No Internal Monologue? No Problem.

Could lack of an inner voice mean there’s more room for thinking?

Earlier this year, Ryan Langdon published this article about discovering that not everyone has an internal monologue. It’s a great read with quotes from people who were just as shocked as I was to find out that there is such a thing as an internal monologue.

My sister had seen the article and brought it up. She kept giggling at my questions.

Me: “You mean you hear your own voice in your head? Like, talking to you? All the time?”

“Yes,” she said. “Why, what do you do? How do you tell yourself what you’re going to do that day? How do you make decisions?”

Me: “I think about it.”

“And when you decide what you’re going to do, do you tell yourself that?”

Me: “I mean, sometimes if it’s really important, I’ll say it out loud, like “Today is garbage day.” But it’s not like there’s an actual voice in my head saying, “Hmm, I’ll wear the blue sweater today.”

She asked other members of our family… my mom doesn’t have one (which doesn’t surprise me, she’s very practical and a great listener.) I had drinks with my brother and brought it up to him. His response: “Of course I have that. You mean you don’t?!”

When asked, my dad yelled out in frustration, “How do I make it stop?”

Monologue vs. no monologue: Does it affect how we communicate in the real world?

So, it’s been on my mind lately and has gotten me thinking.

I genuinely can’t imagine how taxing it must be to have a voice inside your head all the time, talking to you, distracting you, telling you things you may not even want to hear. That’s got to be exhausting. I don’t know where my head would find the room.

What are the things I do and think that may be different from those people who have an internal monologue?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • I write things down. A lot. I take notes on everything. A friend recently told me she has a “no paper” policy. I don’t know how she lives.
  • Everything I do starts with a list. If it’s not on a list, it’s not likely to get done.
  • My monitor and desk are blanketed with reminder notes.
  • When I say i’m going to do something, especially important things, I say it out loud. The more important it is, the more emphatically I say it. For example, “I need to make it to the post office today.”
  • One of the most common things my husband says is “Did you just say something?” to which I respond, “Nope, just me.”
  • When I think something looks nice, I say it out loud. To nobody but me.
  • I often do not think before I speak, and I’m pretty blunt. I say what I mean, and I’m guilty of not having a great filter.
  • I often struggle for the right words in conversation, and I have a tendency to mangle stories as I tell them.
  • I don’t practice what I’m going to say. The concept of rehearsing is futile. Prepping for an interview, for example, involves me writing out lists of key points, not having mock conversations (with myself or others). I forget most of the prep anyhow, and rely on visual memory of that list to help me answer off the cusp.
  • I definitely prefer listening over talking.
  • I require thinking time to do my best work. If I’m given a problem to solve, I can make immediate suggestions, but you’ll get the best results from me if you give me some time to think about it, usually overnight.
  • I don’t ask myself questions. If I do, it’s usually because I’ve read something that said, “Ask yourself…”
  • Nearly everything I do is visual. I work as a designer, I spend my free time drawing, painting and generally making things.
  • I enjoy repetitive tasks that allow me to think while i do them, such as folding laundry, taking a walk, assembling things and painting.
  • While I’m doing these things, I am constantly imagining ways to make doing them more efficient.

And what about Synesthesia?

Is there any kind of connection to Synesthesia? I happen to have grapheme-color synesthesia, where my mind “sees” letters and numbers in color. Could that be because my brain power isn’t being used to listen to myself talk all the time? Synesthesia is an overlapping of senses. Is an internal monologue actually another kind of Synesthesia?

So now I’m curious.

To those of you without an internal monologue: Do you have similar tendencies? Which group do you think is more self-confident? Are introverts or extroverts more likely to have an internal dialogue? I hope you’ll comment and weigh in with your thoughts. (The ones you’re thinking right now, and possibly even writing down, because you must. ;)

Artist, designer and creator of the Synesthesia.Me project. What color is your name?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store