This Thing Called Selective Talking
Why are some people boring to listen to?
A few days ago, I attended a small literary gathering. There were different kinds of creative and intellectual people with diversity in profession, career-track, writing styles, etc. The things in common being that all were intellectuals and older than me. Much older. This allowed me to freely be curious as I freely asked questions and listened to them answer.
I introduced myself to almost every one there and keenly listened to them. Everything was going well. I was learning important things and getting to know them. After the event ended, I got to talking with a man in his mid 60s — a scholar who had degrees in Buddhism and Geography. I had started the conversation by asking him what his field was. But what followed from him was quite unlike anyone I had spoken to by that time. HE was both boring and anxiety-inducing for me:
He began narrating his biography: Where he was born, how/in what he was educated, how many surgeries he has had, where lives his son, what he studies, etc. etc.
I didn’t want to be rude so I listened. But I got bored. I wanted to walk-off. I wanted him to walk-off. I wanted someone to come and interrupt. I wanted the conversation to end.
The surprising thing was, I do understand that he was speaking of crucial things. In fact, he was providing me important life-lessons through stories of his own personal experiences. He had educated himself in diverse subject matters, so it was supposed to be very important for me to help balance and cope with my own struggles with balancing variety: BUT something was off in him!
‘This person speaks about important things, but it all feels nonsense to me.’
At first I thought it might have been my issue: attention deficiency and all that. But then, I had been listening to more than a dozen other people and none had bored me to such an extent, if at all. All had given brief and solid answers. It had all been enjoyable and impactful.
But then I noticed something: all of them (who didn’t bore me) were either much older than the person who bored me or were much more productive/successful in literature!
And that’s where I noticed something for the first time in my life: The Skill Of Selective Talking.
And then yesterday I discovered this Voltaire quote:
The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.
Curious and creative people usually have a lot of ideas inside their head. And I have come to believe that the most nonsense of talkative people are also either one of those. This quality (having ideas) pushes one to express. The most profound ones express with writing or other forms of creations. The not so profound ones have nothing but talking at their disposal. But that doesn’t mean the profound ones don’t talk or the shallow ones don’t write! My point however is: curious and creative people have a lot to express, but bad expression is worse than no expression, hence, selective talking is an important skill to have. And such talking is something that profound ones do. The shallow ones just blabber irrespective of the degrees they have acquired.
By selective talking I mean keeping these elements in mind while talking with someone:
- Why is this person listening to me?
- What should I talk?
When I said above that the older or more prolific ones out there had given me solid to-the-point answers and hadn’t bored me, I say they were the profound ones. And I think the profound ones ask the questions above and answer them carefully to themselves before talking with anyone else. Or they could just be old and too tired to talk.
Anyways, the fact remains that we talk to express and we express to communicate. What is the point of expressing things or expressing in a manner that bores others and therefore deafens them and doesn’t become communication at all? It misses the whole point. Understanding this is being profound.
The person that had bored me and hence taught me a valuable life-lesson (if he wasn’t doing it intentionally to teach me and was therefore the most profound of them all) was not selective talking. He was expressing himself out of his urge without considering me as a listener. He didn’t care about me or why I was talking to him for that matter. He just expressed himself. While everyone doing things for selfish reasons is the norm of life (as I myself was trying to learn for myself), his talking bored me. It was important but seemed irrelevant. It was sensible but sounded nonsense. For me, he made noise the whole time, didn’t communicate. He wasn’t profound or old enough!
After that I have tried to tell myself to practice this skill of selective talking. After all, why do I want to bore others and waste my crucial energy at the same time — at the gain of nothing? I am telling myself to rather be quiet and listen. Talk only when it’s worth it. When it is required of me. When I have something important or entertaining to communicate.
The same applies to videos, cinema, lectures, speeches and writing:
While there may be point in writing things for self-expression, there is no point publishing them if they are not selected carefully. If they are not selective-writings, they just occupy computer and library spaces and achieve nothing. They merely bore others and waste our energy (and time-money resources too).
EITHER BE PROFOUND OR GROW OLD!