Girl, Interrupted

I miss intellectual conversation and dialogue. I used to love discussions in some of my college courses and would leave class absolutely high from the stimulating interaction. Even now I find myself a little overeager at times to jump into actual discussions I overhear in random settings, almost as if I crave that high again. I don’t mean talking about the superficial things, but the actual exchanging of ideas.

I think this is why I write.

Unlike those women with their cell connected to their head, I hate the telephone and use it only when necessary. When it comes to face-to-face communication I am great in social situations where I can plan ahead and remain fairly anonymous, yet slightly awkward in day-to-day interactions with acquaintances. Unless I know you well or not at all, I tend to get insecure and kind of weird.

Before you say anything, hear me out…

Maybe it’s a confidence thing, as with writing I have the time to self-edit a bit and make sure that I’m communicating what I want to say—even if it’s just an e-mail or text message. This gives me time to put aside the impulsive reaction and respond appropriately, not so off the cuff. When put on the spot, I tend to fumble a bit more and awkwardly reply. I always want to “backspace” and start over, so to speak, including instead something more witty or wise.

No, wait, let me finish…

Clare had a very insightful post on listening that got me thinking about my own need to be heard. The thing is, I don’t think that people really listen to me when I talk most of the time. In fact, I’m pretty sure most people don’t really know how to listen. Many people I deal with on a daily basis ask questions without waiting for the answer and launching into an aside of their own. Whether intentional or not, they dominate the conversation (used loosely) and even though I’m not shy (used loosely,) there are times I actual wonder if I spoke out loud or if it was only in my head, as the reaction is the same.

Hold on, I’m almost done…

I think this need to be heard is normal, but it’s also a bit frustrating. As much as I love her, my mom is the worst. I can literally be talking about one thing and she will interrupt me with something completely unrelated without missing a beat. I listen, I nod, I ask questions because I know that’s how she is. I play my role and she plays hers — relative peace is kept. But once in awhile I would like to have someone actually listen to what I have to say instead of going through the motions, adding interjections and quickly moving on to other topics.

I think this is why I write.

When I write, I can communicate without getting cut off. Writing is one way I can guarantee that at least one part of my discussion will be complete and the topic won’t get shifted to something completely unrelated, the focus momentarily skewed. I have a lot to say—a lot of worthy things to say—and you are forced to read it through with no retort (insert evil laugh here…muwahh-ha-ha.)

You may turn the page or click off the screen, but at least I know I’ve “said” my piece and did what I wanted to do. It may not spark intellectual conversation and dialogue, but it’s one way I can try (with backspace/delete at the ready, of course.)

If you still have an interest in art, check out the current Top 25 on the ArtPrize website. I was able to visit some venues this weekend and look forward to hitting some more this week. While I don’t “get” a lot of it, I respect the artist’s efforts. They’re communicating—uninterrupted—through their art.

That I get.

11 responses to “Girl, Interrupted

  1. I miss intellectual conversation, too! Let’s face it, the geology department here doesn’t have the most articulate or thoughtful of individuals. And people do not know how to listen. At all. My boyfriend is a one upper and an over talker. So he either cuts me off or just starts talking about himself. So I don’t feel heard. He has gotten better, but since he has always had to fight to be heard growing up, it is hard for him to simply listen. I, on the underhand, love listening to people. I love making people feel heard, because I seldom feel this way. I use to have severe issues with not speaking unless I knew exactly what I was going to say. I am getting alittle better with this, because, as you said, people rarely listen to what other people have to say. So my words do not need to be perfect! Plus, it isn’t like someone is going to hand me a grade at the end of the conversation. Hope you are having a great day, and I hope you are feeling heard.

    • Exactly! I’ve found old people really appreciate the gesture, and I learn so much by just listening. And trust me, if I really want to be heard, I will make myself heard 😉 It’s also kind of like that old quote, “It’s better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.”

  2. I’m thought of as shy by most people. And while I agree that I’ve been shy for most of my life, I think I’m more quiet than shy. Let me explain! I don’t have a fear of talking to other people, it’s more like I just don’t think saying whatever I’m thinking is important. I hear people talking and they spout off at eachother less than a second in delay, and I just don’t do that. I truly think about what I want to say and not just…….say it. It’s okay that they think I”m shy, but if I have an opinion and say it, they do get kind of shocked because apparently you can’t be quiet and have strong opinions too?!

    For the most part though, I love meeting new people. That totally goes against my non existent social life, but it’s true. I try to learn from everyone I meet. Even if I don’t like them! I love to just listen to them. If I could listen to conversations and not worry about having to feel “normal” by having something clever to say, I’d be happy! It’s not that I don’t think I’m as clever as they are, I just don’t want to regret anything I might say, because I think words are so important. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we hold more importance in our words than others might?

