On my iGoogle homepage I have a widget with a “How to of the Day” provided by wikiHow. Most of the topics don’t interest me in the least. At times I begin to think I should delete the widget and put something else in its place. But then something will turn up that captures my interest, inspires me to think, or makes me laugh (or does all three). Yesterday it was an entry called: “How to Put the “Strong and Silent” type at Ease During a Conversation. When I clicked the link I noticed the title was different on the wikiHow site. It reads “How to Create Relaxed Conversations with Quiet Men.” I laughed. I’m somewhat of an expert when it comes to awkward conversations. Here are a few thoughts and observations regarding conversing with a quiet person:
People are quiet for different reasons. It could be shyness, fear, disinterest, boredom, caution, preference, or something else (in many cases a combination of causes) that make a person remain silent. If you know the cause of the verbal parsimony you have an advantage in crafting a conversation that will be bearable.
Don’t fear the silent. Many people are intimidated by those remaining quiet, thinking they view others with disdain. In most cases that is not true.
A guarded person is difficult to read. One of the things that makes conversation with a quiet person so difficult is an inability to determine what the person wants. If a talkative person suddenly starts giving one word answers, avoiding eye contact, and looking distracted you can bet that he wants to end the conversation. That assumption does not apply to a quiet person. A quiet person might be seeming to give every indication of being uncomfortable or disinterested in a conversation, yet actually want the conversation to continue. However, at times the discomfort and disinterest is accompanied by a desire to end the conversation. Unless you can read minds it is nearly impossible to figure out if you are conversing with a willing participant or not.
Some people are erratic when it comes to conversational comfort. I include this because it is my story. Some days conversing feels natural; some days conversing feels like doing calculus on an Etch A Sketch while riverdancing. If you catch me on one of those bad days our interaction will probably be awkward, no matter what approach you take in the conversation.
Conversation interests me. In fact as I wrote this post I had several ideas that crossed my mind for future posts, here are a few potential topics:
- My favorite conversation starters (and why you probably never hear them)
- Social potential and the flow of conversation (a water potential analogy)
- Listening versus talking (a changing preference)
- The disconnect between sitcom/movie conversations and real life conversations (feelings, retorts, and the lack thereof)
I think I enjoy writing about talking more than I enjoy talking.