Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Vague Speech: What’s Up With That?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on December 11, 2012

“I talked to some people, about some things,”Whit, fifty-five, says to his wife after they gave a big holiday party. “Could you be more vague?” she responds with complete frustration, as Whit relates this interaction to me.  “Communication is so important to relationships, that vague communication can feel like a distancing move,” I say, sympathizing with Whit’s wife’s point. ” I just do not think in specific terms,” Whit explains to me. “I could tell you all about the food at the party, but I don’t remember people’s names, and I don’t always remember what we talk about.” Whit says, showing me that his brain works very differently than his wife’s brain, in that she remembers conversation and people, but not necessarily the specifics of the food or the wine. “Yes, but you need to be sensitive to your audience,” I say, reminding Whit that he should know his wife will get frustrated if he speaks in vague language. “Yes, my default position is to feel like a ghost, even at my own parties,” Whit explains to me. “So the vagueness mirrors your feeling that you are not a part of things.” I say, deepening my understanding of Whit’s struggles with fitting in. Suddenly I feel for Whit. I imagine what it is like to throw a party and not feel like a valued participant. I switch from empathizing with his wife, to feeling for Whit and his lifelong experience of being on the periphery. “Learning communication skills is valuable, but perhaps the bigger issue for you Whit, is to enhance your sense of confidence and value. Maybe this will improve your relationship with your wife.” I say, pointing out that confidence will not only help Whit individually, but it will help his relationship, and in turn, that will help Whit even further. “Language is the window to the soul.” I say, using a cliché, but at the same time, understanding how Whit’s vagueness spoke volumes about his emotional interior. Once again I am reminded of the importance of working both outside in, and inside out.


2 Responses to “Vague Speech: What’s Up With That?”

  1. Shelly said

    Interesting. Do you think that Whit wanted to communicate his conversations with others at the party with his wife, or to distance himself from her? Did he really forget what he talked about and to whom he talked? Even in the midst of things, surrounded by people, Whit felt lonely. He felt misunderstood and not accepted. How does one go about surrounding oneself with people who don’t make one feel alone? Seek better friends? Work on self-image, build up self-confidence? Why focus so much on language (as you did in this blog), when the key issue in this blog is about loneliness?

    • The key issue is not Whit’s loneliness, but that of his wife. Whit was not complaining, she was.

      I think the way to feel less alone, as you suggest, is to find people who give you the space to express yourself without judgment, but with understanding. Yes, a better self-image aids in this process of finding others who can give this to you.

      The issue of language in this blog was meant to say that a person’s language is a window into their soul. Whit’s vagueness was a clue to the shallowness of his emotional interior. With prodding, depth came out, but the process of pulling this out is very tiring. Thanks.

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