10 July 2017

One-sidedness

As we travel through life, we bump into strangers. Conversations happen with these people. Sometimes those conversations can be delightful. We exchange information and little anecdotes. Within an hour we learn a great deal about what makes them tick, what their priorities are, where metaphorically speaking they are coming from.

These exchanges should be balanced, mutual - like a game of ping pong. You say something - I say something. I ask a question - you ask a question. That's only fair - it shows respect for "the other".

However, in my journey through life I  have frequently found myself in situations where the conversation becomes very one-sided. After a while I realise that I am finding out lots about them but they are making no enquiries of me, showing little interest. When for example  I pipe up with, "Yeah, I've been to America too" or "I have two children myself" there will be a look of glazed disinterest and no follow-up questions. Some people seem to be wired that way.

Sitting in a bar in Puerto del Carmen, we sparked up a conversation with an older couple from Wolverhampton. I guess we were talking with them for almost an hour but as I left that bar I realised I had just participated in yet another of these one-sided meetings.

I knew all about their grown-up children and the marathons and triathlons their daughter had competed in. I learnt about the woman's sister in Cyprus and why they don't like Cyprus. I learnt about their apartment in Puerto del Carmen and how the resort has changed over the last twenty years. We learnt about Wolverhampton's famous football club and the great millionaire benefactor Jack Hayward who gave so much to the town and how the streets of that city thronged on the day of his funeral.

But they had learnt so little about us. They weren't bad people but they just weren't interested in our lives. They didn't know that we also have grown up children. They didn't know what we had done or do for a living. And when I interceded at one point that we lived in Sheffield, that piece of information was left hanging in the air, untroubled by further inquiry. It was all so very one-sided but in my experience not at all unusual.

I like to believe that I have a highly-tuned awareness of "the other". I am interested in other people's lives and know how to prompt  them to get the most out of them. During these sorts of conversations I show humility, not wishing to bang on about my own life, opinions or history at the expense of the other person. But it should work both ways. It should be balanced - not one-sided, not waiting for the prompts and questions that never arrive.

How about you? Have you also encountered this one-sidedness phenomenon as you travel through life? Or is it just me?

53 comments:

  1. I am probably one of those people who don't ask enough questions. I am interested in people but I'm not good at asking questions without it seeming to be an inquisition.
    I am with couples during the intimate moment they bring their children into the world but I rarely even know what they do for work.

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    1. I doubt that that particular situation is the best one for striking up a general conversation. As the baby's head appears... "Did you say you worked in retail?"

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    2. Lol! I do meet them during the pregnancy!

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    3. Are you with themduring the birth?

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    4. Yes, I am :)

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  2. My landlord is one such person. I'm sure he believes I've not lived a life before I came here and rented this cabin. He "knows" everything. I was just a figment of nothingness before coming here...I did not exist.

    I learned quite a while ago to let him do all the talking because there is no point trying to compete with him. He just talks over you, anyway...so I refuse to waste my words or time. Mostly I dodge him, only having to face him when I hand him the rent...monthly!

    I could easily wear the moniker - "The Artful Dodger"...I've become an expert at dodging! :)

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    1. You should get yourself a T-shirt with "The Artful Dodger" on the front. He might ask you about it one day - if you wear it till the end of time... or instead "The Artful Lodger"!

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    2. That is too bad, Lee. You have led such a wonderful, varied and exciting life. I wish you would write a book as well as Neil!

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    3. Lee's book - "The Artful Lodger" would need to be carefully edited to avoid causing offence to readers of a sensitive disposition. I wonder what your book would be called Donna? Perhaps a line from John Sebastian... "Rainbows All Over Your Blues" or "My Scufflin Days"

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    4. I've read your posts and it doesn't surprise me that you have written a book. Your posts are a great read.

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    5. My exhusband is like that. Not only did I not exist before I met him, he also seemed to believe that our son and I went into suspended animation when we all separated every morning to go to school or work. Only he had a life. We were permitted to sit in the living room at night and watch him watch TV. I threw the TV away 10 years before he finally left.

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    6. That makes me feel a little sad Jan. Good job you are a strong woman and managed to pull through those trying times.

