Recent experiences have reminded me that there are many people who don’t take the time to listen to those around them. I’m torn about whether this is a social flaw or something that speaks to the core of one’s character. I suspect it depends on the person. It’s particularly frustrating, however, if it’s your date.
My date, better known as the Red Scare
The first time I meet this guy is for a coffee, (let’s call him ‘Guy”, in fact). Guy speaks extensively about his job, salary, education, real estate and cars. I realize afterwards I had little opportunity to share about me, yet learned quite a bit about Guy who has been in my life all of 45 minutes. I decide not to rush to judgment. After all, some people over-talk when they’re nervous. Besides, Guy seems nice enough and he’s easy on the eyes. My shallow side emerges again. Or, is it desperation? Let’s hope not. Maybe it’s hope. Yeah, that’s it, hope and optimism. I decide the red flag is really just a pale shade of pink.
The next occasion we converse (if you call it that) is over drinks and food at a local bar. I learn more about Guy’s current and past real estate deals and the way he has manipulated them to his advantage. I hear how Guy has cleverly edged himself into his current job, as well as his plan to proudly use the company before moving on to bigger things. He tosses out more numbers; percentages, dollar amounts, and test scores. Now some people (including Guy, I’m sure) might call this good business. I am, however, getting a creepy, crawly feeling on my skin. Don’t ever annoy the creepy, crawly feeling, by the way. It’s usually a sign, not an allergy. I’m now convinced Guy is more than just cluelessly (I know it’s not a word, spellcheck, but I like it) self-involved. Guy is a pompous, selfish ass! For all I know he is a sociopath, but some things are better left a mystery. The flag before my eyes is now such a bright, frightening, blazing red that I call it my own personal Red Scare.
I give up even trying to break into the conversation (I mean, monologue) at this point. What a bummer! I had felt a strong physical attraction, but this has vanished. I assume, however, this tendency toward one sided discourse would transfer in bed to one sided intercourse, so I’m really not missing anything. So……. I let the crushing wave of disappointment fade into pure fascination. Can Guy really not hear how he sounds?! I wish I am filming this and think briefly about whether I can activate the recording app on my phone without his knowledge. Instead, I eventually make excuses, to his disappointment, and end the evening. He tells me how much he loves hanging out with me. I choke back a laugh and my mind screams, “Of course you do. I listened to you talk about yourself all night long (okay, it was only an hour. It just felt like a long night)”. I let him pay the check, by the way, instead of my usual offer to split the tab. It still came to less than I used to charge for an hour of therapy. He’ll never know what a great deal he got. Or maybe he does, and he’s bragging about it right now to another girl (poor thing). I wish I had ordered a bigger meal or some wine. I know how much money he makes, don’t forget, and I am a starving artist now.
Before you judge me for bashing Guy and writing about him, I should say that I will be politely honest when he calls to schedule his next therapy session. It still blows me away that Guy never once asked me anything substantial about my interests or my life.
A different encounter: Conversation Interuptus
A recent networking event with other creative types has me sitting at the end of a long table next to a new face. I pleasantly ask this gentleman what drew him to the group. Forty five minutes later, I am still trying to extricate myself from a one way conversation. Every time he asks me a question, he immediately interrupts my answer when it triggers another thought as to how the subject applies to him. He is probably a great guy. All those who monopolize conversations are not selfish and uncaring like Guy. When I was younger, I was a big offender of this (so says my ex-husband) and am probably still guilty from time to time. Sometimes people are just very excited about what is going on in their lives. Maybe they have never learned to stop and listen. One of my very best friends carries this trait. She will ring me up (oops, I went all British there), share her entire day, and then say goodbye. Sometimes I call her out and she will apologize. She claims she is “a poor listener” which she inherited from her Dad who “has untreated ADD”. Mmmmm. “Well, since you’re aware”, I tell her, “get yourself some Ritalin and quit it.” That said, she is a deeply caring and sensitive human being who would do anything in the world for me. I just have to tell her to shut up sometimes, and then specifically direct her to listen. I still love her and wouldn’t trade her for the world. She is a blessing in my life.
What does it all mean? I need to hear from you!
I do sometimes wonder if it’s just me. Is my previous life as a mental health therapist working against me? Do people sense something in my presence and subconsciously think, ‘here’s someone to whom I can tell all my shit.’? I mean, does my genuine concern and innate ability to listen radiate from my pores like cheap perfume (or my healthy sense of self-esteem)? Or, is all of this the consequence of a more egocentric, ‘me’ mentality which is present in today’s world? Please, someone tell me your thoughts. I’d love to hear your experience (yes, I really would listen).
The older I get, I am more drawn to the mutual aspects of communication and less interested in fighting for air time. If you want to know about me, you will ask. And if you really care, you’ll wait to hear my answer. I am increasingly grateful for people I encounter who do both. Okay, your turn……….