What’s Happening to Conversation?

You know, I was sitting at my computer, reading the blog posts of other people and hoping to be inspired. I just sat, listening to music and letting possible first sentence after possible first sentence float through my head, only to discard them all. I definitely felt something, if only the urge to write, and then the conscious thought came to mind, “But I don’t know what I feel.” And then I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

I went to a nerd school for 4 years, and I’m going to one now. I’ve been surrounded by smart, interesting people for a while now, and I hope to do so in all my years to come. And I love it. But there’s one thing that’s been bothering me about this. I’m actually surprised I haven’t already written about it. You see, there’s a very subtle peer pressure that’s particularly common among people like this. I’m not talking about the pressure to get all As or to stay fit (those do exist, though they’re hardly subtle). No, I am speaking of the pressure to always have an opinion.

It just bothers me. I feel that I must have an opinion about everything to be considered interesting or sometimes even deserving of the attention of other interesting people. I need to know what I believe about gay rights, feminism, racism, and every other hot button issue out there, and I need to be able to articulate that opinion well. And yeah, like the pressure to do well in school or stay fit, it definitely has positive sides to it: it challenges me to stay informed on the status of the world and to be critical where I might otherwise overlook minor flaws. And those are really good things for me. But I still have a problem with the culture that sometimes overlooks me because I haven’t thought of something before or because I feel incredibly conflicted on an issue. I don’t think people should be valued just based on what they say, regardless of how intelligent they sound.

Because that’s what the emphasis is on: speaking your mind. It’s all about the talk.  There’s not as much value for listening or even asking good questions. It’s a very self-centered way to think about communicating, even if you happen to be speaking passionately on behalf of other people. There’s no room for the humility that comes with saying “I don’t know.”

Now, I’m not saying everyone is like this. In fact, in most small groups, I don’t notice it at all. But I do see times when it seems like conversation is really just a competition of who knows the most obscure facts or an excuse to sound really smart. But hey, that’s not what conversation is supposed to be about. Conversation is supposed to be about connecting with other people. It can totally happen over stimulating topics that challenge the people involved to think and apply and speak well. But it can also happen over silly things like Disney movies or cute puppies and/or babies you’ve seen or even sports *gasp*. Conversation should be a safe space for people to really interact and not worry about whether they sound intelligent or are interesting enough to hold the other’s attention.

Don’t let social pressures tell you lies. You are interesting; you truly are, even if you don’t think you are. You are a human being, and that automatically makes you beautiful and complicated and intriguing. Don’t ever forget that.

Epylle Spydre

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One thought on “What’s Happening to Conversation?

  1. Kathleen Meeks says:

    Really enjoyed your Conversation thoughts. One of my favorite things is Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (from 1927). He touches on this too; you might enjoy it.

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