Talk Therapy: Talk with a purpose

Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal

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We talk to each other every day; all day. But how often do we talk with a purpose?

Conversation is the cornerstone of human relations. To get to know each other, we talk. To provide information on the job, in church, at a conference, we talk. To entertain each other and ourselves, we talk. We have conversations about light topics: the weather, gas prices; news events; or about heavy topics: the death of a loved one; complications during our grandchild’s birth; or a recent health diagnosis.

Inevitably talking will likely segue  into complaints about: the rude cab or bus driver; the nasty pad somebody left on top of the toilet seat in the women’s restroom; the next door neighbor who cleans his own yard by blowing all the trash into yours; a controlling boss with constricting ways.

Most times talking about those complaints is cleansing. We get out our frustrations and move on to, well let’s face it,  as life would have it, probably a brand new complaint.  And then we repeat: talk about it, then move on.

But there are times when we have a problem and talk therapy with just anyone doesn’t help us to move on. We spend our days re-hashing the same problem with whomever will stand still long enough to listen. We burn up the phone lines complaining about this particular person or particular situation – talking, talking, talking. Yet, even after all this talking, the problem is still there; we still feel stressed; and you know what’s worse? We’ve given all this power to someone or something to raise our blood pressure, interrupt or increase our appetites, raid our wallets to pay for analgesics to get rid of that damn headache. (Oh, and did I  mention its power to get us cussing?) What are we doing wrong?

We are not talking with a purpose.

Talking with a purpose means talking to solve the problem, improve the situation or clear up misunderstandings. It’s the same technique for which we would pay hundreds of dollars, just to lay on a couch in a therapist’s office and reveal our stress. Via a variety of talk-therapy techniques: Cognitive Therapy, Behavior Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy, the therapist’s couch makes talking with a purpose easy: talking freely about everything that’s bothering us and for the extra time and cost of a few office visits, getting a thorough stress-cleanse.

But, would we need to do that if we could just talk to the person with whom we have a problem; or work on fixing the situation that’s stressing us?

Now that being said, talking to someone with whom you have a problem is not always easy. A friend of mine referred to it as having “hard conversations” – hard because they spew truths like a volcano spews lava: scorching hot with a potential to cause widespread damage. The truth is hard. It digs for the core and cuts to the quick rendering it the least of all conversations that most people want to have. If you go looking for it you’ll find it – and depending on the person you are talking to,  a truthful conversation could land you right in the middle of a roiling tornado.  However if you never talk with a purpose, you end up living in a world of your own frustrations and stress – not necessarily the best recipe for peaceful living.

So, proceed with caution, hope for the best, prepare for the worst and when you need to, talk with a purpose.

4 thoughts on “Talk Therapy: Talk with a purpose

  1. Sounds like that was definitely a hard conversation for you Sandy.
    That’s what people fear the most – that if they actually say what’s on their minds, they will lose out. The way I see it, if you lose something or somebody just because you spoke what was on your mind, then you didn’t really have what you thought you had.
    I’ve gone through that more than a few times in my life ….. frustrating and hurt a lot. Took a while for me to learn to appreciate talking with a purpose. I’m like Timex – just kept on ticking through all the nonsense. Then I got tired of the nonsense. 🙂 And life started looking much better.

    Thanks for checking in Sandi – keep your chin up! 🙂


  2. You took the words out of my mouth Judy – Polite; ugh! I fussed at a friend of mine because I felt he was being too polite. How can you have a real relationship if you can’t say what’s actually on your mind?

    Thanks bunches for checking in …



  3. I very much appreciate this post. Just yesterday I was struggling for the words to express just what you have so clearly done here. It feels good to know someone else finds this avenue of communication important. I find that our society is becoming so “polite,” so fearful of passionate exchange, that we hold in our honest feelings rather than try and clear the air. More talk with a purpose, as you say, is “therapy.”


  4. Great post, Vicki! And so true. My hard conversation this morning had the unfortunate end result I feared, but even with that…I still feel better. I was true to me, to how I feel, and to what I need. I expressed my truth with honesty, civility and candor. While it meant the end of a cherished relationship, better that than letting the problems turn me bitter or resentful – which would have ended the relationship in a more painful way for us both.

    Talking with a purpose. I like that. In fact, that was the heart of my own hard conversation – the lack of less superficial talk. Talking with a purpose is what brings us closer to each other. Those conversations are the million little strings that connect us – and they are so very important in any relationship, beit friends, lovers or family.


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