Ruby Rant: On the Art of Conversation…and Why Some People Suck at It

Being stuck at home and unable to socialize at even a basic level half the time, you’d think that Ruby Ranting had come to an end..or at least a pause, for the time being. And yet, somehow or another, from the limited amount of contact I DO have with the outside world, I manage to come across at least 5 examples each day of things that seriously piss me off. Seriously. Piss. Me. Off. However, trying not to appear to be the bitter, miserable old shut-in, who’s just hating on the lives of others ’cause they get to do things that I no longer can, I do my very, very best to shut my mouth and be a good little Ruby. Unfortunately, as I don’t get out much, and don’t do much in, and because I shun the news more avidly than I do HIV (and trust me, that is certainly a thing I very seriously avoid at ALL COSTS…no matter how much of an ass it can make me appear to be at times. Sorry, but between hurting your feelings and saving my life, hurting your feelings is the very obvious choice 100% of the time) I often have to wrack my brain trying to find something that I find even vaguely interesting enough to blog about, let alone that you might find interesting enough to bother reading even part of the way through.

Ahhhhhh….that felt good, what I did right there…the whole “going off topic, not even bothering to get anywhere near the actual point of this post, right before intentionally abandoning all mention of anything in the introductory paragraph, never to revist any part of it even remotely at any time within this post again”. It is SO Ruby-esque, and makes me feel like I’m definitely on the road to recovery! lol Anyway, now that I’ve gotten tangentizing out of my system for the moment, we can get on to the topic of this post. You see, because I don’t get to be around people all that often, verbal communication is about the only way in which I get a chance to connect with people on any real level. And I’ve come to realize that, both written and verbally, some people SUCK at conversation. I mean, so badly that I wonder how they’ve ever manage to sustain any type of friendship or relationship ever in their lives. I’ve spent the better part of a day contemplating these people and their awful, annoying, and downright disjointed conversational skills to try and pinpoint exactly what it is that makes them so dreadfully inept at the art of verbal communication.

And, while I generally tend to avoid itemized lists of reasons, primarily because I like to rant and rave in a less constricted manner, I decided today to offer you a list of things that can make you suck at conversation. If this sounds like you and you get to feeling all huffy and puffy about it, begin to rationalize why maybe some of these things aren’t so bad after all, or just downright defend, defend, defend, first take a serious look at the interactions that you have with people…do people readily and willingly engage in conversations that could turn into something lengthy or is it always as short and sweet as possible, often just to convey important information? Do your conversations with people often have a rocky start, middle, or ending? Or all of the above? Do people look (or sound) happy to hear from you, or vaguely impatient? If the more you analyze, the more you realize that your conversations could be better, maybe you need to take a serious look at this list and figure out which of the following you need to improve on:

1. Opening Lines Matter: Nobody is expecting you to be the most brilliant and witty of conversationalists, but if your first few opening lines are automated, thoughtless, and lacking personalized consideration it’s pretty much an indication that any further conversation is gonna be a waste of time. Within 15 seconds, I have already decided whether or not to bail or to stick around and see how things progress, so don’t think you have all the time in the world to build up to something vaguely relevant or interesting…point blank, you don’t. Ever.

For example, I have this one person who always asks the exact same line of questioning in the exact same order EVERY time I talk to them, even if it’s the third time that day.
Q1 “Hi, how are you today?”
Q2 “How was your day?”
Q3 “So what’s new?”
And it never matters what my answers are. For example, whenever he asks how my day was my response is always “I’m sick and in pain, remember? My day is the same as it was yesterday”. Not that it always was, but seriously, being asked the exact same damn question without any thought as to who I am or what my life is like gets right under my skin. After he apologizes, his next question is always “So, what’s new?”…ummm, are you frigging serious? No, honestly, are you kidding me? I’m pretty sure my first response answered that question. How dumb are you?

Now, if you happen to be one of these autobots that are the bane of all conversational existence, it’s not that hard to fix this problem: just take yourself off of autopilot. For example, if you’re speaking with a person who has chronic illness/pain instead of asking how they ARE ask them how they’re FEELING…see how that sounds like you actually give a shit what the answer is? And if their answer to the question is “absolutely awful, I’ve been vomiting all day” or whatever other negative thing, DO NOT under any circumstances ask them how their day was…not only have they already answered that question, but you’ll look mad dim at the very least, not to mention completely cold and uncaring.

Generally, before you even START conversing with someone, try and remember 3 things about them: it’ll help you figure out exactly how to approach a conversation with the person, and will also help you change up those little key words that let them know you are paying attention and care about what they have to say (even if you don’t, really lol)

2. Sharing is Caring…As Long As It’s Done in the Right Proportions: We’re all aware that the pity-partiers are NOT cool, but it’s not just those who have issues who can be waaaayyy too consumed with me-me-me. For example, you have those people who get the start-up conversation down pat, and then as soon as you finish answering question number 2 they begin a complete rundown of every moment of every day and every instance since you last spoke with…P.S. Nobody but YOU cares that much about your life…not even your Mama, which is why you’re dumping your life on my poor little ears.

