A friend texted me on a long train journey to berate the commuters in her carriage who were either talking at full throttle to a stranger sitting next to them, when it seemed the stranger wasn’t particularly interested, and/or their voices were so loud they were invading her space. I felt her pain, and several texts between the two of us eased her journey a little and we managed to acknowledge the humour of the situation. It was an if you don’t laugh you’d cry moment.
We followed this up a couple of nights later by talking about the tendency of some people to think that their lives are so interesting that others simply must want to hear all about it.
Readers of my blog may have detected that this is a theme that’s a particular pet hate of mine – people who want to talk about the minutiae of their lives without drawing breath or taking a moment to wonder if the recipient they’re assailing will want to hear. I encountered it the other day at the bakery counter in a supermarket:
Assistant: “How are you today?”
Me: “Very well thanks; are you well and having a good day?”
Assistant: “Well I would be if it wasn’t for my hayfever . . . “
5 minutes later (and that’s a long time at the bakery counter) I managed to claw my fresh bread from their hands and make my excuses to leave. (There’s only so much empathy I can show for a complete stranger with red eyes in an out-of-context situation.)
Oh dear, I’m probably not presenting myself in a very good light, am I? And I fully accept that it’s natural that a big-picture preference thinker like me isn’t good at detail, and so often wants to get to the end of a story quickly. But please understand that I am not talking about my professional practice where I am more than happy, skilled, patient, keen, willing, and supportive to encourage my clients to talk to me, and I’m an accomplished listener. Honestly, I really am.
I’m talking about the crashing bore, the insensitive speaker who talks at you until your ears are bleeding. The one that isn’t really interested enough in you to allow a good conversation to take place.
Maybe I’m getting less tolerant? Maybe the trick a friend employed in these situations of responding eventually with a “really, how interesting” said in such a way that even the thickest skinned chatterbox couldn’t fail to detect the hint of sarcasm implied is becoming appealing?
I know I’ve got to work on my intolerance, and not leak my more negative feelings under pressure. And the honest truth is that I genuinely can’t imagine myself continuing to do anything other than listening (I’m rather good at it, unfortunately) . . . but I do wish sometimes that others would do the same.