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Ask Jono: Brain-To-Mouth Disconnect

Ask Jono: Brain-To-Mouth Disconnect

Jono, my boyfriend is generally pretty great. But a few problems have come up over the course of our relationship, and I have trouble talking to him about them. I generally am not shy about sharing my feelings, and I know he wants to hear what I have to say. I've tried using "I" statements and planning ahead what I want to say, but when he's right in front of me, my brain just goes "MEEERRRRRRP" and what comes out of my mouth is more like "When you... uhh... text at the wrong... uh, no that's not what I mean... I just feel... yeah." How do I talk to him about these issues coherently?? None of these problems are enormous life-changing things, but I get so worked up and nervous that I literally cannot form coherent sentences. Help me?

Oh, wow. At first, I almost suspected this was just my boss, Pendleton Q. SparkNotes, serving me up an easy softball question, because you are exactly describing something that used to happen to me. Back when I was like you (high school student, afflicted with Terminal Gibberish Brain), I tried to take a quiet moment during prom to talk to the girl I'd gone with. I meant to say something profound and meaningful, and what came out was "Hey mrnhrfm mnn m." I literally could not say mouth words. My brain hung up a "GONE FISHIN'" sign inside my head, and I muttered like a Charlie Brown adult while assuming (because I was a in high school) that this surely did not happen to anyone else and I was clearly insane.

My point is that this is a thing that does happen, and you are not alone in it. Some of us just have brains that just go "Eep!" and hide behind the bushes at the slightest sign of adversity. And maybe it shouldn't be adversity to talk to your boyfriend, but those of us with stupid brains have to work with what we've got, and fixating on the fact that this shouldn't be a problem only enhances the problem. You can try staring coldly into the mirror and saying "BRAIN: NO. BAD," but trust me, it doesn't work. If anything, the opposite of that is what works. Here are some suggestions.

Being comfortable.
I'm leading with this one because it's the big one, even though it's not something you can just do. The more you're around someone, the better you get at conversing easily with that person. I guarantee this will come in time (assuming your boyfriend doesn't just ring the doorbell of the loony bin and leave you on the front step after the tenth time you go "Hey, what is... you... text."). Unless there's some additional reason that you feel nervous about him rejecting you or whatever, you will calm down around him eventually. After all, when your mom asks you if you want pancakes, you don't freeze up and go "Bluhhh, um, are, is they... free-range pancakes??" You just answer, because familiarity makes it easy.

Leading up to your question.
Okay, so certain topics make you mumble like a goon, but presumably not everything does. If this is the case, get an easy banter going before you try to broach one of the sensitive topics. The idea here is to lull yourself into normalcy by talking about stuff you can say before trying to talk about the stuff you can't. Try to avoid extremely sudden non-sequiturs ("Hooray, I love baby ducks, WHERE IS OUR RELATIONSHIP GOING.")

Laughing about something.
Trying to imagine something hilarious is the advice they give to people who always look vaguely confused in pictures (this also applies to me). But it works in your situation, too, because your brain is going "OH NO OH JEEZ" and needs an emotion more powerful than nervousness to make it shut up. I guess you could hit yourself with a brick or imagine homeless puppies, but I think laughter is your safest option. After all, genuine laughter is literally a brain drug that helps you and the person you're laughing with feel more emotionally and socially connected. It improves your mood, brightens up your appearance, and makes you briefly stop worrying that your boyfriend will bellow like the Incredible Hulk and hurl a table through a window if you ask him about texting.

Practicing just one sentence.
I know you said you already think about what you want to say, but this is a little different. I use this tactic on over-the-phone job interviews, because I know that if someone asks me to describe my work experience, there's a good chance I will forget what I wanted to say, and what my job even is, and who I am. I'll wind up going "The thing about... uhhhhh," and waiting patiently for the person to sigh and hang up. I find that if I practice just the first line of what I want to say, it gives me a second to think about the rest of it. I'm not perfect, but I sound like less of a goon.

I'm not sure if any of that is going to work for you, because we are all vaguely crazy in slightly different ways, but the big thing here is just to stop yourself from overthinking anything. You're nervous about the outcome of what you say—so much so that you're second-guessing even the very basics of communicating ("AAAHH, HOW DO I MAKE HUMAN NOISES OUT OF MY WORD HOLE," your brain is pleading). Overthinking things when they suddenly seem important is the same reason you only manage to fall up a flight of stairs when everyone is watching you. And all you can do about it is realize that no terrible thing is going to happen, and if you just take a breath and say what you're trying to say, you're not going to destroy your relationship or anything. After all, boys are like bears: they're more afraid of you than you are of them. And they sleep a lot, and they will eat all of your food unless you hide it in a tree.

Topics: Life
Tags: relationships, awkward situations, advice, communication, ask jono

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