Sunday, 27 January 2013

Now, Listen Here

There are all sorts of work shops and self-help books for people who find themselves lost for words in social situations, but the people I really wish would get help are the ones who won't shut up.

Recently, as just one example of many, I went to a small dinner gathering where I knew only the hosts - lovely people.  Most of the other guests seemed lovely too, but I can't say for sure. One woman dominated the evening so comprehensively there was no chance to get to know anyone else.  She talked about herself virtually non-stop.

She was oblivious to the discomfort and boredom around her, the restless body language, the glazed eyes, the failed attempts at diversion.  By evening's end, my mouth was locked in a rictus of feigned interest that bordered on cramp.

Some people somehow have never developed to the point where they take an interest in other people's lives.    Experts say one of the really negative things about this is that they don't learn things.  They remain where they are.  Listening is what takes you into another person's world and expands your own.

These people must have a lack of curiosity and maybe had poor role models.

Another psychologist points out that, these days many people may not be getting any conversation modelling at the dinner table at all. She said "we don't sit down and pass the conversation around the table with our families any more".  "It's like a social skill we no longer use".  And email and social media she says are one-way broadcasts.

"You are just trying to get across your message in your own way and in your own time.  And you're not really being mindful of the other".

Conversation is definitely a collaboration, not a performance.  With conversation skills the most important one by far is the skill of listening.  Long after people have forgotten what we talked about, what they will remember is how we made them feel.

It takes two to have a conversation - something we often forget!

“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.”
~~ Agatha Christie

"When I'm in a bad mood, I don't listen".
~~ Cathy Freeman

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney November 2012.  Two sculptures - Wind driven installation of 222 bamboo 'bird-scarers' tuned to D Minor as a reflection on 222 lives lost in the Bali bombings and the Mirador highlighting the complex relationship between man and nature.


Christine said...

sorry you had such a bad evening! Social skills are definitely something to be learned, regardless of age.

Dina said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It's something I encounter very often; and I'm not at all a fan.

I think you have an excellent point about Facebook and stuff like that. People are becoming more accustomed to being in broadcast mode rather than in conversational mode.

Cameron said...

I bet everyone will politely inquire if that same person will attend the next dinner party before they rsvp....haha!

Shame that she is so lacking in even the politeness to pause once in a while :(

Roban said...

Peggy, I've been there, and it can be excruciating! I admit that I'm a bit of a talker, but I do try to be mindful. There needs to be a flow and a give and take of conversation that too many people nowadays aren't interested in mastering.

HappyOrganist said...

"borders on a cramp" You made me laugh, Peggy ;D cheered me right up. that's great.
I think I'll laugh about that all day.

cherio =)
- J

Mike Smith said...

I was in a Chinese restaurant the other week - and there were large plasma tv screens on each wall. How sad...

bill lisleman said...

"rictus of feigned interest that bordered on cramp" that's a phrase a clown as myself should learn. Everyone but these types of people probably have experienced blowhards. I don't think it has much to do with our modern communication, but it probably doesn't help. I have a few blowhards in the extended family.

McMGrad89 said...

I have been guilty of monopolizing on more than one occasion. Really and truly some people are incapable reading body language and have to be taught. I had to teach my daughter what eye rolling, sighing and inattentiveness looks like and what they mean.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

This is exactly right. I've had students (25 years teaching) who did the same thing. I'd arrange to have another student mimic her. It cured the behaviour!
I popped over from Christine!
Cheers from Cottage Country!

Can-Can said...

I think it is one of the responsibilities of the host/hostess to manage guests and to try to make sure everyone is comfortable. Simple things like having everyone introduce themselves or asking people to share a book they recently read or a movie or something really helps.
I felt your pain when I read this.

Lilly said...

Yes many people have no self awareness at all. Perhaps she was nervous or something. I tend to chatter when nervous. Sounds like she has lax personal boundaries and walks all over others' boundaries as well. It is a shame because it can ruin what may otherwise have been a great evening.