Every once in a while, I reminisce about my days in middle and high school. Whenever I do, I remember the completely transformative period between the two and how most of my personality today was formed at the transition period between them. It’s fascinating to think about because of two reasons. Firstly, I can’t quite pin down the specific changes to my personality that made me who I am today, and that’s probably due to our bias towards revisioning our history. (rose-tinted glasses, you know?) Secondly, it’s ridiculous that it would be the time I remember being the most transformative.
I mean, let’s be honest. I’m in my fourth year of college now, and I can safely say I am an entirely different person to who I was at the end of middle school. So, how come I don’t easily identify any other period of time when my personality has changed significantly? Inspiration struck me as to why this past week.
I learned to talk
I’ve always had trouble talking properly. There was a time, when I was young, that I would primarily communicate in grunts, cries, and other animal-like noises. My mother somehow understood my needs at the time, much to my father’s amazement, so I kept doing it; I really didn’t need to talk to anyone else. In kindergarten, though, grunting to ask for my turn with a toy really didn’t quite work so well, so I had to adapt and actually learn to speak. Turns out that took me a while, and I finally managed to talk a little better in the last year of kindergarten.
That being said, it was just enough to get by, so you can imagine I had a tough time making friends. I did get better over time, but I remember realizing what classic social skill paradigms are important specifically at just about the end of middle school. I learned how to be humorous, how to read body language and a few other things, and all of a sudden, my social circles grew, and I was so much happier for it. Not only that, but since then, I’ve been on a constant journey of finding ways to improve myself.
I finally learned how to talk at the end of middle school, perhaps began talking too much, and as my friends can attest, I haven’t stopped since. You might ask why I haven’t stopped. Well…
Talking is awesome!
Humans can’t use telepathy, so just about the only thing we have to replace it is talking. And excepting the cool fact that language is amazing, we have to realize that it’s insane how awesome it is to know to socialize. Every day we pass by so many people, each with their unique fractal of personality and experiences, all with lessons to learn, and without talking, we wouldn’t get to see any of it.
Talking opens doors for you. Without it, after all, no one would know what you’re capable of, and without it, you wouldn’t get that dream internship you always wanted. Talking can make people laugh, it can brighten their day, or perhaps even your own. Heck, I’m 90% sure everyone talks to themselves, and it helps you do stuff. I am not the only one saying that, there's even studies for it. Not to mention the classic solution to debugging in tech; talking to an inanimate object.
And yeah, everyone knows how to literally talk; it’s literally a requirement to live, since we are social creatures after all. Arguably, my grunting as a child was talking. But it wasn’t talking within the constructs of our society; I didn’t have the proper social skills. Once I improved them, things got better. At some point, I can now mold the talking of those around me by conforming first1. It’s great!
Talking is a fun puzzle
Everyone talks differently, and let’s face it, I’m not just talking about the language you speak. After all, we’re told plenty of times that non-verbal communication is vital, and that a lot of our communication is based on it2. And since it’s definitely different from spoken language, it’s fun to read!
Learning each person’s unique communication style is interesting. Everyone has intricacies in their nervous tics, meaning behind their arm gestures. Even the slightest change in glare can speak to their emotions. This is not only useful to learn, it’s fun to use for humorous effects! My roommate and I frequently throw “death stares” at each other as part of our every-day banter, and we love it. It’s entertaining!
And talking is not just a fun puzzle to solve. Solving social puzzles doesn’t have to be a hobby; learning to do it well is directly applicable in just about every field you will ever work in.
Talking solves just about everything
Careers are made or broken by your ability to communicate clearly. Lawyers communicate constantly under the form of debate (at least in the US adversarial court system). In mathematics, proof writing well is essential to transfer knowledge in the field. In tech, the ability to communicate technical implementation is a core interview metric for hiring, and the ability to write proper documentation is praised immensely. And yeah, the above examples also include writing, which is not the same as talking3, but knowing how to articulate yourself efficiently to others will just about directly translate to writing precisely. And as Albert Einstein said (or some other unknown smart person):
“If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.”
Communicating knowledge simultaneously helps you learn, just like rubber duck debugging. And talking is not just impactful at your job, it’s impactful everywhere!
Talking about your thoughts propagates them. Knowing how to do it properly changes minds, it shapes the world. Just look at the Civil Rights Movement or any famous speech, where the mere words of an individual inspired people to change their habits and to rise up for a higher cause. The pen is mightier than the sword indeed.
And talking doesn’t just have to solve issues of massive scope; talking helps solve issues in your personal life too. From personal experience, 80% of the relationship issues I notice on r/Relationships, or from my friends’ circles, could be solved by communicating your concerns and reaching a reasonable conclusion. It’s even more fun when talking makes new friendships. Introducing friends to others makes this an interesting trading card game of some sort, where we exchange friends with each other and in turn create a more profound bond in the process. Plus, everyone wins by gaining more connections and having even more opportunities to learn new things in the future. It’s a win-win!
Talking shapes you
If there’s one thing for you to take away from this post, it’s that by far the most high-impact skill you can improve to make your life better is your social skills. Learning how to make friends, communicate clearly, interpret body language and be fun to be around will almost always improve your life in just about every situation you could be in. Additionally, it’s hard to overstate just how much talking changes you as a person.
We are the average of the people we surround ourselves with, and this is precisely why I find it so hard to define when my personality has changed. Sure, I have changed as a person in recent times, but not because of a conscious decision to change something huge about myself. I’ve changed because I’ve met new people, made new friends, and learned a lesson from all of them. As such, the small changes compounded in an entirely different person over time.
We can change ourselves for the better, and we must not forget that others change us too, in both good ways and bad. But we can only do that if we socialize.
So, please, try talking more every once in a while! Share more about yourself and ask the same of others. Be interested in your peers, take their stories and learn from their success or mistakes. Brighten others’ lives and change the world. Who knows the places you’ll go and the people you meet if you just talked to a random person at a bus stop sometime.
The amount of times I’ve made my college friends randomly say “What the dog doin” due to my incessant repetition is rather high. I love peer pressure. ↩
Yeah, it’s not exactly decided what specific percentage of our communication NVC is (about 60-70%, according to general knowledge), but it has to be high; otherwise, why was the pandemic so jarring socially speaking? ↩
Arguably, it’s much harder, but more on that in another post. ↩