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  3. Yes indeed. The Prof often is saddened by some people he is close to who only ever talk about themselves. I think its just some people's rules in life......
    I was brought up to ask questions and it was underlined that by doing so you were being polite.....i guess so many people now live in their own little bubbles that THAT bubble is the most and only thing tnat is important

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    1. Learning from other people enriches one's experience of life but those who exist almost wholly in their bubbles cannot enjoy such enrichment. For them it is all "Me.Me.Me.".

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  4. Yes, it's amazing the number of people you meet along the way who really feel that they are the only ones who count, and the only ones who have lived any kind of interesting lives.
    I sometimes go to lunch with a group of ladies, and we have one such woman (I couldn't call her a lady). She will actually wave her hands about and shout people down, whenever she has something to say - which is most of the time. She is constantly bringing up photos on her phone or ipad, of somewhere she's been, or something she's done, or the grandchildren - well, you know how it goes. The latest is her diet - something that recurs, I understand, every year about this time. I long to tell her that we go through this very boring conversation every year and wonder when she'll find a diet that works ! She has such a huge ego !

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    1. Sounds like she needs a diet for her fat ego as well as her fat belly. Why don't you intercede with a remark that goes something like this - "Excuse me Hermione but would you shut your big fat gob for a minute? We're sick of hearing your boring monologues. Why don't you sit back and listen to others for a change?"

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  5. Once bitten, twice shy with people like that. They find themselves on their own at social gatherings after a while as everyone dodges them.

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    1. What? Don't say you have folk like that in Australia too? I'm flabbergasted.

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  6. I have indeed encountered that. Some people are clearly all ME ME ME and aren't in the slightest interested in your news or views at all.

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    1. Sometimes I feel I am breaking the rules when I try to add something about my life. The sneering look you receive says it all really.

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  7. I am a little different, as you well know. I do not like to divulge a lot about myself and/or my family and/or my background. I love hearing about other people and their lives and especially their ancestors and where they came from and how they got where they are in life. Must be the cultural anthropologist in me wanting to write one more ethnography.

    You, my brother, have probably gotten more information from me about my life and my place in this world than anybody I can think of. Maybe that is because you take me on so many walks where we figuratively have lovely talks.

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    1. I am honoured to have taken you hither and thither Sister Donna. Thank you for your different take on this matter.

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  8. I judge people by what football team they support.

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    1. Oh that's a relief! As I am a Hull City supporter I conclude that you have a very high opinion of me.

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  9. Really? You're from Sheffield? I had some neighbors, Paul and Donna Sheffield, when we lived in Boca Ratin, Florida, many years ago. Paul and I both worked for IBM. They eventually moved back to San Jose, California, although Donna was from Michigan originally, and my wife and I moved to Atlanta. Gosh, that was back in 1976; I can't believe so much time has passed since then. Atlanta has changed a lot in the last 40 years, mostly for the worse, but we keep moving further and further out from all the congestion and all the traffic; our daughter wants us to move to Alabama to be nearer her family, and we are actually considering it; she is so beautiful and also an assistant principal in a middle school; her husband is retired from a career in law enforcement, and....

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    1. Hang on. It's not all about you Mr Brague! There are other people on the surface of this planet even though we are little more than ants compared with the great braguish stag beetle. Where in Alabamistan does your daughter reside?

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  10. Yes, I've met a few of these bores. However, I'm a listener. I do respond but I like to think that I prompt people. Maybe that's because I did that as a living for 37 years. Kids quite often told me more than they thought.

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    1. I think I still have some of that teacher thing in me too Red. I just can't shake it off.

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  11. We all encounter bores from time to time YP and probably I've bored few back. Bores also tend to insist that you look at all their holiday photos, so be warned.

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  12. Oh yes YP. If you have been travellers - as both my husbands were = you come across them all the time.

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    1. It's good to listen but not always to do the lion's share of the listening.

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  13. My comment up thread was supposed to be an obvious parody (see the reference to my not knowing you live in Sheffield, which fact I of course have known for a very long time) of the type of person you mentioned in your post. I myself would never behave in such a boorish manner. Well, hardly ever.

