Talking and Listening
Small talk is painful. It is social dentistry. Other forms of talking, however, have much potential. Talking is the way we communicate most easily and serves as a social currency. But what is actually going on when we talk?
Many of us haven’t thought about this much. It is as intuitive for us now as tying our shoelaces–but not all of us learned how to tie our shoelaces the same way. We all are way more affected by our upbringings than we might like to let on, and this is as true of talking as it is with the method you use to lace up your kicks. Some have learned along the way that their voice is of the greatest cosmic importance. Others lack any semblance of confidence, having been led to believe their opinion is of minimal interest. I spent a long time in the latter camp and still do to a lesser degree. There are a gazillion other variables in how a person’s personality takes shape, but in most of them, people are dealing insecurity.
That’s why we talk with one another the way we do. We want to be known, even those of the shy variety who may denounce that claim with the fury of the Hulk. I just really think it’s true. Most people, from my experience, love to have control of the conversation. I have to fight against this constantly. I find myself preferring the conversation to be about something familiar or even about me. That is my default. But I know when I’m with someone else like that, I yearn to have Adam Sandler’s remote control from Click so I can fast forward at will. And the irony resides with the fact that I am prone to be the loathsome, bombastic figure for which I desire a fictional remote control. The problem is that most of us have a hard time listening. It doesn’t come as a package deal with talking. Listening is a more valuable and rare commodity.
It’s not that we need a hearing aid. It’s just that we need to shut up more. A healthy friendship or relationship requires mutual interest. It earnestly seeks to know more about the other person. Good friendships seek to go beyond the trivial, beyond the mundane. So, if your role model is Barney Stinson, then you’re probably a terrible friend. If your role model is one of the Gilmore Girls, then you’re on the right track but people still won’t want to be around you because you talk way too fast and don’t let others finish their thoughts. I think a lot of the solution lies in the art of asking questions and, more importantly, actually caring about the person you’re talking to. There is no greater comfort than knowing somebody is for you.