Does anxiety make you over-explain?

by janice on October 28, 2009

Does anxiety ever hold you back? Is your life affected by someone who’s crippled  by it?

My daughter and I both suffer from anxiety and I’ve coached lots of folk whose lives are coloured by it. Many anxious people talk a lot, often too much. We try to make sure folk ‘get us’, we have an annoying need to seek approval and we often over-explain. (That’s probably why I use so many semi colons; some sentences just need that wee bit extra ;) )

I enjoyed the following article about explaining because it really made me think.  Please feel free to forward it if you like; if you do, just remember to attach Christine’s full blurb.

6 Irresistible Reasons to Stop Explaining Yourself

Rita’s parents didn’t approve of her choice to get a new kitten. Rita was expecting a long letter from them filled with judgments about her irresponsibility. As she waited for that letter, she was figuring out what she would write back.
———
Sylvia, one of my Platinum-level coaching clients, just bought her dream house. She avoided telling her father about it for fear that he would judge her, call her irresponsible and proceed to describe her imminent demise. She finally did tell her father. On our call, she told me that she was waiting for his reaction gearing up to explain her choice to him.
———–
Now, there are some people who might read these stories and think, “Are you kiddin’ me? Who cares what anyone thinks about your houses or cats or anything??!”

If this is you, then read no further. This article is not for you.

I’m writing this for the “explainers” out there. And it doesn’t matter if you explain to parents, partners, or priests. You know who you are!

You’ve heard me talk about the benefits of going “Complaint-Free,” right? Well, today, we’re going to talk about going “Explaint-Free!”

And here are 6 irresistible reasons to do just that:

1 – Waiting Drains Your Energy.

When I’m coaching an explainer, I can see that much of her energy goes to the act of waiting.

She waits for judgment.

She waits for people to “get” her before she’ll take action.

She waits for people to approve of her choice.

She waits for criticism.

This literally drains her creative life force. Both women in the examples above were losing energy waiting for criticism.

Here’s your first big challenge: Give up the non-activity of waiting.

2 – We All Need to Learn to Trust Our Choices.

Explaining robs you of empowerment.

Our decisions teach us valuable lessons about intuition and instinct. RARELY do our clear decisions come from our mental activity. Gut instinct is clearer than our critical minds.

When we explain ourselves, however, we move away from the place of deep trust in our intuition and into the realm of mental activity – where the choice didn’t come from in the first place! We’ve suddenly stopped honoring and trusting ourselves and started creating a pattern of mental activity as we question our choices.

3 – Explaining Blocks Creativity.

Creativity means you’re the Creator of your life. You’re a Creator. Not a Reactor. When you explain yourself, you become a “Reactor.” You can’t live in both realms at once. They contradict each other. Living in a state of reaction causes you to cut off the flow of creativity.

4 – Disapproval is a Great
Opportunity.

Huh?

Yes, I’m serious about this!

Becoming an adult in the deepest sense is about learning to take responsibility for your actions and choices. Sometimes that means other people won’t like these actions and choices. And what a great opportunity people provide when they do that!

I once heard a relationship coach say that love can sometimes mean letting your partner be disappointed in your choices. Think about that. Can you stand in your body and love someone enough to allow them not be happy with a choice you’re making?

5 – Explainers Endorse Irresponsibility.

People who take personal responsibility for their lives do not blame others (or themselves) for their unhappiness, for their life situations, or for their financial state, etc. Instead, they recognize that they created it, and they can un-create or re-create anything. It’s an empowering place to live.

Many people do not live in this level of personal responsibility. They are too busy blaming other people, taking other people’s inventory, and looking outside themselves for their happiness. Teacher and author Byron Katie calls this minding other people’s business instead of your own.

Your choice to explain yourself teaches other people that it’s okay not to take responsibility, and that it’s okay to mind your business instead of their own. Your explaints actually perpetuate the pattern of irresponsibility!

6 – Explainers Play Small. It’s Time to Play Big.

Explainers are waiting for permission, or approval, or for people to “get” their choices. So much unhappiness and depression comes from a lifetime of waiting for these meaningless things. It’s the ultimate meaning of Playing Small.

Playing Big means being clear, and making decisions from your soul. And your soul doesn’t feel the need to explain anything!


Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her ‘LiveCreative’ weekly ezine with more than 4,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at www.christinekane.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What did you think of Christine’s take on explaining? Do you suffer from anxiety? If so, how does it show up? Do you find yourself explaining too much? If you experiment with explaining less, I’d be interested to hear how you get on. I tried paying attention to how often I do it in an average day  and it was scary!
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{ 23 comments }

Brenda October 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm

haha! Thanks for ‘splainin’ how the comments feed works on your other post. I’m so in need of technological instruction. Sometimes explanations are really helpful. But this post is talking about explaining away your motives and actions in a pleading sort of way, as in pleeeze understand me. I think I agree with Christine totally and will be mindful of not doing that. Act rather than react. I love the term ‘explaint-free’ and posts like this that aim to help us be better versions of ourselves. Thanks for sharing this, Janice, and kudos to Christine.

(On that other thing, I don’t think I subscribe to any blogs. I think I check the ‘Notify me of follow-up comments via email’ box that shows up on some blogs, including yours.)
.-= Brenda´s last blog ..Laughter is a Funny Thing =-.

janice October 29, 2009 at 8:06 pm

I’m not just in need of technological instruction, I need a virtual assistant who’s decided to make me a pet charity project! I’m still grappling with my comment email problem in WordPress, and now I fear it may be because I set up a Google reader account. Who knows. Sometimes I just blunder along, not really knowing what I’m doing.

I agree with you about the kind of explaining Christine is referring to; that’s why I called it “over-explaining” in my title although she doesn’t call it that or make the anxiety connection.

When all my coaching calls were recorded for certification, it was my mentor who pointed out the connection between talking a lot/too much and anxiety. (I used to make lots of tag on and add-on questions with “because”.) But bless her cotton socks, she also pointed out that the upside was in my teaching; I wanted to make sure every one understood and no-one ever got left behind because I’d assumed they’d got it. I found a way to connect with folk in a way that worked for them. It’s no coincidence that she helped me get certified and became the editor who gave me the freedom of my first coaching column.

Since reading Chistin’s newsletter, I’ve been using the WAIT approach again. I try to take those few seconds to ask myself “Why Am I Talking?” It helps me with my rabbiting on; I try to shut up before they have an expression that says “Too much detail.”

Caroline October 28, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Thankfully I don’t suffer from anxiety too much. But when I do get anxious, I clam up! The one great thing about getting older is that I do trust my choices more.

By the way…I just published my photo book today…and that is making me anxious!!!
.-= Caroline´s last blog ..Finally… =-.

janice October 29, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I bet my husband sometimes wishes clamming up was my nervousness default!

I’ve just been over at your place. I found your latest post in my google reader (which I keep forgetting I have!) The book is absolutely beautiful and I’ll do my best to promote it. There’s an email in your box. I’m so, so happy we’ve had the chance to get to know your gifts before things go stellar for you as I’m sure they will. The link to your book is something that’ll always be on your blog and it will always sell. Bask in the birth glow – it’s a beautiful ‘baby’!

Hayden Tompkins October 28, 2009 at 11:09 pm

“If this is you, then read no further. This article is not for you.”

Succinct as always!
.-= Hayden Tompkins´s last blog ..How to Rock Your Life =-.

janice October 29, 2009 at 8:18 pm

She is, isn’t she! I wish I had that particular talent, but being succinct is, ehm… not one of my strengths. (Except in my haiku.) I’m glad you all bear with me despite that, though!

Anne October 29, 2009 at 9:31 am

This was a great piece…but there’s another angle on it. My sister is a big “explainer” and one of the side effects of that is that she doesn’t actually listen to what I say…and when I have a conversation with her where I want to talk about ME, it ends up with her explaining about HER. I understand why she does it…but I think it’s good for explainers (and I’ve done it myself) to realise that they are not really present to the other person..
.-= Anne´s last blog ..Supervalue, washing up and why honesty really pays =-.

janice October 29, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Hi, Anne.
I’m completely with you on that one. I used to be guilty of that, as you know, and even though I now understand the many roots of it, including anxiety, wanting to show empathy and letting the other person know it’s OK to open up and trust, there’s still no excuse for it. I’m much more focused, present and engaged when I actively listen now. Studying advanced coaching through hearing myself recorded was a godsend for me. People like your sister (and folk I know) just make me go very quiet now.

