By STEVE BREWER
Scripps Howard News Service
July 11, 2006
You might not even realize you're mumbling all alone at your desk. Still, some part of your brain is listening. You always seem to pick up the general drift and you find that you're a person who, by golly, thinks the same way you do. How can a conversation get any better than that?
As more of us work in pods remote from our colleagues and customers, each home office is filled with a Greek chorus of one, exhorting its own efforts and commenting on its every move and posing scintillating questions such as "Where have I put my keys?"
People who talk to themselves often are portrayed as being dotty. But a certain amount of self-chat actually aids daily sanity retention. Talking to ourselves helps us navigate and prioritize our days. We are the air traffic controllers of our lives, muttering unruffled instructions into our own ears. A sense of control, no matter how illusory, gives us confidence and the will to go on, and we're perfectly happy to talk about that, too.
Talking to ourselves helps us process incoming information. Some data needs to go through the ears to become clear. Hearing something said out loud, even if you said it yourself, can plant a reminder in your brain.
Talking to yourself helps you regain focus after interruptions. You can talk yourself back on track. This is why the No. 1 question asked aloud by solo workers is, "What the heck was I doing?" followed closely by "Why did I come in here?" Posing such questions can guide you through your workday and lead to self-realization, such as a realization you're spending way too much time in the laundry room.
People often disguise self-talking by pretending they're speaking to inanimate objects such as dogs. Phrases such as "Where did my coffee go?" and "You stupid toaster!" are symptomatic of this pretense. Modern life has increased the number of inanimate objects in our lives, and so this has become a common mode of talking to ourselves.
A computer, for example, is invaluable as a reason to exercise one's vocal cords. Beyond the expected frequent bursts of cursing, a computer gives the user a reason to sound off in positive ways:
"Are you sure you want to start a new game?" the computer asks, and I hit the button with conviction as I pronounce, "I'm absolutely certain!" That's a successful interpersonal transaction right there.
In my family, my great-grandfather was famous for talking back to the TV. He was very old at TV's debut, and TV caught hold of American culture just as Great-Grandpa loosened his hold on reality. He'd shake his bony fist at the TV and argue with the news. He seemed to truly believe Walter Cronkite could hear him. Also, he wouldn't change clothes in front of a TV.
(Arguing with news broadcasters remains popular to this day, in the form of talk radio. Great-Grandpa was ahead of his time.)
Other members of my family also have a history of talking to themselves like lunatics, and I'm doing my part to continue the tradition. I spend all day in running narration, talking my way through work and play, throwing in the occasional color commentary or playful aside.
No one's around to hear, but I'm an appreciative audience. Of that, I'm absolutely certain.
Contact him at ABQBrewer(at)aol.com
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.