Not only is it rude for you to begin an all out diatribe of your life without first asking someone about their own life (and without being asked about yours) but it’s equally as rude NOT to ask. Do I appear to be an amateur psychologist or a rent-a-friend whom you’re paying for a listening ear? Wipe the gunk outta your eyes in that case, because unless you’re paying someone for their time, it’s supposed to be a two way street. Use your manners, people, we’re grown folk now. Just as much as you wouldn’t want someone who called you and didn’t give a shit about you or what you said and then just went on and on about themselves, nobody wants that from you, either. You are no more special than anyone else, and neither is your life or the situations you are in. Don’t share every moment of every day when it’s your turn, and make sure you give the other person their fair share of the limelight…trust me, our bleeding ears and pounding heads will thank you…profusely. And on that note

3. Don’t be a “Just Waiting for MY Turn Listener”: You know what I’m talking about. People who give you absent “un huh, un huh, un huh, yep, yep, yep” responses, and as soon as you’re done speaking they launch into their own conversation as though you had never said a thing. Why in the world did you bother making me waste my time speaking if you had no intentions of listening? It’s like having me make you a meal cause you claim you’re hungry, and as soon as I serve it to you you throw it in the garbage and then just eat the chocolate bar you have in your jacket pocket…like, seriously? Did you think that you’d be any less of a prick for doing it just because words are free and they take less time to create?

Well, if you did, you were wrong. Dead wrong. Nobody likes wasting their time. Also, nobody likes to feel ignored or unimportant. You don’t always have to find what the other person says fascinating, but you DO have to show that you have in fact been listening to what they’ve said. Supposed he’s talking about a quantum mechanics lecture he once listened to which sparked him to begin research on the molecular deviation of…blah blah blah. I know, you don’t care, and neither would I. But rather than just tune out and wait for the noise to end, try interrupting with “Ummm, sorry I’m not trying to be rude but I’m totally not following you. Mechanic thingies aren’t my forte. But you’re saying you’re doing research? That’s neat, where?”…you see, by directing the conversation, and by keeping it on a level you can understand, as well as the fact that by actually interacting you can keep your mind on the conversation, and ensure that it remains on a path that you can follow and care about.

And if you’re the type that, while in a debate, or when listening to a friend’s problem, you’ve decided that you have all the answers a sentence or two into the conversation PLEASE change that habit. STAT. Not only does it keep you extremely ignorant, by missing key details you were too busy patting yourself on the back to actually hear you might be passing up an opportunity to either learn something, raise an extremely important point someone hasn’t thought of, or even catch warning signs that your friend is in trouble. And seriously, even though you might THINK you know it all, your friends will simply refer to you as “little Mz. Know It All” and distance themselves from you. Nobody likes to feel inferior. Remember that.  But…

4. That Doesn’t Give ANYONE the Right to be Mr. Threepeat: As in, if you KEEP repeating yourself, nobody will want to listen. Why should they, they’ve already HEARD it 10 times before. Like the Britney Spears’ fiasco’s: eventually, even Entertainment News stopped caring about it..it just wasn’t news anymore, since part of the News is the fact that it’s NEW and therefore interesting. If you can’t bring up a subject without simply repeating everything you’ve said before, don’t bother bringing it up. Again, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR LIFE THAT MUCH EXCEPT FOR YOU (If Britney and her current trailer trash fall from grace is forgettable because it’s been so overexposed, can you imagine how unimportant you and your breakup with your bf for the 40th time this month is?). It’s not that they’re being mean, it’s just that we all have our own lives to be completely entrenched in…we don’t need yours too. No new angle should equal no new conversation about that.

..unless you are expressly asked about it, which in that case they may just be checking in to see if that has resolved itself, and are probably holding their breath PRAYING it has and that you don’t launch into another 10 year long rant about it. Think about it this way: Imagine if every single Wednesday I wrote a post on the Art of Conversation…and I always said the exact same thing, and had the EXACT same tips about it, and the only thing that changed was the names in the examples I used. All I did was rearrange the examples. But everything was pretty much EXACTLY the same. How long would it take you to stop reading my Wednesday posts titled “the Art of Conversation”? Probably 4.

The second time you might reread it, if you really liked it the first time, if you found it interesting. The third time you would open it, check to see if it was the same, and if it was you’d be gone. The fourth time, you couldn’t help yourself, you’d just HAVE to see if it were any different. By the fifth time, you wouldn’t even care anymore, the Art of Conversation would be imprinted in your brain as a title you’ve read WAYYY too many times and to avoid at all costs. And yes, people do the same thing with you and ‘X subject you can’t stop talking about’. So stop lamenting, at least to the same person all the time…we’re only human, we just don’t have the attention spans for it…unless, as said earlier, you’re paying for our services. In that case, obsess away!

5. If You Don’t Have Something Relevant to Say, Don’t Say Anything At All: As much as you might end up feeling like a mute dummy who’s too boring to have anything to say, it is considerably better to keep your mouth shut and simply “mm hmmm! That tofu stuff sounds interesting! Tell me more about it!” and then ask more follow up questions rather than simply interject some random, useless and totally irrelevant information in. This applies not only to one on one conversation, but also to group convos…it’s the most baffling thing when you’re all chatting in a group about tomatoes and someone says “yeah, the trucks that transport tomatoes also transport corn. I know because my Uncle transports corn!” and then smiles dumbly at you. Ummmm…huh?

