How to kill a conversation
Say I decide to grouse. Like, “I always seem to end up in the slowest-moving line at check-out counters.”
Please take my grousing as an invitation to converse. A possible conversation-promoting response might be something like, “I hear you. Don’t you hate that? Just like in traffic, when you finally switch to the faster-moving lane and the one you just left speeds up.”
But if you’d rather drop a sure conversation-killer, take my grouse as a problem for you to solve. You might reply with something like, “Just shop during off-hours when the lines are short.” Or, if you have delusions of subtlety, mitigate it somewhat, like, “Doesn’t happen to me, because I always shop during off-hours.”
Besides stopping the conversation cold, you will have suggested that I was seeking a solution, not connection, that shopping during off-hours hadn’t occurred to me, and thank god for your wisdom and experience.
Call it mansplaining, which, despite the moniker, is not exclusive to men, or call it being a fixer. Either way, you do it more than you realize, and it’s more annoying than you think.
I’m a recovering mansplainer, so I get it. It was a marriage counselor who finally helped me understand that sometimes people want only to be heard, not fixed.
The timing couldn’t have been better, because later that day I came home to a screaming match between my now late wife and my then 11-year-old daughter. My daughter wanted a certain girl excluded from the school carpool, and my wife was trying to explain why that wasn’t possible. Turning to me, my wife spat out, “YOU deal with her” and stormed off.
Old Me would have tried to talk sense to my daughter. But, recalling the marriage counselor’s advice, I tried a different approach. I asked my daughter, “Why do you want X out of the carpool?”
My daughter said, “Because she’s stupid and stinky.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I wouldn’t want to ride with a stupid, stinky person, either.”
“Yeah!” said my daughter, and walked off happy.
Hmm, I thought, maybe there’s something to this validation stuff.
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... where I share thoughts about writing. I don’t consider myself a writing authority, but that doesn’t keep me from presuming to blog like one. Oh, and I reserve the right to digress when I feel like it.