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We have listened to and read a lot of nonsense and blatantly unsubstantiated claims. This can lead to carelessness, attitudes of self-defense, and faceless, factless exchanges. Simple stories get buried in emotional and quizzical fluff. The life of a conversation takes on messianic functions when we laugh together. Conversation are supposed to open doors that let in the wind of life.
Some of the zigs of chatting
Questions are asked about the fluff instead of the facts. How, when, what, who, and where have become troublesome questions in recent times.
What do I know?
We are loathe to say “I do not know” when our ignorance is obvious. A few messy things we can do in a conversation are
- reserve the right to the final word (“My opinion is the truth”),
- think that questions disturb one’s narrative, and
- take the microphone and talk until one (or the other) forgets what one was saying or runs out of ‘story’.
Not my business? Then do not tell me
(What) Do you want me to know? When one asks if one can ask bells go off. Is that necessary. Aren’t opinions of every type waiting to be the fragrance in the room? Ashamed of our opinions, and wanting to put ourselves in the best possible light we opt to tell never-ending stories. We have every right, and our interests lead us to tell the same story over and over again, and it becomes obvious that variations of the story do not change the reason for telling. We are merely repeating how good or bad something is. We do not gravitate towards telling what a jerk we were, all day. Nooo. We end up believing the things we repeat. Let’s just credit God for the highways and the alleys. It’s much better than putting anyone in a bad light (without mentioning a solution).
A Two-way Street
If the story is an answer to a spoken question all the more should the narrator welcome exchange. It takes two. Every two must make space for the third. A popular maxim states that Christ is the silent listener to every conversation. That intersection – the third person – is essential unless we think our contributions are above critique. Information is not merely stuff we flip back and forth: there is purpose for opening our mouths except where the conversation is purely a time-filler, monologue, or performance. How well we listen is an essential component of good conversations. Listening delivers details, which, if not grasped, makes the time spent more like shooting the breeze, because facts are for focusing interests and, dare I say, love.
Facts not Faces
The sun never rises in the west. We do not hear well when we are talking. Neither is there much to a conversation without query. Something always needs clarification. The facts in the narrative may be all that stands between our motives and the health of the conversation. Who cares if we think our experiences are perfect and edifying when we know that failure is the common lot of every individual? Sugar coating our lifestory works for the immature and sinks the user into deeper delusions. Euphemisms are fine for creative writing and diplomatic relations, but keeping our narrative simple does wonders for building understanding, rapport and friendships.
No one has to look very far to tell that our faces eventually become masks when we avoid the facts of life. Our faces turn to bricks because no one sees our eyes in the phone calls and text messages. How we feel is not immaterial. There is a critical space for emotional envelopes in all our exchanges. Got passion? Be genuine.
Monologues may be informative, empty and shallow, and funny and even shocking and disgusting but they have one thing in common: the speaker gets to listen to himself. When the subject is considered to be all about the speaker there is no need for a listener. Not even God does that.
Droning on, babbling on, rattling on and venting are apt descriptions of the kind of conversations that descend quickly to every thing that comes to mind.
Who is keeping track of the priority?
A confession about why one is a good judge of character turns to an incident where one lady who has little ability in a certain area of social participation exposes her shortcoming and it just happens that her husband is a military man who made millions selling fake meat to the vegetarian community and has a massive tumor in his nose that the doctors say is benign, but bigger tumors exist, like the one seen on vacation in Europe, where the hospitality was way below standards…blah blah blah.
Just try telling the narrator of an account like that the topic was judging character. One is likely to be chided for interrupting or for being impatient.
The best speech is dialogue so we do not need to figure out that religion has divebombed into silly slogans, or why teaching what Jesus taught has become shallow ads for miracles, lectures packed with meaningless tradition, self-aggrandizing stories instead of intelligent conversation.
Elbert E Joseph, PhD
Salt that refuses to be trampled