  3. I clicked to a different screen….kidding 😉
    I think I have a hard time listening to myself. I have a hard time communicating with myself and I think I fare way better communicating with others. Dont know if that makes any sense, but I find the body language or the writing a lot easier to understand than whats going on in my twisted little head of mine.

    That being said, this is why I write. I can look back, read over my thoughts, and listen to myself.

    Personally, I hate cutting people off because its a pet peeve of mine when people do it to me. But sometimes, when people write LONG ass blog posts, I feel like cutting them off, or at least clicking to someone else on their blogroll 😉

  4. I dislike the phone also. A lot.
    And I agree with no one listening. My mother was classic for that. She’d sit there growing up and I’d talk away about a concern or event or just for some effort at small, comfortable talk…and she’d just be staring off…completely lost in her own head. It always made me feel either a) on edge, or b) angry….now, looking back, I realize she had a lot on her mind…we were both in the same house, and the kids had a bunch to deal with…and yet, I never fully appreciated the crap she dealt with day in and out. No wonder she was so distant and cold. I look back now and think that whole thing that she and others were kids once too..just as confused and angry and sad.
    Either way, you are right. Oftentimes the best answer or engagement of simply just to nod and not talk. Listen.
    In my line of work, I was always taught to be a listener…to be empathetic versus sympathetic. Makes a point I guess.

  5. I am so NOT a phone person as well. I have sometimes been very late with paying bills just because I kept putting off the phone call needed to make the payment.

    And my mom does the random insertion of topic change to me CONSTANTLY, it really bugs me.

    This semester I’m not in classes for the first time since kindergarten, and I definitely feel you on missing intellectual discussions. My boyfriend is in a different field of study from me (and lives 10 hours away anyway), so he humors me but can’t really have the deep kind of debates and discussions I crave on many issues. And your point about writing as an outlet for that is really interesting. I think that sometimes that works for me, although in other ways it causes me to doubt myself if there’s not “enough” evidence that people have actually read it, kind of an anxious people-pleaser response to putting ideas out there.

    On the other hand, it is a terrific way to avoid people interrupting or assuming they can contradict or critique your point before you’ve actually had the chance to make it! That is one of the best things about writing, and reading, in my opinion, getting a full-bodied outlay of the ideas and arguments in a coherent fashion, and being forced to hold off commentary until the end, which actually helps as a reader/listener as well.

    Very insightful post, as usual!

  6. I’ve come to the very sad conclusion that most people out there (at least in the U.S.) are not interested in thinking about anything challenging much less listening to other’s opinions (especially if different than their own). When in Europe I tend to notice that people like to interract with others–they get out of their homes, linger over meals and talk about everything–and they remain friends despite differing opinions. Maybe that’s my skewed view on the whole thing. For a while I’ve been trying to find people who are intellectually curious and interested in sharing their thoughts with me in a mutual way. I’ve not made much headway on this by the way.

    I also tend to get labelled as “shy” and sometimes I am. But mostly I just believe in saying something when appropriate, not just to fill the air. My mom sounds a lot like yours. And I love my mom to death but she cannot sit with silence. Ever. And never seems to remember anything that I say (she has a hard time listening, for sure).

    As usual with your posts, I could go on. I’ll just add that I cannot stand cell phones and do my best to avoid talking/texting on the phone in general.

    P.S. I’m so excited to hear that Grand Rapids has exciting art there. Go Michigan!!

  7. I really really loved this post. No, but seriously. It was insightful and honest.

    Hold on, I’m not done yet.

    Because I agree with what you said! I miss that college classroom setting where our brains our stimulated and a good debate gets the blood pumping.

    Let me finish 😉

    I also think that a lot of people don’t actively listen. Like when someone asks how you’re doing and doesn’t really wait to hear the response. LISTEN!

    I’m almost done, I swear 😉

    I think that’s also why I love to write. It’s a blank slate, an empty canvas, a outlet for creativity. So please keep on writing because I love your writing!

  8. Kath (Eating for Living)

    I can relate to so much in this post: the phone awkwardness, the knowing the other well or not at all to feel comfortable in a conversation, and the need for intellectual exchange …

    Last summer I attended a course on mindful communicating at university, and it was very interesting and insightful! We did a lot of applied practices and conversation training (that’s crucial for therapy and consulting), and one of those exercises was about the importance of listening well. We practiced in pairs, one person should tell about an experience she enjoyed recently, and the other person should listen – actively at first, and then unttentively after a few minutes. It was incredible how much the conversation changed after the other person had switched from active to unattentive listening. This made me understand how much you contribute to a conversation by “just” listening well.

  9. Pingback: They stopped at perfection « I Have Issues

  10. Pingback: Up For Debate, part 2 « I Have Issues

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