I’ve noticed a subtle but pronounced shift over the last few years. Great conversations are becoming harder to come by. Maybe this is just my experience but I wanted to share my thoughts and see if they resonated with others.
I’m experiencing social interactions that consist mostly of other people monologuing. They show almost no interest or curiosity in what might be happening in other people’s lives, including mine. If I start talking they often redirect the conversation back to themselves and what they want to talk about. Usually I leave these conversations having only asked questions since anything else is steamrolled. They rarely reciprocate with questions or don't appear to notice that they are monopolizing the dialog. I feel that I am an audience watching a performance. I guess they see my value mostly as an audience, not as a partner in conversation. Maybe I should be flattered that they want to tell me all-the-stuff.
This happens in business and personal situations. But more personally than professionally. I regularly have great conversations at work- with co-workers, clients and colleagues- and at home with my family- but socially I often find myself the audience of monologues. And I know these are good people with no understanding, I hope, of how their behavior affects others. Well, at least how it affects me. This leaves me feeling empty and frustrated.
What should I do? Should I embrace the monologue approach and talk over people and ignore they are saying unless it fits my narrative? Or should I confront people like this and tell them what I need from a conversation? Or…?
And where does this come from? I assume insecurity but is it also rooted in our self-obsessed tech powered age?
I know I’m not good at small talk so that may be part of the issue. And I would prefer someone monologuing about their life over discussing the weather. What I crave is meaningful, human dialog. Where everyone adds something, everyone walks away with something new and feels more connected. Great conversations usually have some or all of these elements: funny, emotional, weird, connecting and time-warping. We laugh, we feel, we explore, we connect and we step outside of time for a moment. “Have we really been talking for 2 hours?” That’s a great conversation.
But often I feel trapped in performances. Watching someone put on a show. Maybe they had rehearsed it in advance a little. Often I’ve seen the “show" a few times already and don’t have the nerve to tell them. And I get that. I find myself doing it sometimes to, retelling stories that worked the first time around. Also, I’ve been given feedback that I have a tendency to pull dialog towards what I want to talk about- i.e. weird stuff in the eyes of others. I am trying to moderate that with being open and empathetic to what other people need. I get that people I love and care about need to feel heard. They need to feel valued. But I just wish they remembered that other people need that too.