demeanor when I stand up to speak,” she says sailing seamlessly into a sermon on style.
It’s unbelievable! Mind-numbing and pervasive– heavily promoted in our “selfie”-centered culture.
Certain people simply enjoy the sound of their own voice, whether or not they have something of substance to say, and they seem to think that their audience will enjoy the sound of their voice in spite of the dearth.
Why? A wise person I know has said that the excessive focus on self is actually a cry for help. Perhaps there is actually something lacking that the person is attempting to mask with his overly boisterous bragging. What could it be?
If you like to talk about yourself all the time, what is it that you lack and how can we–your audience–help you?
One of my favorite lines from my FAVORITE stage play, Hamilton, is from Aaron Burr (not my favorite character, but nonetheless) to the young Hamilton. He says, “Can I offer you some free advice? Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”
Of course, Burr is a scoundrel but, although his advice is off base, there is a nugget of truth buried there. Hamilton and Burr were two sides of the same coin. Both orphans, both ambitious, and both on an upward trajectory. The difference between them is what made all the difference in how their stories ended. A crucial lesson for Hamilton was knowing when to speak and when to keep silent. A crucial lesson for Burr was knowing when to speak up for his beliefs.
What distinguished Hamilton, though, was his ability to write! He did not necessarily talk less, as Burr advised, but he did write more and, unlike Burr, Hamilton spoke up for what he believed, writing his way from obscurity right into our history books!
So, the lesson is this: Burr was right about one thing, people who are truly noteworthy don’t have to tell their audience how great they are. Their success speaks for itself. What we know about Alexander Hamilton we’ve learned from his writings and what was written about him.
So, maybe you have something important to say. Maybe you aspire to be great and happen to enjoy the sound of your own voice–can I offer you some free advice? Talk less. Write more.
Before launching into a diatribe with an unwitting audience, put it down on paper. Work it out in a journal, start a blog! Writing is a powerful tool for processing thought, expressing ideas and creating knowledge.
You never know, something you write could end up in a history book. Maybe someday we’ll be watching a stage play about your life! It could happen. Just let someone else tell your story. Then, not only will your words have a lasting impact, they will probably be more interesting too!