Here’s the thing about Molly-Ten-Years-Ago: she was impetuous, if not downright petulant, at times. It’s something that Molly-Today cringes to think about. In the right light, within the syntax of this rule, I do believe that side of her rears its little head.
But while Molly-Today can’t disagree with the overall sentiment on Rule #2, she sure does love to emphasize tone in her text by using excessively many letters, or even misspelling words for the sake of enunciation (how else will my British accent be read properly in a text?).
If I may change the wording of this rule, it shall henceforth read as such:
“Be quiet, and please don’t talk just to hear the sound of your own voice.”
There, that’s out of the way.
Let’s get down to what this rule is really about: actively and presently engaging in conversation with others.
Conversation is defined as “a talk between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.” As an introvert, I go wild for a good conversation. It truly is an art form.
But how many times have we been around people who talk a whole lot of nothing? How many times has the person you’re talking to been silent, but scrolling through Instagram or some other app on their phone? How many times have we been those people?
We’re talking about a disconnect in discussion. In these situations, the dynamic of “talking between two or more people” is lost. Because only one person is speaking. As if their audience was a mere brick wall to be spoken at instead of “spoken with,” these individuals dominate the exchange.
And if they don’t dominate the exchange, it is probably because they are too busy not listening to you, while biding their time. Lurking until they can once again commandeer the topic.
If they do happen to take a break from Not Listening, I find that these conversationalists are only partially and selectively listening to what you are saying. Only to segue the conversation back to the topic of their choosing.
Ideas are not exchanged here, as the flow between two individuals is completely one-sided. Examples include jabberwocking, bragging, mansplaining, gossiping, preaching, et cetera, et cetera…
In all of these, the common denominator is that the talker is only engaging in an attempt to elevate themselves. It can (and should) be argued that just because words are being said doesn’t mean thoughts are being exchanged.
The real question is: can we even call these “conversations?” How can we ensure that we don’t slip into this behavior? Molly, pray tell.
Well, first of all! Let me just say, the irony is not lost on me, that I am completely hogging the discussion of this rule…in a conversation no one asked for…with myself.
But that is neither here nor there.
My answer (speaking as someone with a slight propensity for social anxiety and awkwardness): the most important part of any conversation is to be present.
Quiet your extraneous thoughts, so that you can listen actively. Make eye contact. Smile (if the tone of the conversation allows for it). Lean in.
Be interested. If you don’t know something about the topic, ask questions! Get interested.
I have learned that people love to feel like experts. And I love to make people feel that way! A good conversation should involve some level of enjoyment (well, one would hope, anyway).
So, I love that I know next to nothing about anything. It gives me a chance to really connect with the people I speak with.
Gone are the days when I didn’t want to feel like an ignoramus, and had to pretend that I definitely already knew that…and actually taught a course on it last week, because my dad is totally the inventor of that topic, so I’ve known about it my whole life, so…
What’s important to note here is that it is not up to you to decide what someone is an expert in. Be it their lives, their occupation, their favorite books, music, sports…It’s up to you to learn a new nugget of information from someone else! It’s up to you to be gracious in conversation.
On the off chance that I do know anything about something, I don’t try to one-up the person I’m speaking with.
Similarly, if the information they have is incorrect, I don’t command to them the correct information. I use it as a chance to share the story of how I learned the information I have.
This usually sounds like one of the following:
“I always thought…”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I learned…”
“I recently read an article about the opposite…”
When we get down to it, this rule is about giving yourself permission to learn something new from someone else, in every conversation you have. More importantly, this rule is about learning how to listen actively.
And vice versa! I love getting to teach others new things, from my own brain. As long as your exchanges are genuine and sincere, your “news and ideas” will be received by whomever you engage.
This rule is about setting aside our egos in an effort to have true connection in conversation. The best thing that could happen is you learn something new about yourself, through the experience of someone else.
So, let’s wrap this up:
How often do you find yourself commandeering a conversation?
What are your favorite elements of good conversation?
What are ways you can engage in more authentic conversation?
Who is someone you love talking to? What about their conversational style draws you in?