“And then— …that was all.”

A memory that came up from third grade or younger…

I’m watching a couple of adults have a conversation. The person talking isn’t noticing that the person listening is clearly not interested in what they have to say.

Fear of being clueless like that is part of what stopped me from talking much to people for a long time.

While I’m sure I miss some social cues nowadays—as do most or maybe all people—this is much less a fear than it used to be, though I over-apologize for rambling. I’ve had good results often enough with changing the conversation (or just shutting up) that I’m pretty confident in my ability to see in others what I witnessed all those years ago.

(In full disclosure, I fear the snickers of people I talk to regularly as they read that.)

But this also leads to discomfort talking on the phone.

It’s not the only discomfort with talking on the phone, but without visual cues to help me be tuned in to other people and not just the verbal live stream of my brain, I feel uncomfortable talking a lot.

(This doesn’t always stop me from doing it.)

In recent years, I’ve learned a lot about how my brain works and have learned that my enthusiasm for many things is to others as interesting as Rocket Kid’s excitement about Minecraft is to me. Perhaps polite listening as a show of support happens for a little while, and then … not so much.

Sometimes, I just need a different audience. Sometimes, maybe the story isn’t actually that compelling. 

Longer ago, I learned that if someone is tuned out, I don’t need to wrap up the story—or even the sentence. I can literally just stop talking. More modernly, this additionally applies to people on their phones, or people on Zoom who are clearly reading something else. 

(Nope, sorry, you can’t read and listen at the same time. People who have told me they do both well are not aware how many times they’ve missed parts of the conversation, whether it’s just with me or with a group, and there’s no convincing them otherwise.)

Even with some awareness, there’s no guarantee I’m hitting the mark well (see: fear of snickers, above). 

Funny the things we notice and remember and are shaped by, even inadvertently.

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