It’s come to my attention (over the last three years) from someone who is as close to me as close can be (ehm) that when I listen during a conversation I don’t actually listen.
He loves to talk in complex and lengthy monologues with endless analogies. The king of analogies. I usually get what he’s trying to say within the first handful of similes and metaphors, and so I start to tap out or make a personal connection with what he is saying and eagerly cut the monologue short in order to not forget what I want to share by the time he moves on to yet another analogy.
Now these monologues are quite creative and often interesting, but I believe I may have the attention span of a teenager and it is really difficult to stay engaged. I don’t think I choose to stop listening- it’s just an off switch that my mind makes automatically.
He’s in the middle of describing how difficult grad school is and what new things are being thrown at him (and its hard) and suddenly I’m wondering about dinner, or I remember I didn’t check my emails or I start to play Words With Friends.
I know it’s rude, I just don’t know how to fix it. I tell myself I’ll try harder next time, but I forget my resolve when next time comes.
I have started to pay attention to the flow of conversations. They do interrupt. That’s how the current moves and the conversation shifts from one person to the next. The person talking more often than not gets interrupted. Not in a rude or disrespectful way. The person listening notices a slight pause or finds a strong connection with something the speaker just said and jumps in. That’s how a conversation is made.
If we waited until the speaker is done speaking before we take a turn, the conversation becomes stagnant and disengaging. In one 30 second monologue, the listener may end up having 5 connections. But if we wait until the end of the spiel we’ll forget the past four connections and only talk on the last one (unless your memory is that of an elephant). Plus, the flow, the current that the conversation rides on, becomes a one way stream that switches course abruptly and randomly.
I do believe that conversations require the delicate balance of appropriate interjections and interruptions. That’s the way it should flow: back and forth, like the waves of an ocean. My problem is knowing when to interrupt to say my part and to do that I must actively listen to the whole conversation- not disengage randomly.
Conversations are tricky and I’m still learning.