I used to have this friend who was a generally odd sort of fellow, who happened to be one of those types that would talk on and on…and on…. about particular subjects, with no natural end to the conversation in sight. What made it even worse was the fact that, if you should try to respond or add to the subject, you could almost see the lights go out as his mind ticked off a pre-programmed allotment of seconds before he could interject and begin prattling on again. Sometimes I would just reply with something nonsense and totally off-subject, because it truly felt like a one-sided conversation.
Him: yadda yadda Indonesian basket-weaving…yadda yadda…. materials picked from fields….blah blah…. children learn at the age of two….. beep de boop…. dyes were made from plants…..
Me: I used to be afraid of those flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.
Him: (Blinks) (Pauses) And the villagers would use them as trade items…….
Obviously, this was not the person to whom to turn if having a serious, life-altering dilemma.
When I was younger, someone (or perhaps multiple someones) called me a “chatterbox,” and I remember feeling a little offended by it. Mainly because I felt like it was a polite way of trying to get me to shut up, but also because I felt like my “chattering” had true conversational content. It wasn’t me just yapping on about nothing, it was attempt at interactive banter. Sadly, I’m guessing your thought is, “well, Catherine, that’s what all chatterboxes say.”
Over the years, this is something that has kind of stuck in the back of my mind, and when I find myself in the presence of a true chatterbox, I wonder, “Crap, do I sound like this?”
After much thought and consideration, I’ve decided that I am not a chatterbox. I’ve decided that many people have a form of A.D.D. when it comes to listening (no offense). Because I’ve noticed that, with the “right” friends, you yap, they yap, you both yap, and somehow it all flows together symphonically. When I go for long periods of time without speaking to these “right” friends, I notice that I get a little antsy. I notice that I get tired of people with no real conversational skills, and I long for the feeling that I’m actually being heard.
I have a friend who also happens to be a blog-writer (he’s lovely, you can find him here: http://inklingofasylum.wordpress.com/about/) and he mentions that, when he writes, it’s like he’s having a conversation with the readers, readers who are interested in what he has to say. That last bit…. was like a light bulb moment for me. Maybe not a light bulb, but perhaps more like a “click” moment.
I guess the genius behind writing (blogs or otherwise), in my mind, is that you have the opportunity to say what you want to say, without interruption, without glazed-over expressions (at least, none that you can see); it’s just full-on yapping (uh-oh) about anything and nothing, and people can choose to “listen,” or just tune out. And none (translation: me) will be the wiser.
In my quest to discover whether I’ve turned into my Indonesian basket-weaving friend, and my realizations on some of my motivation behind writing, I’ve tried to sort out if it was just some narcissistic thing: I want to be heard, listen to me…me…meeeeee, or if it was truly just the enjoyment of saying what I wanted to say, take it or leave it. Is blog-writing, or writing in general, just my version of a selfie?
I am an avid people-observer, and a chatterbox-thinker, and a self-analyst, and many people really aren’t listening, and that annoys me. I don’t know if it’s too little sleep, or too much multi-tasking, or just good old-fashioned rudeness, but I’m not going to take all the blame for this one. The next time you find yourself engaged in an attempt at witty banter, take a look at your co-conversationalists. Are they looking at you with an interested expression? Are they looking at you but kind of slack-jawed and dead-eyed? Are they looking at their phones and typing text messages? Are they responding to what you say? In a sensical manner?
If you find yourself in slack-jawed audience category, I have a few suggestions:
- If you are talking about the wonders of Bavarian goat cheese for longer than a period of seven minutes, and the person has not asked you about it nor expressed interest on the subject (hey, I’d listen if you had a good story), you might want to reconsider your conversational skills and whether they need some honing.
- If the person is just rude, because your subject is indeed fascinating and/or important, shake them by the shoulders, and suddenly yell out, “HEY! ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME??!!”
- Start a blog. Or a diary. Or something. Writing can be cathartic. No joke.
And if anyone accuses you of being a chatterbox, tell them to go flip a duck. That was for you, Dad.