In the span of a day I bet my Grandfather spoke less than 500 words. My Grandmother on the other hand probably spoke 10,000 words an hour. I always liked being around my Grandfather much more.
The man has been gone for 20 years but I remember the hours I spent with him mowing pastures, walking back to house for lunch, walking back to the tractor, then walking back to the house in the evening with very few words spoken. What he did say was brief and efficient. He could make a point with ten words that would take most people fifty. He didn’t have to set “the stage” as my wife likes to do before she tells me something, Pa Pa would say “going to rain” and with those three words I knew we were packing it up and headed for the house.
If you didn’t know him you might infer from his brevity a lack of intelligence, possibly an aloofness, or maybe a lack of attention or concern, all untrue. He was one of the smartest, attentive and compassionate human beings I have ever encountered, he just didn’t need words to prove or validate it.
My wife and I have very different ways of communicating. Like my Pa Pa I like efficient, why use twenty words when ten will do. I have other communication challenges that some find discerning primarily, I speak very slow and deliberately. People want to finish my thoughts and sentences for me which I find very frustrating. I do this because sometimes I start a sentence in my head and finish it out loud so what I may verbalize is only 3/4 of a thought. Never the less here is a typical conversation my wife and I might have;
Wife: “Who were you talking to on the phone”
Me: “Your daughter”
Wife: “Which one?”
Me: “Number one”
Wife: “Is everything okay?”
Wife: “What did she want?”
Wife: “Well you were on the phone with her for a long time she must have told you something”
Me: “She might come home this weekend”
Wife: “Saturday or Sunday”
Me: “I don’t know I didn’t ask”
Now, here is the secret about this conversation that my wife knows but won’t admit, the reason daughter number one calls Dad rather than Mom is because she knows Dad won’t rake her over the coals for information. Yes, she might come home this weekend, but I won’t try to pin her down on a day, Mom wants to know the exact day and time to expect her. This is also the reason daughter number two calls Mom rather than Dad, number two wants to share the entire story, from beginning to end, and maybe even describe the weather in the story as well. Dad just wants to hear a little (a very little) about the middle and then the end.
The older I get I find that there are more times I like to hear less and less words. There are some people you simply like the sound of their own voice and hate the sound of silence. I try my best to avoid them at all cost but some are simply unavoidable. People that ride a bicycle with me know that I am not going to chat much during the ride. For me it is a time of space, of focus and meditation whether it is a short two hour ride or a longer four or five hour ride. Words aren’t necessary on a quiet country road. Whatever needs to be articulated needs no explanation or clarification, the scenery that surrounds you, the experience are words enough, at least for me.
“To speak and to speak well, are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.” – Ben Jonson