Recently, I read a thing about engagement in conversation. I say “a thing” because it wasn’t like I read a whole article. These days, my time is compressed into small pockets of hurry, and there is no time for real reading of articles. In a better world, I would walk to my club at lunchtime, have a nice meal and then drape myself on a red velvet chair and read about how to talk to other people more effectively, all while not actually talking to other people, of course.
This is not the way I actually live. Nowadays, for lunch hour, I sit at a keyboard and dribble crumbs or worse–blorches of sauce from a meal assembled during an earlier pocket of hurry–into a keyboard that I do not actually own. While I do that, I skim retellings of articles I would love to read if I had my club and my chair and my time. Ah, hourly wage, how you make it all go ’round!!
Anyhoo, part of the thing that was not an article really stuck in my craw. I do not actually know what my craw is, so it’s horrifying to imagine something stuck there, so let’s skip that and say there was a notion that stuck with me in an undesirable fashion. The idea, which may or may not have been scientifically proven, is that people are more likely to feel connected over discussing familiar topics rather than novel or weird ideas.
This seems legit, as my wayback teenagers would say.
People do like to discuss easy things, like the weather or traffic or movies. We usually know the rules for such conversation, everyone makes a face of consternation about pothole stories or cheers for the bouncy high barometer of better weather at last. I don’t think it brings us closer. Maybe it builds trust when you know that the person you are talking to will not suddenly begin to shout at clouds like our outdoor neighbors sometimes do. But closeness is also about surprise and discovery, I think.
I shudder to think of all the boring conversations I have had with people who did not understand that no one cares what their husband’s favorite cheese is. These years later, I do not remember their names, or their husbands, or even how many husbands or how many cheeses were discussed. Somebody had twins. Cool. Anyway, tell me about the terror of the C-section and the panic at the first day of daycare. I always have time for the hard stuff.
I want to be surprised. One woman confessed to me that she was tremendously hairy like I couldn’t tell and I will love her for all time as a result. Another told me about her husband throwing her birthday cake into the gutter and then pretending it was an accident; I didn’t even mind when she told me the story again a month later. It was sublime.
I don’t want to talk about wind, even though everyone else seems to relish my wind reports. I live for those moments when a stray acquaintance leans over and tells me what enrages them or worries them beyond reason. I don’t want to hear about their kid’s allergies, I want to hear about their bad decisions.
That’s what really invites closeness and love to my party.
Seriously, would you rather I told you the current wind speed or about the time I nearly ran myself over with my own car?
I rest my case, in another pocket of hurry.
Feel free to add a question below in the comments!!
Defective Pets, LLC
She still has no job, no prospects and nothing but bad habits. She’s the best cat I ever hosted!!