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No More Conversations

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Don’t you just hate people who force themselves upon you when you want to be left alone? You’re sitting somewhere reading a book or just taking some quiet time, and they come tromping up and start yakking away at you without even asking if you want company. They assume, because you are sitting by yourself, you need to be rescued from the misery of sitting alone.

These are the same people who, when asking, “How are you?” are really saying, “I’m going to tell you about my life whether you like it or not”. Not only do they interrupt your peace and solitude, they then proceed to tell you in piteous tones about how horrible their life is. Once started, nothing can dissuade them from their path. You could get out your book and start reading it again and they would still assume at least a part of you is paying attention to them.

When you finally surrender to the inevitable and get up to leave, they say with complete sincerity, “It was great talking with you”. The fact that it should have been “talking at you” has completely escaped their notice. What did you expect? A conversation that ran two ways?

According to my friends at Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, a conversation is an informal talk with another or others. The key word in that sentence is “with”. Nowhere does it say anything about an informal talk “to” others where one party simply holds forth while all others are supposed to listen. I don’t know about anybody else, but where I come from that sort of thing is called a lecture, or if you’re being generous, a monologue.

How many supposed conversations have you taken part in recently where your sole job was listener? In fact if you dare to interject your own opinion on a subject, you’re treated with a look that could cause paint to bubble and peal. If that weren’t bad enough, there’s the opposite end of the spectrum where your “opponent” treats a conversation like a game of chess, and he or she keeps trying to out-manoeuvre you so they can win by ensuring they have the last word on every subject.

There is also the more common non-conversation – conversation where everyone seems in competition to see who can say as little as possible using as many words as possible. These chats usually start with common inanities about weather and never get much deeper than that. You might get some in depth commentary on the state of ring tones, or which camera phone is best, but if you’re looking for anything of substance, you’re best off looking elsewhere

It wouldn’t be so bad if most of these conversations were carried out by intelligent people who have a lot on the ball and could probably offer intelligent perspectives on most of today’s issues if they cared to. What’s truly unfortunate is that far too many people have begun to believe that to show you’re smart or even informed is a bad thing.

It used to be only women felt like they had to dumb themselves down in order not to scare the men in their lives. While some men have gotten over that particular fear, society itself seems to have become nervous about people with intelligence. Being smart has never made anyone very popular, but it never used to make you quite the object of scorn and ridicule that you are now a days. Being smart has almost been made out as something abnormal and dangerous. The bad guys in movies are always evil geniuses who end up being “outsmarted” by the simple, but right thinking, good guy.

With everything being played to the lowest common denominator, from popular culture to political policy, showing yourself to have a brain has become even less desirable. Understandably people don’t want to make public displays of intelligence among their peer groups when there is the very real possibility of being ostracized.

I find it ironic that in these days of high tech communication, where we can transmit messages instantaneously across thousands of miles, that something as simple as talking to the person beside you has become increasingly difficult. Maybe it’s because we don’t have as much human contact as we once did, or maybe it’s because we have so many more things to pass the time that we simply don’t bother to develop the skills that allow us to communicate verbally, or practice them enough so they are refined for use.

Whatever the reason, it’s becoming harder and harder to find people who you can talk with. Conversations have become a thing of the past with people either using them as excuses for monologues or as vehicles to exchange inanities.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://chrispyne47.blogspot.com/2007/03/people-who-judge-others-and-two-faced.html Kevin

    Richard, you said – “Don’t you just hate people who force themselves upon you when you want to be left alone? You’re sitting somewhere reading a book or just taking some quiet time, and they come tromping up and start yakking away at you without even asking if you want company. They assume, because you are sitting by yourself, you need to be rescued from the misery of sitting alone.”

    Then you say –

    “I find it ironic that in these days of high tech communication, where we can transmit messages instantaneously across thousands of miles, that something as simple as talking to the person beside you has become increasingly difficult.”

    So, which of these two people are you? The one who doesn’t want anyone forcing themselves on you, or the one who’s simply trying to make conversation with another living human being in this tech age?

    You do see the irony and the hypocrisy in your own post, I presume?

  • http://www.buyingone.com Christopher Rose

    Kevin, you are clearly exactly the kind of person Richard is talking about. You were so keen to get your own 2 cents in that you missed his points entirely.

    The only irony here is that an article about the failure of communication has drawn a response that so richly proves the point…

  • Kevin

    Christopher –
    No, I was clearly confused as to which of the two individuals he was professing to be. He seems to be saying we’ve lost the art of simple conversation, yet asks how many of us have been irked by someone trying to engage us in conversation. Isn’t it just as simple to tell the person ‘pushing themselves upon us’ that we’re taking a little much needed quiet time to ourselves?

    Either he wants a simple dialog with someone or he doesn’t, and being able to communicate well is just that. My question still stands – to Richard, who is the only one who knows what he meant.

  • http://www.buyingone.com Christopher Rose

    He wasn’t professing to be either of them; my perception is that he was addressing two different situations and you have mixed them up together, hence the irony. Your question is too tired to stand…

  • Kevin

    [and you have mixed them up together, hence the irony]

    As opposed to ‘mixing them up apart?’ :-)

    If you’re writing something, particularly one that verges on remorse for something lost, it’s helpful for the reader to know exactly what it is you’re remorseful for losing. It’s rare that a person isn’t writing from one perspective or another – unless you’re devoid of opinion and we both know Richard is not that.

    Hence my very legitimate question.

  • http://www.buyingone.com Christopher Rose

    I think the fact that you’ve now posted three times on the basis of your inability to understand two discrete concepts that appeared at opposite ends of this opinion piece elegantly proves the contention.

    Perhaps you should try re-reading the article with your brain in top gear rather than persisting in your deft demonstration of misunderstanding?