Representing a third of what it means to communicate, talking can be a powerful means of self-expression full of nuances that can convey passion, articulate tone, and connect people. Unlike its siblings, writing and body language, talking utilizes an additional sense other than sight that helps to strengthen the social bonds around us: sound. More so, talking has yet to lead to heartbreak for me. Just kidding.
Hello! My name is Trung Ho, and I am sometimes legally obligated to say that I am a
National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member serving at Sulzbacher as a case manager.
At the ripe old age of twenty-four, I’ve read online, heard about, and experienced countless stories of miscommunication where it seems that everything could have been solved by connecting and talking things out.
“Why didn’t you tell me you dated my boss?”
“No, I really thought you liked the sink to always be overflowing with dirty dishes.”
“We’re sorry, the number you’re trying to reach has been disconnected.”
It sounds so simple, reaching out and talking, but it can be a serious point of contention for many. You can probably vividly imagine the TV shows and commercials where a couple is arguing about whether they should stop to ask for directions when they’ve clearly taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque. If you’re old enough to remember the first time you asked out your crush, you probably remember having second thoughts about going through with it, sweaty palms when you’re about to broach the question, and quite possibly the highest pulse ever recorded in the silence between your question and their answer. Gosh, I even felt that way last week when I had to ask someone at the grocery store if they had any ground pork left.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this barrier to talking and communication lately because of the stress and tension I’ve heard about from my fellow corps members. As part of the National Health Corps, members are required to participate in groups focused on specific aspects of the program, like running this blog or organizing monthly group service projects. Unlike Las Vegas, sometimes tension that occurs as part of group work carries over into personal lives and vice versa. I don’t know. I just don’t like it when my friends are stressed and don’t get along, but seem to be on the same page when they talk to me. I just wish they would talk it out with each other.
All this makes me think about a suicide prevention training I received when I worked as a Residential Peer Leader in college. The program was called Question, Persuade, Refer, or QPR. The takeaway message was that when something as precious as life is at stake, as it can be when someone potentially has suicidal ideations, it is important to talk explicitly about the elephant in the room rather than risking analysis paralysis with thinking of the most elegant or proper way of talking about something.
I didn’t come to truly appreciate that lesson until a client walked into my office some months ago facing such a crisis in their life. In the heat of the moment, all that came to mind was the two questions I recalled being from QPR training: “Do you plan to take your life, and if so, what is your plan?” Those fourteen words were what started a long talk over coffee where they told me their life’s story, what they had been experiencing lately, and that they trusted me enough to let me walk with them to someone at Sulzbacher who would be better able to help them.
Some say that some things are better left unsaid, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Talking is what made me my first and lifelong friend in college. Talking is what got me to find my passion for baking sourdough. Talking might even save a life. At the very least, I hope it’ll save a few friendships. When your thoughts have settled and you’ve taken a deep breath, I hope you do reach out and talk to that person you want to talk to today.