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The Master of the Pointless Conversation: How To Avoid Time-Wasters

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If you're like most people, then you often feel like you're spending far too much time and emotional energy having certain conversations with certain people.

Imagine how many years we could add to our lives if we could reclaim all the time we've wasted on those pointless, meaningless, destructive, repetitious, mind-blowingly frustrating, mind-numbingly boring, too-many-to-remember conversations we've all had.

You know the ones. Quite often they're with the same people. About the same issues. Or similar. And invariably we end up with the same result: frustration, conflict, anger, tears, drama or some combination thereof. No joy, no solution, no agreement, no mutual understanding or respect. And less time and productivity in our day.

They usually last for anywhere between five minutes and five hours and typically result in you feeling like you've been smashing yourself in the head with a bat for two days. Then you hate yourself for being so dumb, emotional, and reactive, only to repeat the process (ritual, habit) the next day, week, month. I know — I've done it.

I once went out with a girl (yes, incredible, I know) and we had the same conversation about the same issues fourteen million times. Always with the same result — disagreement. Over the course of three years, we found fifteen thousand different ways to have the same conversation — all with the same outcome! Fortunately for me (and her) I grew up and learned a little about communication.

Regarding these types of conversations, there are a few questions we should ask ourselves:

1. Do I start them?

2. Do I perpetuate them?

3. Do I know how to finish/avoid them?

4. Do I recognise when I'm in the middle of such a conversation?

5. What's the trade-off for my precious time and energy? Why do I keep doing it? I must get something out of it, right?

6. Do I really want to change that part of my life?

We'll never completely rid our life of the pointless conversation but it is in our interest to keep them (the destructive ones anyway) to a minimum. I've had many pointless (but hilarious) conversations in the staff room at work; the lads and I sitting around talking mindless, but very entertaining, crap. No philosophy, no life-changing dialogue, but much hilarity.

But the fun, silly, incidental exchanges are not what I'm chatting about today. I'm talking about those conversations which invariably result in a negative emotional state for one or both parties.

Some of us seem to have faulty wiring; even though we know it's pointless, we know it's gonna be ugly, we can't help ourselves and we jump right in, time after (painful) time. And no, not every verbal exchange needs to be some deep, philosophical, life-changing, uplifting experience; after all, how exciting can we make the "Hey Sam can you pick up Josh from practice at five? Er, Yeah, okay" conversation?

Not very.

But at some stage we need to acknowledge that we are (occasionally) masters of the pointless discussion. Wasting time and energy on garbage conversations. Lots of talking, but no listening. Two people talking at each other. A lot of going around in circles. I guess it could be argued that no conversation is meaningless as they all happen for a reason but it might be pertinent to ask: Is this a meaningful conversation – or – is this heavy-duty, intense, time-consuming (loud) conversation 1) likely to create a positive outcome/s or 2) worth the emotional investment?

Often the answer will be no.

If you have a habit of being involved in these pointless, all-too-regular, destructive conversations (willingly or not), here are my suggestions and thoughts:

1. No matter how right you think you are, you're probably not (not always, anyway).

2. That really annoying person can't have a pointless conversation by him/herself.

3. Same creates same; if nothing changes, nothing changes — you know my thoughts on this. If you keep doing the same (getting involved in those stupid discussions), you'll keep creating the same (pain).

4. Using the same communication style with different people doesn't work. Different people respond to different approaches. Ask yourself this question: How do I need to communicate with this person to produce the best outcome? What will engage one person, will alienate another, so figure it out.

5. Identify the triggers for these conversations, and when you become aware that the conversation is beginning to spiral, 1) shut it down or 2) change tack.

6. Don't allow yourself to get into situations where you know you're probably gonna head down the pointless conversation road. There are certain people that I'll never give too much time because I know that I'm gonna lose an hour of my life for no good reason. If it was a productive, valuable hour with a positive outcome, I'd gladly give that hour to them, but it never is. It's always the same mindless, pointless, heard-it-all-before, woe-is-me crap.

7. Don't try and impose your thoughts, beliefs or ideas on anyone. Talk with them, not at them. Even if you're one hundred percent right ('cause that's gonna happen), there's still no point trying to convince, coerce, enlighten or impose; you'll only create resentment, not respect.

"But Craig, I'm only trying to help!" Yeah — but you can't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. Or doesn't want to learn from you.

8. We've spoken about Energy Vampires before, they are the 'Top Guns' of pointless conversations — the best of the best. So if you see Goose or Maverick heading in your direction, run.

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