Normally, we tend to give the most perfunctory acknowledgement, roll our eyes or shoot one of our group “the look” (which means “WTF is wrong with THAT dude? Clearly someone smokes crack!” or “my GOD is she ever the dumbest chick ever!”) and then go back to our conversation, usually by stating “ANYWAYS…as we were SAYING…” as loudly and pointedly as we can before continuing. Honestly, to me this is one of the biggest offenses you can make as far as one which would have me stop having conversation with you. In fact, do this enough and without acknowledgement that it’s random and an apology for the interjection without some explanation as to why you just couldn’t keep it to yourself, and I’ll probably avoid you altogether. I don’t want to feel like I’m having pity conversation with you. It’s worse than pity sex, because you can’t close your eyes and pretend you’re talking to Brad Pitt: Not only can I still hear your annoying voice and your dumb-ass commentary, there is no way that if a conversation isn’t stimulating to you, you can somehow imagine it to be pleasant, no matter how much you concentrate. And if you can’t stay on topic, why should I bother bringing it up to begin with (as you can see, this clearly relates to the me-me-me type).

Please, just don’t. If you do because you can’t help it, apologize, explain why this came to mind and how it relates (or how you can totally see it entirely doesn’t relate), and then invite them to go back to the original point. If you’re feeling extra chatty that day, you can even restart the conversation where it left off “yes, the tomato industries farming techniques are considerably more efficient than the transportation…” making, which will totally make you seem with it and intelligent, someone who can pay attention, and who can tangentize Ruby-style (i.e. eventually get back to topic, and even offer some pertinent info once you do! lol).

6. The End of the Conversation is STILL a Part of it and Requires Attention: Just like you don’t wanna muck up the end of a great first date either by a smelly post dinner fart or a too drunken vomitey kiss, you don’t wanna screw up the end of the conversation. This is the last thing, and therefore impression, people have of your conversational skills, and as a result the first thing they’ll remember about conversation with you the next time an IM window pops up with your name on it, or you show up on call display. If you seem to hear alot of voice messaging systems, don’t get a lot of calls back, and think you’ve done the rest REALLY well, either you’re a complete asshole, or perhaps your last conversation ended poorly…

Online, many violators simply either use the BRB function and then never BB, or forget to say good bye or BRB, and by the time they return the other person has already left. Of course, things are inevitably going to pop up, but just as you wouldn’t simply put the phone down and walk away in mid sentence simply because someone rang your doorbell, you should never do that just because you’re on the computer and therefore nothing is happening real time. Especially depending on how and what the conversation was. Even though nobody will outrightly admit it, someone who does this sans apologizing afterwards is seen as kinda a jerk, and someone who does this regularly is someone you’ll avoid getting into any sort of deep conversation with; after all, who knows when they’ll just disappear and all your business is hanging on an open window on an unattended computer screen?

But if your online manners are intact, perhaps your issue is actual verbal conversation. Do you often cut someone off to tell them you have to go, especially without first giving indication that you’re busy and can only chat for a few minutes? If someone asks you “are you busy?” or “what are you up to?” and you indicate that you’re free, it tells them that you’re free to finish any conversation they start. If you cut them off mid thought or conversation, they’ll take it as an indication that you think they’re boring, or that you don’t care about anything deep and meaningful going on in their lives. What you should always do is let someone know that you have a few minutes to chat, but if you do have plans in the near future let them know that you’re about to do something. Not only will they feel special that you’re taking time out for them, they won’t be caught off guard and offended if you have to go before they’re done…and quite frankly, even if you’re full of shit, they’ll never know and you’ll spare feelings and keep those lines of friendship open for the next time when you’re more in the mood for conversation.

On the other end of that, if you’re one of those leech people who become attached at the brain to anyone whom you talk to, so that when they have to go you’re practically on the verge of tears and begging them to stay on the line with you, just finish up the convo in a few minutes, just let you say one more thing about it and then you’ll let them go (which ends up being another 20 minutes) PLEASE stop that crap. Now. make ASAP as soon as you finish this sentence. Cause needy is not cute, it makes you seem sad and pathetic and makes absolutely everyone want to stay at least 40 feet away from you and any form of conversation with you. Who wants to feel obligated to speak to someone? Who wants to feel bad because THEY have a life and YOU don’t? Seriously, you have attachment issues, clearly. Again, find yourself a psychiatrist, if not to just listen to you, then to help you deal with your abandonment issues so you can react to human interactions like normal people. And please, please PLEASE stop thinking just because people want to end the conversation it means they don’t like you: If you try and FORCE them to talk to you, they MIGHT just stop liking you though. Seriously.

Hopefully this helps you socially retarded and conversationally awkward people. It’s the weekend, a time when you’re supposed to be out there socializing with the world. Try these tips out and see if you’re not Mr. or Ms. Popularity by the end of the weekend.

TGIF!!

Cheers

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