    I cannot tell you where in Alabamistan my daughter resides because then I would have to kill you. (jk)

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    1. Hey, chill dude! I already sussed the parodical nature of your last comment!

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  14. I try to ask questions but I am usually flummoxed as to what to ask without being too forward. Once I get comfortable I sometimes say too much. It's a highwire balancing act for me. I agree with you, ideally it should be a balanced give and take.

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    1. Nervousness and self-consciousness can often impact heavily upon new meetings.

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  15. When Gregg and I got married, we chose to elope and left a friend of his to house sit for us. Everyone thought we were just on vacation. When we got back, the friend was telling us all about some bars he had been at the previous weekend and his drunken adventures. At some point when he finally paused to take a breath, we said, "Hey Matt, guess what...while we were gone we GOT MARRIED!" He looked at us blankly for a moment and then said, "So anyway, I met this one chicken at the bar....blah blah blah....." And never mentioned what we had just revealed to him.

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    1. That should be "chick" not "chicken"!

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    2. That's a great illustration. As a friend he should have been happy for you and plying you with questions about where you got married, how you arranged it all etc. - not getting back to his boring bar crawls.

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  16. Every now and then, I have been guilty of being one-sided and holding a monologue rather than a conversation or dialogue with someone. But most of the time, I think I manage (because I am genuinely interested) in listening just as much - or even more - than talking, and I think I am getting better at it as I am getting older.
    And sometimes I admit I can find the one-sided conversations rather relaxing; when I am tired or for some other reason do not feel like talking much, I am glad that the other person has more to say than I do.

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    1. I just cannot imagine you rambling on with little interest in the person in front of you. I think you are too thoughtful for that Meike.

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    2. I would like to have been a fly on that bar wall. Two DeDas conversing with a pair of YamYams.

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    3. That Wolverhampton lady said "Yow" for "You" and "Sow" for "So". Bloody strange accent.

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  17. What do I know about YP? I know he's from Sheffield. He supports Hull City. His wife is called Shirley. He likes Americans. He doesn't like Donald Trump. He's a good writer. He likes to blog. He likes Spain. I didn't know he has two kids.. IDO now. He has a good sense of humour. He doesn't take himself too seriously.

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    1. You forgot to mention that I met Jimmy Savile twice and that Lulu once kissed me. What do I know about Terry? That he was once the subject of a song by Twinkle!

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  18. When I meet someone new during a dog walk, I like to find out about them and their lives. ( dog walkers often stand and chat when meeting....first question usually about the other dog.....name, how old, what breed etc) My friend says I am " nosy", but I say I am just interested in people! I guess that when they reciprocate with questions about my life they are on the way to becoming new friends. Several of my good pals have been met this way.

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    1. I wonder what the dogs are saying to each other as their owners chat or are they too busy sniffing each other's backsides?

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  19. How that reminded me of a telephone conversation l had with my cousin. Growing up just doors apart and 11 months difference in age, you might be forgiven for thinking we had a lot in common. Our lives however took very different routes, hers family and cleaning, mine one son and wild and different skirmishes. On the day of the call she cracked on endlessly about her family and empty dusting life. Me, well I had been doing lots of exciting things, not least appearances on national television... cooking, radio and talks. After 50 minutes of her detailing her 'news', l said 'l better get cracking, l've lots to do!' 'Hold on, you haven't told me what you've been up to?' Too late mate, l thought as l put the phone down.

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    1. Is "Lettice" a pseudonym? Are you really Nigella Lawson?
      Good illustration of one-sidedness.

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  20. This is a very common experience in my case. So often I start to chat with people and give up as I notice that they are not listening to anything I am saying but waiting to get their next bit in. So glad you posted about this as sometimes I think its just me.
    Briony
    x

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    1. Perhaps you and I are so uninteresting that these other people think it best to just ramble on about themselves. I am pleased that this post resonated for you Briony.

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  21. I am very interested to read about/listen to my friends' (including my blog friends and acquaintances) experiences and to know about them. However, to be brutally honest I am rarely interested in the lives of total strangers I might meet randomly and I can't imagine why a stranger would be interested in me or my life.

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