Recently I had coffee with someone I haven’t seen for a long time. It soon became very clear to me that I was not enjoying the situation. If I offered a piece of conversation, or asked a question, he immediately went off for miles on his own experience or someone else’s experience. I noticed myself listening and trying to make sense of what he said.
But then I switched off to his stories, gave up trying to find a spot to comment (to even acknowledge what he said), and spent time in my head. I considered what I could say to change the subject, how to interrupt the story that didn’t seem to even have connecting parts, or to end the conversation altogether. I tried to think of something to say to show that I heard what he said. I was stuck in my mind.
Eventually when there was a slight pause, I said that it was time for me to go.
An experience to reflect on.
I realized that I wasn’t present to him or to myself.
I felt so sad. This was someone with whom I had once felt a close connection.
For him it could be an unconscious avoidance strategy. Talk about anything, tell stories about other people, blame the government………………all to avoid whatever is authentic and here for him. Leave the present and talk about the past or the future. It’s safer that way. And I don’t really know how it was for him. I only know how it was for me.
So for myself, I was feeling the sadness……………..and the anger that was under the sadness. The sadness was sitting in my eyes with vulnerability. The anger was in my belly, wanting to burst out.
And then more doubtful thoughts. Surely I could have influenced the conversation more. Surely I could have been more honest or actually just plain honest. Surely I could have done this or that. Blah! Blah! Blah!
More reflection. I realized that I have an old belief that I shouldn’t interrupt someone else. I’m sure I do in some circumstances so further inquiry could reveal when I do and when I don’t. Maybe the same type of situation will pop up one day for me to do it differently.
How do you cope in boring conversations?