Monday, 28 November 2011

Here Lieth the Art of Conversation

I don't like to talk. I find that I spend the better part of my day not talking.  My job does not require me to be on the phone constantly (thank God!) And, when I do make presentations because of my job, they are scheduled, timed and completed.   I do like that aspect of my job - very much.  I enjoy making the presentations and interacting with the audience.  After that, though, it's like, "There, there.  We're done," and I go back to the company car, turn the volume up on the Country channel I've pre-set in all the cars (it must drive my colleagues crazy!) back to the office then, later on to the sanctum of home.  Home.  What a wonderful place to be.

For, we know it's not just the house that makes a home.  It's the people who are there or the person with whom you share it.  Or, the people or person with whom you don't share it.  Know the old Jamaican saying? "See me and come live with me - two different things."  True that, Ruthie.  True that.  I also recall a quip that a former manager of mine made many years ago.  Something ...rather someone had annoyed her that day.  She said, "Claudia, I just tell myself I'm not taking them home with me."  Nice, eh?  Yeeaah.  That has worked for me over the years.

So, sometimes when I arrive home, I mightn't get engaged in a conversation.  And that suits me just fine.  Other times, I may connect with family or one, maybe two, close friends.  I think those after-work connections  - whether at home or on the way home - are often with people with whom you feel you can unwind.  Even just a little.  The conversation relaxes you; sometimes you vent; sometimes you burst out laughing, the people on the train take a quick glance before going back to their BBs or newspapers.

One of the things that irk me is meaningless conversation.  I'm not talking about the social tradition of initial small talk about the weather or an item of news that is shared between strangers.  Yes, it is meaningless, more often than not; participated in just to pass the time, really.  But, I'm talking about chatter that beats a dead horse - to glue; talk that comes only because the speaker likes to hear him/herself talk; talk for the sake of talking - nothing else; the constant droning on and on and on because silence makes the speaker uncomfortable.  Ever get that?  Or, when you're talking with someone but you feel it in your bones that the convo is going nowhere - fast.  And, you probably start repeating stuff you'd said earlier in the convo - way back when.  Ever get that?

You know, even when they are jovial and funny to the point of rib-tickling, I want my conversations to be meaningful.  I want to get something meaningful out of every conversation, each encounter.  Is it too much to ask that if I make the effort and show up, that I should expect to leave with something, y'know, other than the query, "Whom do I see about getting those ___ minutes of my life back?"   I'm not saying every conversation should be serious.  I'm saying every conversation should be meaningful; should have some value.  Darn it!

I imagine that's why we surround ourselves with the people we do - especially close friends.  Over time, you draw to you people with like values, interests, blah, blah blah.  They get you and you get them and there's little to no need to explain ...yourself.  That's comfort, right there.   I have two Ceciles in my life. Just remembered this joke. I was visiting with one of them in New York years ago, while the other was living in Florida. When we got home, she checked her messages. One of them started out, "Hi Cecile. This message is for Claudia from the other Cecile." So funny. They're both like sisters to me, yet worlds apart from each other.  But, I digress.  There are times when one of my Ceciles - any of the two - will call. Even though we know it's just a "hello" call, in short order, we're talking about something that is of import to either or both of us.  You'll probably say, yes, that's what friends talk about.  And you're right.  My point is, I have come to recognize the value of those conversations; more and more, I don't want to waste my time participating in something that is just a waste of time.  Sure, we should all try to come away with something from each encounter.  And I do try.  I also try to give something in each encounter.  But, there must be at least one other that shares this sentiment: Some talkers just waste your time.   (And, it's worse when I'm hungry.  "I'm not me when I'm hungry," to borrow from the Snickers ad.)

How often do you strike up a conversation with a stranger and he/she simply holds your attention and, next thing you know, you're opening up with your own experiences and the whole thing just flows in a rather rhythmic give-and-take?  There is a connection - even for a short time - and it leaves you feeling fresh like morning; with a smile; inspired, even.  And you think, "Hmm.  I'd like to do that again." 

Ever get that?



  1. Some people have a certain charm and charisma that casts a spell over you and makes you want to open up to them! I only know a couple of those gifted folks!

  2. ...and you are one of them to me.

    Thanks, Paul!