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Loose lips sink ships — learning when not to talk

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JANUARY 30, 2023

I am a woman of many, many words. I am one of those extroverts who will talk on and on, infinitely and endlessly, until the cows come home and I exhaust my fellow man. Talking is my preferred pastime, one of my foremost skills and one of my favorite bonding activities. Some people talk to communicate; I communicate to talk. 

I have always been generously endowed with the gift of the gab — my genetic nature and parental nurture were both predisposed to breed a chatterbox of neverending ideas and opinions. I am my mother’s mouthy child, raised by her to follow her loud footsteps and converse, debate and enunciate my way through life. From the age of 8, I was given a mic and taught how to capture a crowd, be it through acting, singing or persuasive speeches. Since speaking my first few utterances, rarely an hour goes by without my ruminations filling the air, audibly externalizing (and over-sharing) all I process and think.  

However, there comes a time when the pitter-patter, chitter-chatter must cease. When silence must sit, stay and saturate my mouth, fitfully eating the words screaming to escape my head. Much to my begrudging chagrin, that time seems to be now. 

Since I transferred to UC Berkeley, I have heard the repeated refrain of “move up, move down,” again and again. I know it’s aimed at people like me, the over-talkers of the world who could easily monopolize an 80-minute class with our excessive assertions. It’s a very reasonable request I can appreciate: to give the more taciturn individuals the stage so us loud-mouths do not steal the show. 

However, for me, quietude is a daunting feat, a seemingly impossible task that opposes every element of my very nature and that I struggle to execute. 

Conversation flows forth from my mouth like water from a stream, or more aptly an unstoppable torrent that can all too often bulldoze the tight-lipped. I possess no natural dam. Yet, I need to construct one, if not for the sake of my fellow classmates, then for my own sake; before the over-talkative, “loves the sound of her own voice” front-row stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.     

However, in my defense, it’s not that I adore the sound of my own voice or that I think my contributions are somehow smarter or wiser than my peers. Even I find my incessant, unfiltered prattle droning at times. I simply have a loud brain full of thoughts that demand to be heard, and often claw their way out of my mouth into the air before I even realize my interruption. My ADHD-riddled brain lacks a filter between what is thought and what is said — blurting out whatever enters my mind. All too often my thoughts and my words are one and the same. I have never been able to bite my tongue — by the time I stop to assess whether to speak or not to speak, the words are already set free.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the cursed silence that all too often fills my classrooms following a professor’s posed question: it’s a silence I simply cannot bear and feel compelled to break. 

However, change is due, and I am determined to pay up. While I have never been one for a renouncing, ‘new year, new me’ kind of annual resolution, I believe in perpetual, concerted endeavors of self-improvement. So, in this new season of my life, I am taking my own version of a vow of silence: a vow of verbal restraint. 

So far, it’s been a hard feat. I am struggling to grow accustomed to the taste of silence upon my tongue, or its aroma in the air — it tastes bitter, unnatural, agonizing even. Nonetheless, small victories have been won. Last week, for I believe the first time ever in my whole life, I made it through a class without saying anything. No comments, no questions, no responses, just listening. 

During my short bout of self-imposed silence, I have begun to notice small, incremental insights that are no doubt obvious to many but are novel to me. Not only have I not choked on my swallowed words, but, once withheld, my thoughts have been given additional time to ruminate, develop, and ameliorate. With my attention turned from formulating my own statements, I have been able to extract meaningful nuance from others’ comments. Left to bounce in my brain, fragments of others’ proclamations have remained on my mind longer than ever, and have even led to revelations I could never have hoped to formulate from my own limited perceptive.

I have yet to carry my newfound (limited) self-control to my personal life — I am still a prima donna of conversation, domineering with a heavy hand, a loose tongue and a commanding personality. I will always be a talker — it’s a tenant of my personality I can never expect to fully expel. However, I hope my developing verbal restraint will bleed into my everyday life, making me a better listener, more pensive orator and a better bearer of silence. 

Contact Elise Cline at 


JANUARY 30, 2023