Tuesday, December 28, 2010

can we talk

Living alone, I can often go for days without actually having a conversation with anyone. Telling my cat to move somewhere else, or yelling at the computer for not co-operating, does not count as a real conversation. Working alone, for the most part just adds to my daily quietude. While delivering the newspapers, it is just me and the radio; while giving a massage treatment, I rarely converse with the client while they are on the table.
When I am with people, I don't get this sudden need to talk and talk and talk.... though I am sometimes seeing this happening when I am at the checkout counter (much to my middle aged dismay!). I am one of those people who is quite comfortable with silence. For a certain amount of time. And that time can easily exceed 30 seconds.

This is not the case with one family friend who usually spends the holidays with us. Like me, she also lives alone and spends a good portion of her workday alone in a lab. But when she gets with people, her verbal acuity never falters. At Christmas, I realized with slight exhaustion as I gave her a lift home, she never once stopped talking. She monopolized the conversation competently for the entire eight hours. She always had a insight or opinion on everything that was said by anyone else. My family, who also tend to be on the quiet side, just sort of lets it happen and goes with it. Don't get me wrong, she is also entertaining and knowledgeable (especially in obscure facts about anything to do with movies and television and computers) and she will also listen to you when you have something to contribute and converse instead of just talking over you. But, she never sits silently and listens and observes.

I was at a client's house late one afternoon and they invited me to stay for dinner. This sounded like a fine idea as we had to interrupt our vacation horror stories to actually get the massage treatment completed. During a brief lull in a conversation I was having with Cath while she attended to something in the kitchen, I realized that there were seven people at the table and if you didn't include the cockatoo who was screeching "hello" and "look at me, I'm a bird" (I know!!) but did include the dog who was hovering, there were easily four separate conversations happening at the same time. It was all genial and freeflowing and ... oh so overwhelming. My family dinners would seem formally stilted in comparison. We generally have one topic on the go at a time and while there will be the odd side talk between two people, it is brief and generally still on the same topic. The conversation ebbs and flows and has the usual diversions, but it always seems to include everybody at the table.

I often find my quietness to be a bit of an hindrance - though I know, somebody has to be the listener. I can miss out on having my say from taking too long to process exactly what I want to say before I open my mouth. And if I don't have a follow up immediately in my mind, there can be that awkward silence... And I have always wanted to be the kind of person who can walk into a room and just start a conversation. But somehow, I find it all so exhausting. And a bit annoying.

27 comments:

  1. I had this dilemma many times:) I like to talk, if I have something relevant to say. There are also times I am silent, to process things. Usually I give the Monopolizer something to do/research so I can have some rest, but let them know they are valued.

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  2. Yes - I too am one of those people who likes to think about something before speaking.

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  3. My sympathies! Sometimes - if you're not feeling 'up' for it - one can feel quite battered and exhausted by a period spent with noisy extroverts. I both envy and resent them, well-balanced lass that I am. Gosh, do you think most social gatherings are seething with oppressed introverts?!

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  4. Somebody who can talk for eight straight hours has too little to say.

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  5. I have to talk all day at work so when I come home, I welcome silence.

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  6. I am related to people who I let "talk themselves out" before I start to contribute.....sometimes it can take an hour or two....but I like the idea of sitting and listening more and more these days. It's much better than when I just babbled away incessantly and was embarrassed by some of the things that just 'popped' out of my mouth....

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  7. Jeannette: I am so glad I don't have to work near someone like that!

    Scott: I like you more and more, already

    Beastie: I agree about the envy and resent thing - I feel that way, too. I was feeling quite resentful when I realized that all the things I had in my head as possible conversation starters were still there, in my head.

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  8. I work in a noisy office, so when I get home I welcome the quiet sanctuary of my home. I do love having conversations with people however, and there is nothing nicer than a free-flowing conversation. I would rather talk with people than talk at them. A lot of folks don't seem to understand the difference, however.

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  9. June: she didn't really say anything memorable, this is true

    Gail: when I was in an office, I felt the same way about the telephone once I got home

    Widget: hopefully all those embarrassing 'pops' are long forgotten!

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  10. Jo: you are so right - there are many people who have no idea of their poor communication skills. I can talk for hours with someone who is a good conversationalist and quite enjoy the back and forth parry of ideas and jokes, but I still find it exhausting and can take days to rest up.

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  11. i can relate to this from when i lived alone. i was often only talking to animals for the weekend until i went back to work. i only open up verbally until i'm comfortable.

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  12. I've noticed, indeed that you're not much of a chatter. But lots of people never shut up. I love being able to sit in silence with someone and not feel the need to fill the quiet.

