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
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
is while they may embody a certain elegance and
whether or not they comply with social grace (in other
whether or not they're always
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,
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
mode of talking. He'd made an assumption, it seemed, which was as long
as someone listens him, then they're a willing and
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
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
Yes (defend his
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
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
- which not only deflected what I'd just offered, but also prolonged
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
language as an implement of
language to be an implement
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
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
- yet ironically my listening given by
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.