Early self disclosures
Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone and realized that the topic never wavered from being about her. Within 60 minutes I knew everything I needed to know about her. How she was a single teenage mother, how she was engaged to be married a couple of times, how her son is the only thing that matters to her, how she put herself through school, and on and on and on. A clear early disclosure; a person who I warn myself to be weary of.
I sat cross-legged and listened politely but became increasing irritated as the clock slowly ticked forward. How many of us have a friend who is only interested in talking about themselves? In the last year or so I’ve been very good at weeding these people out of my life, if only because I came to the realization that they weren’t very good friends to begin with.
I think it’s important that if someone asks “how are you doing today?” that you respond with a similar question. I had an acquaintance who in the almost two decades of knowing each other never asked me how I was. I didn’t take it personally because I observed that she didn’t ask anyone that question. It simply didn’t interest her because it distracted from her favourite topic: Herself. The conversations consistently revolved around her life, and if you were lucky, you might have been able to get a word in, but only to affirm her delusional lack of self-awareness.
We all wrestle with insecurity. We are inundated with celebrities who are rewarded for talking endlessly about their vapid personal lives, and we often care a little too much. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that some of us choose to live in our own little world where we’re the centre of attention and the star of our own show.
What most of us want is to be liked. We want to be adopted and accepted by a group of individuals, in so far that we form exclusive cliques and subcultures. Fair enough. But I’ve always felt that the best way to make people like you is to listen to them. And I guess with people like my old acquaintance they take advantage of listeners like me because we’re patient with them. We provide the attention that they desperately crave.
Here’s the caveat. All relationships need to be reciprocal. Those that are lopsided don’t last very long, because the person usurping all the attention overwhelms his or her audience.
The biggest challenge in life is human relations and learning to cope with individuals who are less giving than our average peers.
So while I sat like a trapped prisoner and listened to that boring conversation yesterday, I replaced my irritation with compassion, because as she flapped her lips, I came to understand that what she needed was a little love, and what’s so bad about spreading such a beautiful emotion around?