    - Jazz

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  13. It feels like you've written this about me and I completely sympathize with you. I too am one for many silences and conversations in my head. Actually talking out loud is much harder. I live on my own and spend much time in silence or just talking to my animals. Casually talking to someone is harder than it looks. I really have to make an effort.

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  14. I come from a family of everyone talking at once. I never really noticed it until my current husband pointed it out. Somehow we are able to sort everything out that way, but I can see how if that's not what you are used to it could be very annoying. I do like my quiet alone time though.
    Sometimes when I answer the phone people ask if they woke me because I haven't spoken for hours and I'll be a little froggy.

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  15. I work in an intensive environment in cubicleville where the nature of the job is that I yak all day long with my coworkers and customers in person and on the phone. I'm ok with that but I have to get away at lunch to somewhere like the library or for a walk to get the chatter out of my head.

    I find being around people who have to talk all the time to be exhausting.

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  16. OOOh I can SO relate to this! I live alone (OK don't tell Button the cat that!) and work from home, but converse a lot by email. So when in "company" sometimes I want to ask for five minutes to compose my thoughts as I would in email!

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  17. Hello, Violet Sky. You did a beautiful job on that festive blog header!

    Regarding your comment on the artist I featured on my blog The Pagan Sphinx, I provide links to the information on the artists and their works whenever possible. I don't interpret art work, usually. Who am I to try to second-guess someone else's vision? In this case there is a link to follow if you should want to learn more. Thanks for stopping by.

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  18. Char: I have the same problem - people are always thinking they have woken me up

    Jazz: there is a certain comfort in being able to do that with someone

    Nora: the conversations I have in my head are always so good, but it almost never comes out of mouth that way!

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  19. Geewits: oops, I was reading your comment when I attributed my reply to Char's... yeah, I can be rather froggy in voice and squirrelly in words.

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  20. Yogi: I could probably handle that kind of constant chatter easier than one person's chatter about nothing just for the sake of filling the air. but I weouldn't last too long in the job!

    Sian: When I come to visit (note 'when', not 'if') we can sit and watch the sea while thinking of our next words to each other.

    Pagan: thanks. I always click on the links

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  21. Oh I can so relate to this one. Sometimes the louds ones are loud because of the feeling of self consciousness. so I have been informed. To me there is nothing I like better than to be with someone and be okay in ones silence. I find it very tiring to be with people that you have to try and make conversation. I get exhausted. Great post....I too talk to the pets. lol. sometimes hubby comes home from work and if he is tired I still talk to the pets. lol. okay not that bad, just saying. all the best in the New Year. thank you for your kind comments. I am glad our paths have crossed. hugs.

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  22. I think a good listener is a rare thing these days and actually makes a good conversationalist. I tend to not rush in to any conversation also. I subscribe to the saying, "If you keep quiet, people may think you are stupid but if you open your mouth, they will know for sure." But if you are serious about trying to be more vocal, some people I know tell me that joining a Toastmaster's club helped them in this regard.

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  23. One of my best friends is just like that...she never lets a silence go unfilled (I think she's one of those people who feels uncomfortable with companionable silence), and her husband (David's cousin) is nearly as bad. They monopolize every conversation when we're with them. The eyes glaze over after several hours of it.

    Believe it or not, I enjoy my silent self. When I'm here alone, I rarely turn on the TV or the radio, preferring to just hear the sounds of the house, or if the weather permits, the natural sounds of birds and the outdoors. I get enough noise when the grandchildren are around.

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  24. I think I'm a bit like your chatty family friend, lol ... but so is my entire family so we'd definitely be overwhelming for people who like quiet ;) It's funny how we can all be together and have 5 or 6 conversations going on at once and be involved in all of them. But I like quiet too and have been told by many that I'm a good listener, so maybe it depends on who I'm around.

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  25. Oh, I tend to like it quiet too. :)

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  26. Cinner: of course, even more tiring is trying to make conversation with a fellow quiet, non-talker!

    LGS: my fear of public speaking is too overwhelming. I am content with being quiet

    Susan: I sometimes have to convince clients that an hour of pure silence will enhance the massage treatment. I rarely even have music on anymore. It is great if the birds are singing - who wants to drown out that sound?

    Drowsey: well, hello! long time no hear from!

    EGWOW: somehow, I am not surprised!

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  27. Hmmm....wonder if your talkative friend reads your blog :), thanks for sharing your thoughts. I could never in a million years do any public speaking, not really sure if that is the result of nature or nurture. Also love the catnuts photo....lol

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