There are so many types of conversationalists and one needs to know how to “engage” with them, lest time spent with them doesn’t add to the stats of your health on the wrong side of the scale.
One guy I can never forget was this Cypriot Greek guy, whom I met when I first came to US. He was a serious guy – would laugh and smile sometime – but had an overall serious persona. His parents may have known the directions of things to come, for they aptly named him “Socrates”.
One day, as luck would have it, I met him the first thing in the morning. I was in a hurry to get to my seat as I was a bit late but i ran into him. As is the custom in the US (which I was trying to learn quickly) one asks useless questions like “How are you doing”? or “How are things?” or “How was the weekend?”. The intention is to show that you are interested in the other person, but the entire conversation thereafter makes it abundantly clear that you didn’t give a rat’s ass if the other guy slept like a log or was up on the tree swaying to the breeze in middle of Texas hot sun. Its a harmless and stupid question and it begs a harmless answer which is as lacking in seriousness as the question was.
But, I did make the cardinal mistake of asking him the harmless question “Hey Socrates, how are you doing?”. If you don’t know, then remember, you don’t mess with Socrates or Platos or Aristotles. These guys take your stuff seriously. That was the cue to him! So, Socrates started about his life. How his wife sucked, his mother in law had made his life hell.. his boss was demon incarnate… it was a good 35 minutes lecture on the inanity of his life. If he had been at it just 10 more minutes, I would have started routing all my annual charity donations to him! After all, where can you find a guy so full of sorrow? Even those poor folks in Africa may have a thing or two to celebrate. Heck they sing and dance even in such poverty.
I never asked him such harmless questions again. I would only ask him what I really wanted him to answer. Anything else was entering uncharted territory. A meaningless conversation with an American could become a full fledged conference with a Greek guy!
Then there are some strange kind of folks;
Always Excited: these people are forever excited. They will talk as if they are about to burst out and convince you that you are the best thing that happened since Neanderthal! However, if you happen to say something contrary to what they want to listen, you are summarily abandoned and suddenly not as interesting as the initial enthusiasm would have made you believe.
Not-interested-in-you: Have you ever talked to someone who looks everywhere else but at you? You are talking engagingly, but this person – usually a man – would keep fidgeting with cell phone or looking at some imaginary set of things far away. Things that always far away and in a direction that you wouldn’t even care to look at. They find all kinds of areas to look at. It’s a practiced defiance of sorts.
Emotionless: They are the antithesis of the first ones. They have no emotions no matter what you say. Sometimes you try to make digs at your ownself in order to elicit some laughter, yet these guys don’t have anything to offer. They appear mature but, on close examination, one doesn’t know if the reaction is out of maturity or plain old ignorance?
What type of conversationalist are you? And what kind of people do you like?
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