The graphic illustration of zippered lips and the headline, “Zip it! The power of saying less,” on the cover of the Jan. 30, 2023, issue of Time magazine caught my attention. The article by Dan Lyons is about the challenge of being an overtalker, someone who talks too much in every context and setting. Lyons writes that while the gift of gab can help an overtalker advance professionally, there are significant downsides to the inability to stop talking, even when doing so will have negative consequences. There’s even a term for extreme overtalking—“talkaholism.”
A talkaholic himself, Lyons chronicles his search to discover why some people are compulsive talkers and his efforts to find a cure. He learns that in 2010 researchers discovered that talkativeness is linked to brain-wave imbalances, which explains why a talkaholic can’t just quit. Determined to be a better spouse, father and friend, Lyons learned from dozens of people, gathering strategies and advice to help him zip his lips.
Even though I’m not a talkaholic, I can learn from Lyons’ efforts to speak with intention. All of us can benefit from talking less and listening more. Lyons describes disciplining himself to slow down when talking, ask open-ended questions and be comfortable with silence. As he changed his communication habits, Lyons’ relationships improved.
A goal of the feature section in this issue is to encourage us to talk. To share our stories of coming to and growing in our faith whether we are tight-lipped or unzipped. In his essay, “Tell your story,” Dave Thiessen reminds us that sharing our testimony is a key way to pass the faith from one generation to another (pp 10-11). Sarah Morgan alerts us to the important role parents play, writing that “parents have the most influence and the greatest opportunity to help build authentic, lifelong faith in their kids” (pp 12-13).
I hope that these feature articles encourage us to be enthusiastic talkers when it comes to intentionally sharing our stories of coming to faith. Our testimonies can introduce others to Jesus and encourage fellow disciples in their walk of faith. Our stories should reflect our weaknesses and failures because none of us are perfect. Our lives are messy; we make mistakes. And God loves us despite our shortcomings
I also want us to remember to listen. Describing his new strategy for conversations with his children, Lyons writes, “Officially speaking we were ‘having a talk,’ but in truth I was having a listen.” He advocates being an active listener. “Pay fierce attention to the other person,” Lyons says.
When someone listens to our faith story, it opens the door for us to reciprocate by listening to them. Let’s be as deliberate in our listening as we are in our testifying.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and one grandson. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.