Sometimes, these posts almost write themselves. This is one of those times. I am a regular reader of advice columnists in newspapers. (Yes, I still read newspapers, several, in fact, on a daily basis.) “Dear Abby” recently provided some sage advice that included a suggestion for the reader to “listen as much as you talk.” This is good advice, indeed. I would, however, go one step further by suggesting that people listen as much as, or more than, they talk. David and I are introverted, thoughtful, intellectuals, but this doesn’t mean we don’t have things to say. Often, when one of us attempts to, as my late mother would say, “get a word in edgewise” when in the presence of one or more of our extremely talkative friends, we find ourselves being interrupted, sometimes repeatedly, by someone who evidently thinks he/she has something more important to say, at the exact moment David or I are speaking. When in this, all too common, scenario, my typical response is to stop talking. In fact, I rarely finish what I was saying and, if I am continually interrupted, I am likely not to engage in much additional conversation with the person who has habitually interrupted me. Interestingly to David and me, we are usually the highest status participants in any given conversation (in terms of education, occupation, income, or other measures of socioeconomic status). Our “serial interrupters,” however, do not consider this, or anything other than their need to chatter, prattle, and ramble on, usually, about nothing in particular. I have sometimes attempted to redirect the person who keeps talking, and talking, and talking, with a quick sentence, such as “I have never watched that TV show and I am not likely to ever watch it,” or “Excuse me, but I would really love to hear the music being played,” or “Yes, I am sure all of your co-workers, students, (or whoever) are as incompetent as you say, but I really need to pay attention to where we are going,” etc., but more often than not, the hint is not taken. In that I am compensated by my clients, quite handsomely, for expressing my professional opinions, it is ironic to me that, in everyday discourse, my thoughts, opinions, and feelings matter so little to those around me. I wonder what would happen if all of these chatterboxes were together. Is anyone listening?
To borrow from Alex Lifeson of Rush – “Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah.” Some of you may recognize this from Alex’s speech following Rush’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was an amazing thing to hear and watch – because one could, or at least I could, translate much of what he said into regular words. In the context of Melissa’s post, sometimes what people say turns into the blah blah blah speech as what they are saying becomes tedious and/or one sided. As someone once said, we are given 2 ears but 1 mouth; use them in proportion. I don’t encounter this problem very often, but it has occurred in many settings including with our clients, or prospective ones, who prefer to tell war stories over strategizing about the case at hand. With friends, there is typically more give and take. In business, the phenomenon takes on a different path because of the power relationships. And, while we think Melissa and I should be listened to – especially by those purportedly paying to hear what we have to say, that is not always the case. At times, we just have to hope that the client’s client (our end client) gets their money’s worth from the work we’ve done – and from their attorney!