Alternate Title: Why conversations are usually something of a hassle for me
This post might be a write-off if you don’t have trouble connecting to other people. Also, there are several analogies this round because that’s the mood I’m in.
For me, communicating with other people is like trying to find that perfect song when listening to music. You know what I mean. Like when you shuffle through your favorite songs in the car, searching for one that feels right. Or you’re at home, lights dim while rain falls outside, and you skip through songs on YouTube or Spotify (or maybe a CD or vinyl) trying to satisfy a musical craving.
Do you pick a nostalgic summer ballad?
What about that foreign song with the heavy bass?
Or does this moment call for a lyrical genius?
Of course, when you do finally find something that has just the right oomph to match your mood (or distract you from it), then you have to play around with the volume.
Is this a moment to blast the speakers?
Or do you need this song to play low, real low, like “barely-can-hear-it-over-the-sound-of-the-rain” low?
And then what? How much are you really feeling it?
Do you set the song to replay over and over?
Or can you follow it up with a dozen other ones?
And how does your body respond?
Do you sit back and relax?
Sing and dance through the room?
Or just bop your head to the beat?
Getting into that zone can be difficult because it’s a bunch of little things coming together. And those moments right up to when you finally have everything in place, when you’re persistent and maybe slightly agitated because you just know that there’s a perfect setup but it keeps avoiding you… is where I often find myself during conversations, especially verbal ones.
Chasing meaning in conversation
From an early age, I realized that I was disconnected when it came to communication. There were all these nuances and possibilities. And they could be presented in infinite ways, ranging from facial expressions to word choice to even silence.
But there were also widely accepted lies and partial truths. Things like “I’m fine,” were supposed to be code for the opposite. And “I don’t want to talk about it,” usually boiled down to “don’t you dare mention this” or “please, make me talk about it.”
So, in a world full of endless possibilities, yet seemingly random and rigid rules, I’ve often found myself feeling lost at sea.
You see, everyone involved in a conversation brings their own unique perspective, style of speaking, energy level, troubles, and more. And each factor affects their vibe and whether they can satisfactorily keep the conversation harmonious. For example, if someone is weighed down by problems at work then they might not want to discuss someone’s good news. On the other hand, maybe that person does want to hear lots and lots of good news.
It’s basically impossible to know for sure where a conversation is going or how each person will respond. Or if they won’t misunderstand you in the first place. Yet, there’s a certain expectation to be found in most conversations (especially emotional ones). And if you miss the bar then there tend to be consequences. Maybe the other person will just be disappointed in you for a few days. But, it could also be the final nail in your relationship coffin.
Thus, although we converse regularly, it’s still a complicated thing.
[And too often I feel like I’m part of an orchestra without a conductor and that my sheet music is missing.]
Toying with the Radio
[So in a previous post, I mentioned that conversations were difficult for me because I struggle to match the vibe, even more so with a group of people and especially strangers. Well, I’m going to elaborate on that a bit more now.]
Basically, if the nature of conversation is like searching for the right songs then the people involved are like workers at a radio station. They pick what songs to play (ideas to discuss), the genre (vibe), and even the ads (distractions). However, unlike radio stations, conversations are often fluid and varying in demographics.
What I mean is that radio stations tend to have a targeted audience that they consistently play to. A rock radio station will play rock music. And a “true” country radio station probably won’t play hip hop for hours. But, conversations aren’t as rigid.
Conversations (at least for me) are complicated and it’s hard to know the exact radio station you’re at. In fact, a conversation wouldn’t be listed as like “95.1” but more “95.1001” and each incorrect digit would distort the signal. If your exact frequency is 95.1438, it probably won’t cause too much difference. After all, there’s room for error. But, if you’re on 95.2979 then you’re edging towards a different station and likely already throwing off the conversation’s harmony.
And there’s a ton of ways to interact in a conversation:
- Increase volume. Talk louder.
- Decrease volume. Talk softer.
- Mute. Stop talking or tell someone to shut up.
- Play. Start a conversation.
- Stop. Stop the conversation.
- Fast-forward. Tune out of a conversation until you care again. Or ask the person to literally skip ahead in the story or just hurry up.
- Reverse. Ask the person to repeat what they just said.
- Disapprove. Share your annoyance, anger, distaste, and such.
- Approve. Share your joy, excitement, and such.
- Dialogue: Your time to shine.
- Replay. What happens when someone joins the conversation and you have to rehash things.
- … The pause. Maybe you’ll come back to the convo. Maybe you’re just collecting your thoughts. Or just patiently listening.
- The alarm. When someone says something that sounds crazy or too aggressive and you’re preparing for the conversation to end on a bad note.
Even if you’re doing nothing but patiently listening and nodding along as someone talks, you’re still technically responding to the conversation. And people have opinions and expectations of how they want you to act. So part of the work involved in conversations is knowing/sensing/guessing what the “right” response would be and if that’s what you think is best and what you want in the long run.
That’s a lot happening. And quite a bit of analyzing and awareness required.
This is partially why we see people screw up all the time on TV and in movies. But, it’s also why people in real life, who’ve known each other for years, still have bumps along the road and can feel out-of-sync with one another. By nature of existing and interacting with one another, we’re expecting things to be X way and get a Y response, but that’s not how things are guaranteed to go.
To put it simply, conversations are complicated. And I know most people probably find them less perplexing than I do, but it is what it is.
And if it’s not obvious by now, if conversations are like songs and we’re the employees at a radio station, then I’m the person with a glitch where the radio station number should be. It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve worked there (how long I’ve known the person I’m conversing with and how familiar I am with the topic), I’m never quite certain that I know where things are going.
And sure, there’s still a chance that I’m on the right station or close enough to accurately decipher most of the song’s chorus and verses. But, I’m just never going to be confident that I know all the lyrics and the meaning.
What about you?