Wait For Me To Finish – This Isn’t Mad Libs

Mad Libs

Sometimes I find myself in need of an uplifting, mindless distraction. Anyone else relate?

Whether it’s the end of a long day and I need a laugh or two, or I am required to perform mindless, soul-sucking tasks and want to notice the dullness less – I will turn to re-runs of the show, Modern Family.

Mindless Comfort:

“This show is a well-worn blankie of simple feel-good entertainment.”

I literally just turn it on. I don’t worry about what season or episode. I don’t even click the “start from the beginning” option. This show is a well-worn blankie of simple feel-good entertainment. Recently in one of these episodes, I overheard an exchange between one of the main characters, Phil, and a recurring minor character, Pepper.

The two characters were engaged in an uncomfortable, difficult exchange. I cannot remember the exact topic but it was somewhat emotional. Pepper was working on sharing his sensitive feelings with Phil. He was struggling to find the words – leaving open gaps of silence in the conversation. The Phil persona began to interject his own thoughts, filling in the blanks. It was clear this was frustrating and unproductive. Not to mention, the words Phil was choosing to ad lib into the discussion proved contextually wrong. He was not advancing the communication. The Phil personality did NOT really know what his counterpart wanted to actually reveal.

Mad Lib Interruptions:

“we think it shows active listening and participation and intimacy to “finish the other’s sentence.””

And, then in true comedic writing genius, the interrupted participant blurts out: “Wait for me to finish. This is NOT Mad Libs!” Remember those? Who didn’t love playing with those? 

Why is interrupting so harmful to a successful discussion? So many of us get excited and involved inside a conversation to the point where we can’t hold back. We can let ourselves believe that interrupting really is more like participating. But, is it? I know we can be worried we will forget what we were going to say? Or, we think it shows active listening and participation and intimacy to “finish the other’s sentence.” This can be particularly true in a romantic relationship.

But, do these potential benefits outweigh the downside to interruptions? When we constantly interject inside the confounds of a verbal exchange we can appear arrogant. Are we implying that what we want to say is more important than our counterpart? Do we not have enough self-discipline to control our impulses? What if we are like Phil and fill in the blanks all wrong? Literally, turning the conversation into something unintended.

Communication: Four Pillars For Getting It Right

The full cycle of a conversation or communication requires, at the most basic level, each of these components: listening and understanding, and being truly heard and understood.. Of course we can’t forget the importance of body language over words. Much has been written on the power of body language. Alber Mehrabian, a researcher of body language, was the first to break down the components of an in-person conversation. He was the first to claim that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only.

It may seem preposterous to believe that such little understanding comes from our words. And with more research we now understand that body language and facial expression play a huge role on HOW the words are interpreted. Not making the words any less valuable or important. 

Why am I going on about communication and the components required for some positive, productive, useful conversations? Well for one, nowhere – I mean nowhere did I read that over-talking or ‘filling in the blank” while engaging in a conversation enhances the experience. 

And, while there will always be space in my life for a good time with Mad Libs – I will do my level best to keep my arbitrary and absurd adverbs, adjectives, and nouns to myself in my day to day interactions.

P.S. If, like me, you now want to PLAY Mad Libs, you can pick up some really fun adult-ish ones here on Amazon (Mad Libs) – yes, Kuel Life will get a small commission. Thank you for your support. 

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6 thoughts on “Wait For Me To Finish – This Isn’t Mad Libs

  1. Nancy says:

    Great point, Jack! I talk about this all the time in my workshops and talks. Interrupting and over-talking are absolutely non-starters. Active listening is the way to go. At work, at home, everyone. Thanks for your valuable insights here.

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