I was awake in the night thinking about how blessed I am to have a number of true friends in my life; people who are as willing to hear me when I am ranting about fears or perceived injustices as I am willing to hear them do the same. While there is no one yet right here in the city I am that close to, some of my friends live within a relatively short drive from me and I am grateful for that. The other true friends live far to the east, on an Island far to the west, in north central Alberta, with one or two scattered about in between those points.
I think I have been pondering my true friendships because of so many encounters of late with people I don't know very well. I am discerning a distinct lack of ability when it comes to the skills needed for proper social encounters in many of these new aquaintanceships. It seems the conversation takes on a definite "one way street" sensibility. A simple opening question from me as to the state of the person's health or career or family and the person is off and running, like a wind up toy with a pre-recorded tape of an answer, lasting anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on how long I can stand to listen before finding a way to gently extricate myself. In the past few years it has happened over and over and over again. It has reached "ludicrous speed". (thank you again script writers of "Spaceballs"!)
There is no interest in having a reciprocal conversation. In all these past few encounters not one of the people I spoke to asked me so much as a single question about myself or my life, nary so much as a statement as simple as, "O, I like your blouse.". Nothing, nil, nada.......on goes the monologue, ad nauseum. "Me, me, me and then some more me and of course then there is always me..."
My husband is often present during these encounters, watching from the other side of the room as he visits with perhaps the spouse of the person I am listening to. Recently, after I managed to escape the latest monologue prison, we both got the giggles. He thinks it is hilarious how often that happens to me in social settings. I think so too...but usually it takes a few hours to get my mind to that point and to restore my good humour. Often I just feel emotionally and mentally battered.
I wonder what causes that sort of thing to happen. Is it that so many people grew up in situations that did not require common sense social conversational skills? Do people simply not realize the importance of being able to carry on a two way conversation, even if the interest in the other person, me for example, is feigned? Are there that many people out here on the prairies who were never taught how to carry on a proper conversation with another person? It both interests and appalls me. I am not sure of the proper way to respond to situations like this and after so many years of it happening I should have a better way either to help the other person incorporate some modest interest in a two way conversation into their chatter, or at the very least have developed better skills myself at extricating myself from the self-centered verbal onslaught. All these folk are perfectly lovely, well educated and well positioned in society, making the lack of social skills all the more shocking.
In the town where I spent most of my adult life I only knew one person who was that way and she was SO MUCH that way that the entire town was aware of it, stayed out of her way if they couldn't cope with her constant descriptions of her own life and generally treated her as a sort of sweetly dibbled cartoon character, apparently figuring out and accepting the idea that perhaps she had "issues". I didn't realize at the time how fortunate I was that she was the only soul I knew who couldn't stop talking....ever...and about herself....always. hahaha
So, I am going to put some time and effort into figuring out what I can do during these prolonged one sided conversations to make it a learning experience in the art of two way conversation for the other person, or at the very least how to extricate myself more quickly if it appears my attempts to "teach" are not being successful. hahaha I am trying to reserve the majority of my own self-talk to this blog so that my friends get a break from it when we talk in person...at least I hope that is what is happening, haha.
I have decided as well that there must be many, many a lonely soul in this geographical area where I find myself living...souls who on the outside look and act as if they are surrounded by good friends, when in fact they may not be at all and therefore seize my small questions about themselves as if they are conversational lifelines. They couldn't possibly get together with other close friends as a rule, not unless the friendships are completely one sided. Otherwise it would be a case of two people talking at the same time, both about themselves, blabbing over top of each other...surely that is not what happens.
It is a mystery I want to solve for my own sense of well being!! I do enjoy taking on a social projects to make life interesting.