So, this quote popped up on Pinterest the other day:
I’m a very private person, yet I’m an open book.
If you don’t ask …
I won’t tell.
It is certainly true of me but I need to add one small disclaimer. The amount I choose to share is directly related to my perception of how much the person really cares.
Have you ever seen a conversation between two people where they were really talking at each other and not too each other? Person A starts in about some experience they’ve had and then person B jumps in to talk about some experience they’ve had that may or may not be similar to what person A is describing. Sometimes, person A will jump back in and will either shift back to the original topic or go into some other experience that is sort of related to what person B is talking about. They both want to talk about themselves so they use the opportunity to shift the conversation back to them. I’d blame this on extraverts which isn’t really fair because I don’t want to generalize although they seem to be the ones prone to this. Maybe it is some strange bonding ritual that I just don’t get.
Well this all comes from a work lunch I had to attend yesterday. I say had to attend because it was a birthday lunch and I’ve missed too many of those. It was not the group I’m in charge of but it was the group of managers. I hate attending these lunches. First, the guest of honor always picks the same dingy restaurant that just happens to be cheap, fast and close. But the food is average at best and there are little healthy options. Secondly, the conversation is either about work or it is that meaningless shallow small talk that I just can’t stand. I don’t need to hear a monologue about what you did. I’d rather hear more about how you felt doing it. Give me something deeper I can work with. But it just feels like we are all acting out parts and going out because it is our duty. And the small talk is more like masks we wear to keep the real parts of ourselves from each other.
Because this bores me to death, I generally stop listening and just zone out to be the observer of events. I toss in a word every now and then to make it appear like I’m involved. Every so often, they’ll decide I need to share more and I’ll get a question or two tossed at me. The problem is that it often turns into multiple questions so it feels more like an interview than a conversation. And the questions come so fast that I don’t get to complete a point or a thought before the next one comes. So I’ve learned to just give short answers that reveal very little. My overall impression is that these people really don’t care and they are just asking to be nice or polite or to steer the conversation back to something they care about (themselves). So, I’ll reveal as little as possible. If I think you care, I’ll happily discuss whatever you want to discuss but, if it is just shallow small talk, then you are likely to get short answers where I use the minimal amount of words I can get away with.
Let’s move this from the abstract to the real. I’m leaving for vacation on Friday and we are going to an island where there will be sun and beaches. Had to answer the requisite questions about how long it takes to get there (really don’t know but I can make a guess), where we fly out of (that I did know) but then the questions started flying. “Are you going to snorkel or scuba dive?” Instantly, I felt a little defensive because we don’t do that – what we like to do is walk on the beach holding hands (told you I’m a hopeless romantic), but I’m not about to reveal that to these people. “Are you staying at an all-inclusive?” Umm, no because we like to get out and see things for ourselves and that includes finding little restaurants to eat at. But that question was really just an excuse for someone to launch into a conversation about this great resort they stayed at in Mexico which lead to someone else jumping in with a related story and so on. The question about flying was an excuse for someone else to talk about cruises and then the conversation turned to why we don’t cruise. Umm, because being on a ship at sea surrounded by people with nowhere to really by alone sounds like hell on earth? Yeah, wasn’t going to go there.
And, then, I got the inevitable “but I thought you hated the heat”. Umm, yes, when I was huge and had a lot of natural insulation, the heat was a big problem. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m freaking cold ALL THE TIME now. But, thanks for showing me that your opinion of me dates from three to four years ago.
I contrast that with TrainerGuy who I was working with yesterday afternoon. He was full of questions about the trip and where we were going and what we wanted to do. But, I sensed an interest so I was happy to talk about it. I do have limits because the more I have to talk about myself, the more it wears me down but if you show an interest in me, I’ve got no problems answering your questions.
I don’t want to sound like I’m totally closed off because I’ve learned to share more about myself in the right circumstances. I’ve found it to be very useful with my group because then they can see me as a real person and not just “the boss”. I think that sharing my dancing and Facebook (and some of them can see what I pin on Pinterest) gives them a better idea of who I am. It creates opportunities for conversations and I think it has helped me form a stronger bond with most of them. If I really wanted to freak people out, I’d let them see this but that’s a step I’m not willing to take.
Yes, I’m a private person. For the most part, I choose what I let you see. I get that this is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I get the vibe that someone doesn’t really care and I limit what I share which keeps me from forming any kind of bond when means I keep thinking they don’t care and the cycle repeats. But, I think I’m a pretty good judge of things and people. You interrupt me a couple of times and/or shift the conversation back to you and I’m going to figure out that you don’t want long detailed answers, you just want shallow surface stuff. Then, that’s all you’re ever going to get.