Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Conversation-Monopolizing Bore

Or, How to [not] Become a Fanatical Conversationalist

The Story of a Cowardly Conversationalist

I laugh at myself when I think about this subject topic.  I am not a good conversationalist, and I never have been.  I always like to say that my speaking ability lies in the power of my pen.  I used to think that I would rather write a letter to a friend or family member so that I could say exactly what I wanted to say, than to speak to them in person as I trip over words and barely cover a third of what I wanted to say in the first place.  It’s a terrible weakness really.  I ought to push myself and exceed the minimal limits that I have placed upon myself, but I don’t know if I am that brave yet (although reading Stonewall Jackson’s Book of Maxims is greatly encouraging me).  However, I can say that I have come a long way since I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and maybe even sixteen.  I feel a little bit more confident than I did then, but still not confident enough.  Self-confidence is just not my forte.

Between my fifteenth and sixteenth year I found out how much I exceedingly enjoyed to write (that is also when I really began to write poetry on a constant basis, and consequently I now have around 120 poems).  From some of my early years as a young girl I can still remember how much I loved to read, and even write short stories and poems, but it really kicked in as I grew older.  Although, there is one thing that I regret about my avid reading and writing: because I found a weak spot in my conversational skills, I retreated back into myself so that I would not have to face as much embarrassment.  Now I find out what a bad mistake that was.  Sometimes I think I’m going insane because I have all sorts of conversations—profound ones and trivial ones—with myself in my head because of my conversational cowardice.  I could give you an example to corroborate my story, but I don’t want my head psychoanalyzed.

I prefer the usage of majestic gargantuan words when I write.  You cannot conjecture the arduous quantity of time I exhaust exploring the reference publication listing of alphabetically arranged definitions for dexterous and zestful phrases and expressions to exhibit my cosmopolitan yearning of sophistication.   Okay, perhaps that last sentence was a bit ambiguous.  I definitely cannot do that in my regular everyday speech (my siblings would think I had lost it).  On the other hand, I think I tend to be more extreme when it comes to the words I use in writing because I would rather find the biggest and most delicious words in the dictionary to get my point across and not everybody know what I mean, than to use everyday proper language that I know people will understand.  I am not a big word type of person in my conversation though, no matter my aspirations to be one.  My writing is a different story, as you can see. 

So what exactly is a conversation-monopolizing bore?  Someone who dominates the tête-à-tête so that the other person can’t even get a word in edgewise?  I’d say that pretty much sums it up, including someone who is so lax in their conversation skills that the lagging conversation is downright b-o-r-i-n-g (guilty).  I know best what it is not, mostly because I am not the kind to greatly monopolize conversations...with strangers and friends anyway.  Then again, I, well, I’m afraid that I can be a wee bit overbearing with my siblings...oops.  But for the most part, I am apt to shy away into the background as a very backward, reserved, quiet little girl (I said for the most part).

I once heard the word cosmopolitan in a story a few years back and loved it.  Just say it aloud and you will know what I mean: cos-mo-pol-i-tan.  I love the sound of it!  Then I proceeded to look up its meaning because I had never heard the word before.  I found that it basically meant “from or knowing many parts of the world; sophisticated.”  Definitely me, in a wishful kind of sense.  Not that I am cultured or refined or traveled.  I used to hope that a dashing Christian millionaire would fall for me and we would travel the world (thus earning the cosmopolitan title), but now I think I was deceiving myself (Gal.6:3).  Besides, I don’t even know any dashing Christian millionaires, specifically who fit my ideal!  Okay, I’m getting a little off course here.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren,
let every man be swift to hear,
slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
-James 1:19

Real meaningful conversation that doesn’t lag and isn’t boring consists of two parts: speaking and listening.  Awkward conversation is lopsided when one person does most of the talking, or when two people twiddle their thumbs not knowing what to say, but real conversation is what we want.  In real conversation (and when I say real I mean meaningful) there are two people communicating responsibly and maturely, both equally listening to what the other person has to say, and both equally participating in the talking aspect.

I am sure we all know that the most important person in conversation is the other person.  The way we can show this is by keeping eye contact, for as my dad says, this shows the other person that we are genuinely interested in what they have to say, and that we respect them enough to actually listen to them.  Most times we are too engrossed by what we want to say (our “wisdom,” or perhaps a favorite topic we are passionate about) that we often forget about the other person as we rattle off nonsense or even a legitimate subject matter.  What we don’t realize is that we damage relationships when we control conversation.  Plus, people then decide we are boring and don’t want to engage us in conversation again.   Look out—Rachel is coming—hide!
“Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD,
my strength and my redeemer.”
-Psalm 19:14

While being a good listener is absolutely vital, the words that we speak are also just as important, for they reflect upon our characteristics and nature in general.  If all we do is prattle off whatever comes to our brain, we will likely be proven a fool.  Then again, if we use the hip and trendy language of the modern youth that really doesn’t make any sense (yaknow, like using, yaknow, like, words that, like, make no sense whatever man), we will still look (and sound) a fool.  The only way to exercise proper verbal communication is to think about what we are going to say before we say it.  This also eliminates any hurtful words that might pop out.  We are accountable to the Lord for everything we do, including the words of our mouth (Matt.12:36).  The easiest way to make a fool of oneself is to insert-foot-into-mouth.  How ever we do it, I can’t even comprehend, but we do it nevertheless.  Even reserved people such as myself.  But I have found out that the more jovial, open, and talkative one is, the easier it is to insert foot.  No offense, jovial, open, and talkative people.

I have always envied those who always know what to say, whether it be something witty and humorous, or a philosophical intelligent reply.  I am never anything of the kind.  I’m more the type who will think of that certain witty or intelligent remark hours later while lying in bed unable to sleep.  I’ll jerk straight up as if a lightning bold hit me: “Aha! I know just what too say!”  But by then it is far too late.  I’m afraid my intelligence comes none too quick.  Bummer.

Fortunately for me I don’t tend to monopolize conversations.  No, I’m more inclined to be just plain reserved and boring.  How humdrum.  On the contrary, I can remember being eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen even and terrible indecisive on what to say to a friend.  I remember one specific friend with whom I would sit on the couch at my grandparents’ house and barely say five words to when I was eleven.  How she ever put up with backward little me, I’ll never know.  The good news is that I have changed a little bit—not so shy, not so backward, not such a non-conversationalist, not such a freak—but I still don’t monopolize conversations. 

Who knows, I may get there yet.  But I doubt it.


Joy said...

That was interesting to read, Rachel, and in some places so funny too :). That sentence... "THINK ABOUT WE ARE GOING TO SAY BEFORE WE SAY IT" stood out to me. I find it a lot easier to express my thoughts and wordings in writing a lot better than speaking and making a fool of yourself (the self-confidence factor is the same with me too), though I tend to be the "jovial, open and talkative" type of persons... :P

But seriously those two Scripture verses (James and Psalm 19) are ones that we truly need to not only know but put into practice! Thanks for sharing about that!
God bless you and your lovely family.
In His love,

Rachel said...

Thanks, Joy! I love it if I can be humorous and serious at the same time. I get such a thrill out of knowing that. =)