Lori Hoeck October 29, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Funny. I can explain this life lesson via karate: “Many people do not live in this level of personal responsibility. They are too busy blaming other people, taking other people’s inventory, and looking outside themselves for their happiness,” but I still have to keep reminding myself to stop when it creeps back into my life.
.-= Lori Hoeck´s last blog ..Stop panic — three ways to unfreeze in self defense =-.

janice October 29, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Hi Lori,
I have to keep that part of me in check, too, but being aware of it helps. That’s why I’m such a Byron Katie fan, and really resonated with Stephen Covey’s description of circles of control.

I chose to use this article because it really engaged my brain and got me thinking. I’m not sure I properly processed some bits, but others really jumped out at me, especially the bits about the connection between over-explaining and waiting. When my colleagues coached me, they often had to use scary tactics to stop me explaining myself down a rabbit hole to the point of analysis paralysis! That’s why I encourage the instinctive part of me so much now that I’m older an hopefully a wee bit wiser. Like Christine says, we often make our best decisions from gut instincts, one of things you and I often agree on over at your wonderful blog ;) – recognising, honing and trusting our instincts.

Tess The Bold Life October 29, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Janice,
I wasn’t going to read this because I’m not an explainer. I don’t even know how to be!

However no. 4 “I once heard a relationship coach say that love can sometimes mean letting your partner be disappointed in your choices. Think about that. Can you stand in your body and love someone enough to allow them not be happy with a choice you’re making?”

This is very powerful and my husband and I can both do this. Maybe that’s why our relationship is as good as it is after almost 38 years! I’ve never thought of it this way. Thanks for sharing.

I would go further and say letting others such as siblings, friends, other family members…anyone be disappointed in your choices. Wow!
.-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..For All My Friends Near and Far =-.

janice October 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Hi Tess,
I’m glad you read it! Maybe your lack of explaining is connected to your boldness! Thirty eight years – it always makes me want to say Wow! It’s a real achievement and triumph in a world full of transience and lack of commitment.

This was a part of Christine’s piece that didn’t stand out for me either – after twenty five years, my husband and I have that kind of relationship, too – but after I read your comment, I re-read that section, and you’re right – it is very powerful.

Nadia - Happy Lotus October 29, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Hi Janice,

This is a tricky subject because although I understand the concept of not being required to explain oneself, there are times when people do need to explain themselves. People do not all have the same interpretation of situations especially if their cultural or religious beliefs are perceived to be different.

To act without awareness of how someone else might see a situation is insensitive. People do a lot of damage when they assume the reasons behind others actions. Sometimes we need a dialogue in order to understand the situation. A lot of conflict in the world is based on lack of explanation. What is normal in one culture maybe not be the case in another and so on.

Plus in marriage situations, people may do certain actions because that is all they know and the other spouse may just assume the negative. So clarification can be good. It truly boils down to the context of the situation.

So I would put a caveat in regards to explaining.
.-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..Chillin’ with the Saltwater Buddha: Being Spiritual in a Material World =-.

janice October 30, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Hi Nadia,
Thanks for a juicy comment! As your posts are always long and flowing and often explore lots of deep topics and personal associations in an explanatory way to help others, I wondered what you’d think of Christine’s piece.

I’m still not completely sure about how I feel about all her sections, but I decided to post it because it got me thinking – about assumptions, anxiety, blame, fear of criticism and all sorts of things.

Before I posted it, I wondered why she referred to “explaints”. I missed its significance first time round, but then suspected it was her way of drawing our attentions to those situations where some folk combine complaints and explanations.

It’s also why I deliberately chose to call my post “Does anxiety make you over-explain?” I think there’s a huge difference between simple, clear explanations if they’re required, necessary and appreciated , and over-explaining, which I’m often guilty of.

I completely agree with you about the dangers of assuming, but that’s why I’m such a big fan of curiosity and asking questions. I try to combat my over-explaining by saying less and trusting that if folk want to know more, they’ll ask. Telling myself to explain less and be silent oftener is also a reminder to myself that in the big scheme of things, the only thing I know for sure is that I know very little.

But it’s very hard for me. That’s why I recognise the role deep seated anxiety plays in why I have the urge to explain so much so often. You just need to see the length of my comments sometimes to see it in action!

Sara October 29, 2009 at 8:42 pm

It’s funny how sometimes you head out into the blogosphere and whatever guides there sends you to sites for your “lesson of the day!”

