Drugs. When I was in junior high, one of my best friends started dabbling in drugs. It was an extremely painful process for me. I had known all my life to “say no to drugs,” and I worried about her a lot. I specifically remember a conversation that I had with my dad one afternoon. Before he met my mother, he had experimented with pot. He explained to me how it made you feel and how it slowed down your thinking process.
Going through the motions. One thing that I remember in particular was a description of “conversation” between two people who are high. He said that two people could be sitting there talking to each other, but they were basically just going through the motions. Neither was listening to what the other had to say. One might talk about his new car, and the other might talk about his brother the whole time. Neither responds to what the other one says. Basically, they are just talking to themselves while facing one another.
One-sided conversation. The other day, I overheard two men talking to each other. One was the pastor of a church, and the other was a youth pastor at another church (judging by their conversation). Now neither of them had been experimenting with drugs (to my knowledge), but their conversation had the same one-sided qualities as the one described above. It seemed strange at first, but as their conversation progressed, it struck me just how common it was. Here are my thoughts:
No exchange of information. I would venture to say, that on some level, most conversations are just two people talking about themselves. Each participant will (usually) politely wait for the other participant/s to finish speaking; then they will say what they had decided to say 30 seconds ago. They can’t really listen to the first speaker because they might forget what it is that they really want to say. It’s funny if you happen to eavesdrop on two people who are doing this to each other. (Not funny if you catch yourself doing it.) They don’t really exchange information at all. Each comment makes them think of something else they really want to say, usually to one-up the other person’s comments. Every time each person speaks, they are continuing their own monologue from where they left off. They don’t take anything new with them when they leave the conversation, because they were “sharing” more than they were listening. I would be tempted to call this a waste of oxygen.
Challenge: Next time you find yourself doing this, try to stop imagining how interested “they” would be to hear your stories, and just listen. If you have a really bad habit, just ask questions instead of making comments.
A quick confession: I catch myself doing this all the time, to people I love and in whom I am genuinely interested. It’s a problem for me. Maybe I have made the common mistake of assuming everyone else is wired like me, so maybe I’m the only one who really needs to pay attention to this post!