Jenna’s Case of the Blurts
Jenna notices her watch, shakes an iced coffee in her left hand, and starts to fidget with the ballpoint pen she holds between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand. She is listening somewhat impatiently to her friend Kara talk about a guy she recently met. Kara is expressing how much she and Steve have in common, and how excited she is to see him tonight despite waiting twenty-five minutes (and counting) for him to respond to her last text about a meeting place and time.
Jenna looks down at her watch a second time, and realizes she only has 5 minutes to catch her train. Not wanting to miss it, she tries to find an out to this conversation that will do the least harm to their relationship. So she blurts out, “He’s not that into you. No guy waits twenty minutes to text a girl he likes! He’s probably one of those jerks who has a girlfriend anyway.”
Jenna covers her mouth in regret; hoping that perhaps this move will nullify the insensitive blurt directed at her friend. The color drains from Kara’s face, and a single tear trickles down her cheek, then a second, and a third. Instinctively, she covers the sides of her head with her hands, and looks down. Her words come out with labored in breaths and choppy diction: “You of all people should be supporting me, especially after what Jason did.”
Jenna grimaces as her stomach knots. She remembers. About 3 months ago, Kara got out of a relationship with a man named Jason. Jason waited nearly a year to ask for a unique relationship with Kara; a relationship that involved Kara accepting a role as secondary to Jason’s wife, a woman she hadn’t known existed. Kara was crushed by this news. On a whimsy, she had been house shopping with her mom a week before. It seemed prudent to her, as she was nearing 40 years old, and wanted a family.
In fact, when she called Jenna to explain the situation at the time, she was so upset that all she could get out was, “Jason killed our baby.” Of course, she meant that Jason nullified their chances of having a family due to his ongoing marriage and deceit, but her words, albeit symbolic, accurately expressed her sincere feelings of loss.
Understanding the Blurts and Their Effects
This story is important because it allows us to encounter a situation in which both people come by their experience honestly. So often, people who blurt things out are punished for the suspected intentionality of their actions. Ironically, most blurts are driven by caffeine, excitement, or lateness. Things to which we can all relate. They occur most frequently amongst friends, and it is the damage that they cause that leads us to moralize and condemn them not the actual intentions of the blurters.
People who blurt tend to be good people, who care so much about the person that they are speaking with that they actually stay longer in conversation than is feasible. Upon discovering how this investment is making them late for their next appointment, they try to hurriedly but thoroughly address the contents of their conversations in their entireties. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to be blunt.
The speed at which the conversation moves for the people involved will always be measured by the time necessary to make their next appointments. The less time you have to respond, the greater the chances are that you will oversimplify someone else’s experience, and your advice for them. Oversimplifications tend to minimize others’ experiences, and the speed at which they need to be doled out put us at great risk for empathic failure.
Put simply, connection is the word we use to signify the reciprocal acknowledging of another’s genuine experience. Good relationships are founded on empathic connections. Rushed conversations mostly provide too many obstacles for empathic connection to occur, and in their absence you get non-empathic connection, which frequently feels like judgment. At best, this feeling of judgment elicits defensiveness. At worst, it elicits shame.
People who are constantly in a rush, and do not have a model for empathic connection run the risk of blurting, oversimplifying, and judging all the time. Most of us have spent time in understanding our experience, which has given it layers and nuances. Having it simplified feels degrading, and makes us feel small and misunderstood.
Remediating the Blurts
Blurters come by their experience honestly. Most people genuinely want others to feel good, especially in their presence. Blurters feel the same way, but they are often absconded by the necessity to accomplish much in very little time. Their lack of time leads them to rush, and in the process, they simplify everything that they can to get the most done. It makes sense. If all areas in your life were complicated, you would never get anything done. Still, if blurters want to keep their relationships in tact, they need to allot the time necessary to being productive at work, and patient in their relationships.
If you know that you are guilty of blurting, do not fret. We all blurt from time to time, and you are to be commended on your intentions to do so much with your life.
Here is your Compassionate Blueprint for Blurt Management:
· First things first. Acknowledge the blurting, and sit with this feeling. Simply noticing the blurting and being ok with it will free up the space to choose another behavior without the distraction of self-criticism.
· Second, normalize the blurting. Now that you know some of the causes and how prevalent it is, remind yourself that many people blurt and that they come by this behavior naturally.
· Third, your blurting doe not define you. All joking aside, just because you blurt, and it’s easy to refer to people who blurt as blurters, you are not defined by this action. You are, in fact, a thoughtful person, who simply needs a better plan for taking care of your needs, and knowing what is required in conversation to find greater success in your relationships.
· Fourth, decrease your caffeine intake, and set aside substantial time for intimate conversations. If a quick conversation suddenly becomes a serious one, let your conversational partner know that you have heard them, and that it is important for you to take your time with this conversation. In light of your immediate responsibilities, suggest that you find a time to continue the conversation. It seems counterintuitive, but I promise you that they will appreciate it.
· Fifth, notice times during the day when you are more blurt prone, and see if there is a way to reduce this blurting. Make this a fun process, a blurt expedition if you will. Leave the self-criticism for somebody else. You are finding the blurts to increase your well-being not to apologize to others for being human.
· Sixth, simply noticing when you feel the need to blurt, and wanting to remedy this situation will eventually lead you to successful interventions. Trust the infinite wisdom of your mind, and its wish for your well being and the well being others. Give yourself credit for all of this hard work, and a truckload of kindness and compassion when the blurts sneak in without warning. We all blurt, and it’s still ok.
The journey to less blurting is a process. There will be rocks and sticks on your path. Stumbling is not only part of the journey; it’s a necessity! Notice the suffering that comes up when you falter, let it pass, and give yourself kindness. Critical voices don’t correct actions, loving ones do. Let your internal voice by a loving one. Make friends with your blurts, and let them know when it is ok to show up in conversation, and when it is best for them to simply be acknowledged in your mind. Sometimes blurting is great. It can cut the tension in the room. It’s great for comedy. Wishing you only good blurts and understanding for the frustrating ones.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 56. In the Books.