Evidently, explaining is one of mine. I’ve been to a few other blogs that touched upon this subject in one way of the other.

Certainly, everything Christine said fit me. I’ll have to practice paying attention to this and see how often I do it:~)

Thanks Janice for sharing Christine’s writings with us!
.-= Sara´s last blog ..My Halloween Scare =-.

janice October 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm

You’re welcome, Sara. I read a lot of blogs and newsletter articles by coaches and by non-coaches, and her freshness often speaks to me. Maybe it’s because she’s a singer-songwriter too, and we share some sensibilities.

Hi Sara,
I know what you mean about the days when synchronicity makes double and treble sure we get the message we’re meant to. I’ve had one of those seriously spooky days today!!

I suspect I was sent Christine’s newsletter by synchronicity to warn me not to write yet another post explaining why I haven’t posted regularly or replied to comments every day – even though I’ve been twitching to!

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) October 30, 2009 at 12:10 am

I used to be an ex plainer~ now I realise that some people are just more comfortable as seeing me as a disappointment. And I love them enough to respect their choice to be disappointed. Don’t hang around those people much tho…of those who are deaf to your song~ why worry (Rumi)

janice October 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm

You sound inspiringly brave! I know what you mean, though. I’m ridiculed and looked down on by many family members and aquaintances for my decision to stay at home to be there for my kids; I earned a lot in previous years as a university and college tutor and we’re not particularly affluent now.

The ridicule mounted when I chose to train to become a coach, and then invested in further training so I could get certified and mentor other coaches. It reached its heights when folk discovered I write, too. But when it comes to my writing and coaching studies and experience, I’m one of the bravest folk I know. Both have changed my life beyond measure. I never explain to cynics any more why I do it; I just smile and send love.

I love that phrase “…those who are deaf to your song…”

Diana Maus October 30, 2009 at 2:39 am

I am a chronic over-explainer. I’m not sure if I was before I spent 23 years working for the government. When I first started there, I couldn’t even get a new pencil without an explanation!

So I really do need to work on this more. I often erase comments the first time I write them, then say something quick and natural. That’s helping me.

Thanks though, this was timely for me.
.-= Diana Maus´s last blog ..If you fall in the mud puddle, check your pockets for fish. =-.

janice October 30, 2009 at 1:42 pm

You’re very welcome, Diana. I smiled at your reference to red tape!

I’m not sure if having kids straight after teaching made my over-explaining worse. I’d always explain so they’d learn; I rarely just told them off or said “No!” It was more likely to be “No! That’s dangerous!” Hard to say when it started.

I went through a phase of spending too long on each comment; now I trust myself more, especially if the blog in question has a 5 minute edit function like this one has. My laptop has a few dodgy keys that miss letters, but my grammar and spelling are usually pretty sound first time round. And, most importantly, I choose the blogs I comment in so that I feel safe to express myself. As the Internet is all public, I trust my inner safety censor, too.

Diana Maus October 30, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Good point janice, mothers can get pretty verbose can’t we? LOL
.-= Diana Maus´s last blog ..If you fall in the mud puddle, check your pockets for fish. =-.

Barbara Swafford November 3, 2009 at 7:58 am

Hi Janice,

Like Tess, I’m not an explainer either, but I know people who are, so wanted to read what you were sharing. For me, that helps me to better understand why people act like they do.

I really liked the part, “People who take personal responsibility for their lives do not blame others (or themselves) for their unhappiness, for their life situations, or for their financial state, etc. Instead, they recognize that they created it, and they can un-create or re-create anything. It’s an empowering place to live.” Indeed, it is an empowering place. A place where I hope to stay. :-)

Great post, Janice.
.-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..How Branding Works In Blogosphere =-.

janice November 5, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Thanks, Barbara. I’ve been trying to see if I can go back to the kind of blogging where I share tidbits and not just bare my soul all the time.

I try not to be a blamer, either, but to be honest, I’ve had to pull myself up for it oftener since I started blogging.

It’s interesting watching my kids going through puberty and seeing how difficult it is not to be a blamer in a peer group where gossip and whingeing seem commonplace; the media’s full of it, too, so that makes me more determined to set them in the right direction and point them towards the kind of tools it took me much longer to discover.

I’m glad I posted this piece because it’s been interesting seeing which bits of Christine’s article stood out for each individual.

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