Someone once told me that getting me to talk is like pulling teeth.
I disagree, because here’s what she actually meant:
I’m okay with not talking. I’m not uncomfortable with silence – though there’s always exceptions to that rule, eh? But no, seriously, few things bug me more than useless talking.
I understand that not everyone is okay with pauses in conversation, that something in their brain causes them to feel some burning need to fill the void. Some people are good at making conversation and filling time in this way; they’re natural conversationalists and this is not small-talk that irks me.
Other people are not as good. I’m not faulting them for not being naturally witty and quick-thinking because I’m sure as hell not. I do, however, get irritated when they choose to fill the silence with meaningless wastes of air.
Oooh, harsh, Julie! I know, but hear (see?) me out.
Let me set up a situation that involves two people who perhaps don’t know each other very well, but who must be in close proximity to one another. Let’s say – and remember, this is purely hypothetical* – that they are coworkers.
During moments of “down time” in between completing work-related tasks, let’s say that one coworker makes a comment involving said work; maybe she is commenting on how tedious that particular task is to her. It is a negative comment, and the person is (consciously or not) trying to accomplish two goals here: a) to fill the gap in speaking and b) to build solidarity with the other worker.
In this instance, it can be tempting for the other coworker to agree with the statement because – usually, at least – it has some element of truth to it. But this is where things have the potential to go downhill very very quickly.
Bonds forged over shared bitching are not nearly as solid as those made over actual, meaningful, dialogue. But in the case of Coworker A, who is uncomfortable with silence and is compelled to say something, anything, in that pause, her first instinct is to complain about a shared situation. Whether she realizes it or not, this inclination is rooted in a self-conscious desire to make a meaningful connection with the other person, even though – ultimately – that connection will have no real meaning outside of that moment in time.
So she’ll say something like “Smelling this food is making me hungry!” at which point, I (whoops, I mean, “the other coworker”) is inclined to agree. The food does smell good, and it does make me (whoops, I mean “the other coworker”) feel hungry. So agreement is made, which sets off the ugly cycle:
break in conversation
Coworker A: Gawd, I’m soooo hungry.
Coworker B: Mmmm.
A: It smells so good in here! Oh my gosh!
A: Oh my gawd aren’t you hungry?
B: Guess you’ll eat something before you come in next time, eh?
A: Oh my gawd when I go home I’m making some ravioli and eating some chicken wings and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
B: Well, haha, that’s nice.
A: And then blah blah blah blah blah hungry blah blah blah blah hungry blah blah blah blah aren’t you? blah blah blah
B: Oh, ha ha, I’m going to insert this ball point pen into your left nostril with a sharp, upward motion! Haha!
A: Oh haha, you’re so funny! Blah blah blah hungry!
In summation: If you do not have anything real to say when you speak to me, there is a very real possibility that it will not end well for you.
*No. It’s not.