I keeping thinking out loud. Any way to keep my thoughts to myself?
March 6, 2013 12:56 AM   Subscribe

I think aloud at times, be it when solving problems at work (I'm a programmer) or thinking through problems or stuff when walking. How can I curb it?

I do that when alone or when working in the office by myself. Is there anyway to curb it.

I know this makes me come across as weird or crazy, but I just feel a need to verbalize stuff. I also tend to have exaggerated actions too when thinking stuff through. "Sit still and think" doesn't apply to me.
posted by crowbar_of_irony to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Not weird or crazy - is there a reason to want to curb it?
posted by mannequito at 1:10 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not a big deal, I do this all the time. If coworkers are complaining about it then that's a different story, but the solution to that also would not be to curb your critical thinking process.

If you feel like this impacting your social or work status in a negative way I would suggest finding private ways to do it (like going on more walks).
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:23 AM on March 6, 2013

I agree that it's only a problem if it's bothering people, and it's probably actively a good thing if it helps you get stuff done. If it's both (helpful and annoying people around you), try switching to writing instead of speaking. Either open up a text editor and type or get a white board (you can usually find lap-sized white boards in stores like Target).
posted by anaelith at 1:40 AM on March 6, 2013

If your primary concern is looking crazy to strangers, get a really obvious headset thing and wear it when you go on walks. You might be talking to yourself, but everybody else will do the "crazy person, or bluetooth?" game and quickly come up with bluetooth, and ignore you accordingly.

I think that talking to yourself when alone is completely normal and a useful tool for problem solving. The only one judging yourself is you, so work on releasing shame, instead of changing your helpful behaviors.
posted by Mizu at 2:43 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I do this all the time. I always make stupid noises when I am in the kitchenette at work, or having a nice wee. The best thing about this is that over years I have armoured myself against my own embarrassment and now if anyone catches me going "burrburrburrBURR" while I am scrubbing my coffee cup, my brain has arranged it so that it's them who is the mentalist. Whatever dude, mutter your heart out!
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Similar recent thread
posted by crocomancer at 3:29 AM on March 6, 2013

Do you work amongst other programmers? Because unless you're in a minority, or it's a particularly stifling corporate environment, I can't imagine a bit of muttering & gesticulating being seen as all that odd. It barely registers on the scale of coder quirks I've encountered, so don't get too self-conscious.

Is there another space at work, ideally with something like a white board, that you can use occasionally? Having somewhere to pace around, draw big scrawly diagrams, and mutter to yourself would perhaps let you get it out of your system.

Or get a dog. You can mumble & hand-wave in public to your heart's content without being seen as scarily crazy if there's a hound around, although they themselves might occasionally give you that puzzled, head-tilted look.
posted by malevolent at 3:46 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that this is not crazy or weird. One of the benefits of having cats at home is that I am not talking to myself, I am talking to them.
posted by maryrussell at 4:00 AM on March 6, 2013

Best answer: Sped teacher here and I'll bet that you're an auditory learner with a touch of kinesthetic style as well. Auditory learners problem solve by thinking aloud, kinesthetic learners do well when moving.

Seems like you have a style that works for you; there's no need to stop yourself. From my teaching experience, I've seen kids really suffer when their teachers don't let them think aloud or move.

Embrace what works for you!

And yes, definitely get a cat. Because catz rock.
posted by kinetic at 4:10 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I definitely agree that this is only something you need to change if you really want to or it's bothering your coworkers. And in the latter case, I'd mostly just recommend trying to reduce volume. Muttering while working is pretty par for the course in most software dev shops I've worked in. If you're self-conscious about it, you could just get a rubber duckie and, like magic, now it's rubber duck debugging.

For me, there's a definite correlation between how much I'm talking to myself and how much I'm getting done. If I'm in the groove, I'm probably narrating things, talking to my code, and so forth. If I'm silent, it probably means I'm uselessly spinning my wheels. I've always been a bit this way, but doing pair programming for 9 months exaggerated it a lot. If you have a similar pattern, I'd worry that forcing yourself to stay silent would also shift you into a less productive mindset.
posted by duien at 7:01 AM on March 6, 2013

Another how-not-to-look-crazy idea: set up a mic, use some speech-recognition software. Now you're brainstorming and taking notes!

Also, can you translate your gestures into drawings? Making a big diagram on a whiteboard looks less crazy than just waving your arms around in the air.
posted by BrashTech at 7:51 AM on March 6, 2013

Instead of talking out loud, you could write down what you want to say on legal pads.
Or you could whisper.
Or you could keep on doing what you’re doing.

I read boring papers out loud when I want to force myself to read and absorb the material.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:22 AM on March 6, 2013

A friend of mine began innapropriately blurting things out loud that he happened to be thinking. He was able to cover it with "just kidding" type remarks but was getting worried that it would start creating social problems for him. I did some asking around on his behalf. I was told it sounded similar to "scripting" behavior in ASD kids. Some B vitamins and other supplements were suggested. His issue did get better.

But, overall, I tend to agree that you are probably an auditory and kinesthetic thinker/learner. It might help if you find someone who can act as a sounding board who is willing to listen to you hash it out while the two of you take a walk/play a sport/otherwise engage in physical activity. My oldest son is kinesthetic and needs a sounding board. Our lives happen to involve lots of walking. He routinely monopolizes the conversation unless I have some issue I really need to discuss. No one ever acts like two people walking somewhere together and talking is something weird. But if our lives were different, he would still need to, say, pace the living room while talking. He's just like that.
posted by Michele in California at 11:24 AM on March 6, 2013

If you can't close the door, wear a bluetooth headset, or talk into a phone?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:26 PM on March 6, 2013

Install a whiteboard in your office. You'll look totally normal gesticulating and muttering if you're also scribbling at a whiteboard.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:04 PM on March 6, 2013

There is absolutely nothing wrong with talking through problems to yourself, especially if you're alone. But I've found -- specifically in cases when a sentence is in my head and I can't move past it unless I say it -- that it's the brain process of doing the speaking that counts, not the mouth process. So I did some experimenting and found first that I can mouth the words and not provide vocalization behind it, and that works; and then I figured out how to do it without moving my mouth. Not sure how to explain how to do that, really. For me, going through that process without actually making the noise still gives me the effect of hearing and saying the words.

But I still talk to myself all the time, because there's no real reason not to.
posted by darksasami at 10:37 AM on March 7, 2013

Totally OK by me!
And I love these answers!
Even though I don't do code, I've moved the rubber ducky out of the bathroom and under the monitor, just so I can read my documents out loud for errors.

Mutter your heart out, Mr. Irony.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:04 PM on March 7, 2013

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