Friday, March 1, 2024

Andy Young: The Best Conversation Partner

By Andy Young

There’s a simple act, one that’s existed for millenia, that I never would have engaged in when I was young, and I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to get caught doing it openly. In fact, I was still reluctant to try it 20 years ago.

But now I do it all the time, and sometimes publicly. Yeah, I talk aloud to myself. Why shouldn’t I?

When I was growing up people who audibly conversed with themselves were to be avoided at all costs. They were seen as quirky misfits at best, but more commonly as potentially dangerous crackpots, which was why most sensible people gave such individuals a wide berth when they encountered them.

My impression of those who chatted with (or shouted at) invisible partners may have been a bit skewed, since the only times I ever saw them were in sketchy sections of big cities. Their overall aura was borderline frightening, since their vaguely crazed appearance was, if one got close enough, often augmented by an intensely unpleasant aroma that combined the odors of alcohol, unwashed clothing, regurgitated stomach lining, rural gas station men's room, and old-fashioned B.O.

America’s 20th-century attitude regarding those who talked to themselves was typified by the Smothers Brothers’ memorable rendition of “I Talk to the Trees,” a bit of history that everyone should experience. And because of another relatively recent technological innovation (YouTube), they can, at

But thanks to rapidly advancing technology, these days it’s hard walking anywhere without encountering someone with a small bit of plastic in their ear conversing with an invisible partner or two. And the irritation of my having brainstorms occur at random times, but subsequently being unable to recall them was becoming exceedingly frustrating.

Even Thomas Edison, Marie Curie or Albert Einstein couldn’t have implemented theories they couldn’t recollect. Like healthy young plants that succumb due to flood, drought, or disease, some potentially fruitful ideas of mine were failing to germinate due to my inability to summon them.

But then I had an epiphany. I’ve always been a good listener, so wouldn’t it follow that I’d be more likely to remember my own thoughts if I verbalized them? Why should I merely think to myself when I can talk to myself? True, satisfying conversation is difficult when other people aren’t around, since houseplants rarely respond verbally, nor do any of my children’s stuffed animals or the spoon I eat my cereal with every morning at breakfast.

But the unattractive stereotype of audible mutterers as unkempt, unbalanced ticking time bombs is outdated, even though some people still worry about being stigmatized if they talk to themselves. They shouldn’t. When it comes to having one-person conversations, a new day has dawned. Reluctant self-talkers can start slowly by practicing when they’re alone in the car or at home.

Chatting casually in front of a mirror behind a closed door is, for novices, the equivalent of a child first learning to ride a two-wheeler by employing a tiny bike with training wheels.

So now I talk to myself regularly, and I’ve solved more than a few problems by doing so. Pep talks, oral notes to myself, and even occasional scoldings can be impactful in many positive ways. I’ve also found talking honestly with myself is significantly more economical than other, more traditional forms of therapy.

I better not forget to buy bananas and mail those letters later today.

Oh, did I forget to mention I sometimes write to myself as well?

But the best part of talking to myself is when I do it, I know for sure someone will listen to me! <

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