Verbal Impulse or Word Vomit?


A few years ago while I was on my lunch break at work, I opened the door to the break room and stopped dead in my tracks with my mouth agape and my eyes wide, staring at the girl on the other side. “Oh my– Ew!” I blurted. The girl had the worst set of teeth I had ever seen. My first thought was that she was wearing those hillbilly teeth that can be bought from the quarter machines in the grocery store. They were crooked and brownish-yellow, and stuck out at odd angles from her overbite. She must have been self-conscious about them because she seemed to know exactly why I had made my rude remark. She looked so hurt and disappointed I wanted to cry. But instead, I merely nodded to her and walked on through the door as if nothing had happened.

I didn’t mean to humiliate the poor girl, but unfortunately for her, my mouth tends to override my mind, especially when I’m caught off guard. And, unfortunately for me, my verbal impulsivity happens quite frequently and often ends embarrassingly for others, as well as myself.

Everyone experiences impulsive behaviors occasionally, but for some the impulses come with much more frequency. When the impulses only happen occasionally it sometimes feels nice to just give into them. It’s fun, right? But for people who suffer from disorders such as bipolar disorder or ADHD, among many others, the impulses occur way too often, particularly the verbal ones. It’s unclear what precisely causes the impulsivity in individuals with these disorders, but I’ve read that researchers believe that out- of-whack dopamine levels (chemicals in the brain) may be the culprit.

In today’s society, people who speak their mind seem to get a certain level of respect, but sometimes the respect is not worth the consequences. A lot of times the speaker is left feeling horrible and regretful for whatever it was they’ve said. I’ve been in many situations in which I verbalize my thought without even being aware of it, and then kicked myself hard in the rear afterwards. If a friend asks, “do these pants make my butt look big?”, most people would say no, regardless of the truth. But someone like me may volunteer the painful information that their butt does, indeed, look enormous, without even being asked their opinion. Of course, the friend is absolutely crushed and will likely have a complex about their big rump afterwords, not to mention ill feelings towards the insulter. Consequences can be a little worse than a scorned friend, though. I’ve been suspended and even expelled from school, simply because I hadn’t the ability to keep my big mouth shut.

My verbal impulses can be controlled to an extent, so long as I’m not caught off guard. But people only notice when I can’t control them. My mom used to say, “For God’s sake, Jazzie! Why can’t you just hush for once?” Easier said than done there, Mom. It’s at times like these the impulse bus has made an abrupt stop in front of me, and no matter how quickly I slam on the brakes, I still end up in a horrible collision that sends me and my unintended victim to the proverbial E.R. Just as no one plans to be in a real collision, I don’t plan for my words to hurt anyone’s feelings. I don’t even realize what I’m saying until the words have crossed my lips and it’s too late to suck them back in.

Though Some might see my verbal impulsivity as being out-spoken, frank or simply honest, I, personally, like to call it “word vomit”. Whatever its label, the aftermath can be humiliating for everyone involved, and may hinder personal, social, or business relationships. Even though the girl with the bad teeth finally forgave me after a few months of deadly looks, I feel that my word vomit may have annihilated any chance we might have had at a friendship.