The Department of Redundancy Department

10 comments | January 15th, 2013

(by Mir)

I have something of a reputation when it comes to words. What, that I always know just what to say? That I’m prolific and insightful? Nope. It’s more like… there’s nothing that can be said in 15 words that I can’t turn into a 1,000-word block of text.

I’m loquacious. Verbose. Not prone to self-editing. Pick your adjective or descriptive phrase; basically, I like to Make With Many Words, and—as a person who also Has Many Feelings—I often have more than the strictly-necessary number of words to share on any given topic, because this is how I not only express myself, it’s often how I process things.

(Do not get me started on that whole thing about learning that different people process in different ways. When I’m processing, I’m talking or writing. When my husband is processing, stuff is happening inside his head where no one can see it. I think that’s weird, but apparently it’s normal. Whatever.)

In my younger days, there was no topic about which I didn’t natter on endlessly, if it held some sort of interest for me. So if, say, you liked pie and I liked pie, hooray, we could talk about pie together for hours! Yay! But if I liked pie and you didn’t, I might still talk about pie a lot, and that would maybe not be so great for you. Worse still, if there was that one time that you dropped a perfectly good pie on the floor, chances are I would bring that up, too, perhaps even multiple times. Point being: Words are good, sure, but they can be used in plenty of not-good ways.

Now that I’m, ahhh, a bit older (shush), time and experience have taught me that yes, Virginia, sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor. Not everything needs to be said. Not everything needs to be said repeatedly. Words do have power, and that power is best administered thoughtfully

So: does that mean I never utter a thoughtless word? Sadly, no; I’m still human, and still have my moments where I find my foot crammed into my mouth entirely by accident. But I’ve learned to, for the most part, be much more careful with my words. And it was absolutely a lesson I needed to learn.

The lesson I find myself grappling with these days, though, is one that almost (almost!) feels counterintuitive, after all these years of trying to shut myself up. The thing is, once I came to understand it, I realized that it doesn’t run counter to the notion of being careful what you say, not really.

Here it is: If it’s worth saying, it’s worth saying often. I’ve spent what feels like most of my lifetime, learning to not say everything that occurs to me. Heh. And now as life marches on and my kids are growing up and my perception of the world is changing—shifting, kind of bringing new things into focus, as it were—I’m realizing that my rules for speaking/writing need tweaking again. The stuff that’s important bears repeating.

Not important: Please pick up your towel off the floor.

Important: I love you.

Not important: Why don’t you ever remember that I don’t like mushrooms?

Important: I feel lucky that I get to hang out with you.

Not important: Is your homework done?

Important: It makes me really happy when I see you being so kind.

Get the idea? I think that when I started learning to curtail what came out of my mouth, I also somehow came to believe that repetition in any form was “bad.” It’s not that I don’t say nice things to my family or whatever, but that I’d come to believe that if my daughter rolled her eyes or my son said, “I know, Mom, geez” that probably I was saying it too much. And it’s been fairly liberating to discover that when it comes to the positive, life-affirming stuff, there is no “saying it too much.”

No one gets tired of hearing that they are loved. No one dislikes hearing about what they’ve done well. And when we reaffirm these things out loud, it’s a little gift both to the listener and the speaker. When I say these things I am reminded that I am lucky, and if the target of my affection rolls her eyes or shrugs his shoulders, well, too bad. Somewhere deep in those scrambled teenage brains, the steady message of “you are loved” is being received.

Don’t bite back the good and encouraging things you want to say, just because you feel like it’s “too much.” There’s no such thing! This is one way in which being redundant will truly make you (and those around you) feel more better.

Do you say what you want to or do you feel like you’ve pulled back from doing so? Will you try to say every nice thing that occurs to you for a week? I swear you’ll love being redundant!

(Get more Mir here.  Get More Mir here.)



  • Brigitte

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    We’re VERY redundant (over and over again, in fact) with our daughter. not so much with other people. Then again, I generally don’t talk to other people, I let them do it – therefore, you could do your pie-nattering incessantly with me. Because you’re so pretty!

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  • js

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    Ahhh! This. A thousand times this. They need a CLASS on this particular subject in school. We should all be taught this valuable life skill. When I was young and knew all abut the world, I foisted my opinions off on others like it was my job. Now, I am much wiser (older)and have learned the value of keeping my opinions to myself since my righteousness came back to bite me in the ass oh-so-many-times. I learned that you can’t understand other peoples relationships and you shouldn’t try as they won’t always understand yours either. I learned how much innocent words can hurt and how much your opinions tossed out so carelessly can shape someone else’s life choices. I have been in situations where I am so ready to EXPLODE with all the Words and the Feelings that I am simply mute and that is not good. I kept it all to myself for so long that I didn’t know how to simply say hey, I am MAD at you. Instead, it all boiled over and I was so angry all the time. The I Love You’s, thankfully, are easy. It’s easy to tell my baby that she’s brilliant and beautiful. It’s the “you hurt me’s” and “I am so angry’s” that I am still working on. As for saying every nice thing, I really like your writing. Now I have to go text my husband. And stay away from everyone else.

