Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


On Turning Away

Robert Biale, Napa Valley, California, USA

November 13, 2012



Having turning my back on someone and walking away in the middle of an interaction (or at least taking the conversation to someone else) be an option ie be a social tool, isn't something which came easy for me. It was, rather, a hard learned skill. To learn it I had to un-learn a lot of what, until then, I had considered to be the essential social grace. And the thing about Conversations For Transformation is while they may embody a certain elegance  and artistry, whether or not they comply with social grace (in other words, whether or not they're always nice)  isn't necessarily an empowering factor.

He was thinking so hard I half expected to see smoke replete with the smell of burning rubber come out of his ears. When he spoke, words tumbled uncontrollably  out of his mouth interspersed with many questions. Whether or not he wanted his questions answered wasn't entirely clear at first. Eventually I assumed they were all  rhetorical. I doubt he'd ever examined his flood  mode of talking. He'd made an assumption, it seemed, which was as long as someone listens him, then they're a willing and interested  listener. That's where my essential social grace comes in. In an exchange, I listen intently. It's more than that, actually. It's an exchange without listening doesn't work. In this particular conversation I soon realized he had no intention  of exchanging. Express his opinion? Yes. Give his assessment? Yes. Ask (rhetorical) questions? Yes. Tell his story?  Yes (defend  his story actually). But exchange? No.

He kept up the mile a minute  noise gusher, sharing (venting  actually) his thoughts which he couldn't get out of his mouth fast enough. In his mind at least, he was being generous and sociable. And if being the life of the party  is being talkative, then (in his mind also) he was being the life of the party.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. The truth is he was simply shut down. Shut down to the possibility of being who he really is. Noisy ... and  shut down. It was worse than that, actually. It was the more I listened him, the faster and the more  he spoke, even though it's hard to imagine either "faster" or "more" could possibly apply to him.

In any conversation ie in any exchange, there's offering and there's accepting from all parties. Whatever I offered, he discounted, negated, explained away, or plain got in the way of. If I got too close (like intimate, given some of the explicit, personal nature of what he was talking about) he added a new heretofore unshared nugget  to his impressive story - which not only deflected what I'd just offered, but also prolonged the diatribe.

Now, having said all that, none of that's the subject of this essay. It's just the background scenario. The subject of this essay is turning away  as an appropriate social tool. This is something seldom learned in Miss Manners'  class.

Suddenly I got clear ie it dawned on me this was going nowhere. A conversation is one thing. Providing a willing ear to an endless rambling monologue masquerading as a conversation while blocking any useful exchange, is something else entirely. It simply didn't serve him  and it wasn't how I was going to spend the rest of my evening. I'm only secondarily offering listening. Primarily I'm offering Conversation For Transformation ie language as an implement of transformation. And for language to be an implement of transformation there has to be an exchange, an interaction. A monologue, however impressive, simply doesn't cut it. So, abruptly (there's no other way to do this effectively) I smiled and said "Thank You" then turned on my heel and walked away, continuing soon after to converse with someone else.

It didn't come easy at first. It's a learned skill. It's becoming more facile for me now - more facile, that is, when it's the appropriate tool for the job.

Was it (quote unquote) rude  to leave him in mid-sentence? Shouldn't I have waited until he got to its end? Is "rude" a valid yardstick in a situation like this? No. Not when you consider talk with absolutely no possibility of exchange - he didn't know  (or wasn't being responsible for) his was talk with absolutely no possibility of exchange. Not when you consider his was no Conversation For Transformation - yet ironically my listening given by Conversations For Transformation is what attracted him to me in the first place. Not when you consider each of his sentences lasted over a ten minutes - he only reached the first comma after the first three minutes if not longer.

While I realize how much he enjoyed me (because I listened him) there was something he wasn't allowing. He wasn't allowing being contributed to. What I turned and walked away from was his not allowing being contributed to - not that he didn't know where the off  switch is located.



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