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  • patty

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    I just had a similar conversation with my Brownie Girl Scouts troop last night. I have been struggling how to reign in this wild pack of 7 and 8 year old girls whose home lives I know nothing of and who, ahem, are clearing being raised by wolves (or not).

    So we wrote a set of rules together… and I talked about how I didn’t want to ask them to sit, be quiet, be respectful over and over and over again. It was starting to be very un-fun for everyone, especially me. And we talked about how it’s actually productive and surprisingly fun to say nice things to each other.

    Here’s hoping it sticks… I am trying to mold awesome littles over here.

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  • Lucinda

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    When my husband and I were dating, I used to tell him I loved him all the time. At one point he asked me why I said it so much. It seemed to him saying it so often took away the power and meaning of the words. I probably looked at him like he was from a different planet as I explained that was just how we did things in my family. (Now there were some bad habits I had to unlearn from my family but this was one of the good ones.) Eventually he saw my point and now he repeats it freely to me and my children. He is also the master of the positive comment. (Did I mention he is all kinds of awesome?)

    I recently met a woman who freely tells my husband and I how much she appreciates us. It’s refreshing because I’m always the one doing that with other people and wondering if they think I’m weird. I’m not so good at the self-editing but fortunately, I’m also not afraid to tell people how important they are because we just don’t do that enough in our society. Great post!

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  • Jan

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    I’m a firm believer that with kids if you say it enough times, they learn to hear it in their heads even when you’re not around. (Positive messages and negative ones, though — double-edged sword, that.)

    From the time she was about 1, I read my daughter a particular book just before singing/lights out. At the end, we said, “who loves the Munchkin?” And then we enumerated them. The roll-call changed slightly over time (we’d add a cousin we’d seen recently, for example), but it was essentially a rote repetition of this long list of people that loved her. I’d like to think that helped make her feel loved, not just in the moment, but that she carried it throughout the days.

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  • Addy

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    The kind words, the re-affirmations, the encouragement are always worth repeating a thousand times over. The other crap – Meh just when I’m pissed off. Than I can say it over and over and over and over and over – you get it right?

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  • Tracy B

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    Oh NO! (Are you following me?) I have been taking coaching lessons on my Emotional Intelligences, Leadership Development and one of my biggest issues, EVER, my WHOLE life is learning to apply my filter. Apparently, I was born without one. So, whatever comes to mind, 9 out of 10 times comes out of mouth! One of the exercises I’m learning is to say the positive things more and leave off the negative. And slowly but surely it’s working! I swear I could have wrote this post myself. Thanks Mir for doing so instead. This post really HIT home today!!!!

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  • Erin

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    This is another great post, Mir. I certainly do this in my personal life (with my husband and parents, in particular), but I ALSO do my best to do it in my professional life as a professor. I tell my students all the time how smart I think they are, how much I appreciate their hard work, how grateful I am when they come to class prepared and engaged. Surprise, surprise (or not)!–it makes them want to work harder, to be better, and to get MORE engaged.

    I’ve also long had a personal policy that if I say something nice about someone behind their back, I make an effort to tell them to their face. “Hey–I know this is weird, but I was just telling someone that I think you’re a really incredible teacher, and I wanted you to know I thought that about you, too!” So often, we’ll say wonderful things ABOUT someone–but very rarely do we say those things TO someone. My policy has always been met with appreciation (even though it can seem awkward, since most folks do this so rarely)–and I’ve even been told I’ve inspired other people to adopt similar policies.

    Why are we not nicer to one another? More supportive? More appreciative? More affirming?!

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  • Anna

    Posted on January 15, 2013

    Oh, Mir. Have you seen the Soul Pancake episode with the big headphones? Two people get to tell each other sweet and wonderful things, and it makes my heart swell every.single.time. These things- I don’t hear many people say them frequently enough, if at all.
    Except, I think, the daughter with braces. She smiles when her dad tells her all of those things, and in a way you know that she hears it a lot and KNOWS she is loved.

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  • Brigitte

    Posted on January 17, 2013

    Of course, only semi-related and only relevant to trivia geeks like myself: I used to work in an industrial park where there was a huge sign that said “Nabisco Company.”
    “Nabisco” is short for “National Biscuit Company”, so the redundancy in that sign always bugged the crap out of me. And apparently still does!

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