Why I Suck at Being in the Audience & Other 1-sided Relationships
Part of the reason I have such a hard time consistently blogging is that it consists of me, alone in a room, typing my thoughts out.
Given the choice, I’d rather be in a coffeeshop somewhere, having a discussion with other interesting people over pontificating alone by myself… Part of the reason I loved teaching college was that I was at a level of education where there was a lot of dialog in the classroom. I loathed those classes where I just stood up at the front and lectured for the majority of the time and was met by deafening silence when I got to the point where I said “any questions?” I adored the ones where I could plan on at least 1/2 of the content to come from the class – whether in the form of questions, challenges, new ideas, or even just commentary.
So part of the allure for me for sites like LiveJournal, Usenet, Twitter, Friend Feed et al is the fact that I can post something short and conversational and most times start an actual conversation with other interesting people.
The reverse-side of the coin of ‘hating being the only one talking’ is also true for me too, tho. Part of the reason I never really got enamoured of RSS blog feeds or podcasts was that as much as I dislike ‘being the sole voice’ I also hate ‘only having a limited voice, if having one at all.’ Sure, on most blogs there’s the comment section – but so few bloggers actually have conversations in their own comment threads. And as for podcasts? Yeah, I always want to stop 3 minutes in and say “hey wait a minute what about…” but no one is there to hear me.
Every so often, I find myself in situations where I think I’m having conversations with people – or even having relationships with them based on meaningful and/or interesting conversations – and something happens that lets me know I’m not. I realize that the other person doesn’t see me as a partner in their conversation, but more, as an audience member or as an ‘adoring fan’ to their starring role.
That always just about sends me into a fit.
Because it’s like being tricked into being someone’s audience or fan – and I really hate feeling like I’ve been tricked into a relationship I wouldn’t necessarily enter voluntarily.
Every now and then, I’ve wondered at the nature of my relationship with one person or another and thought “hm… am I here in this conversation because s/he thinks I have something to add? or is s/he just waiting politely until I shut up again so s/he can start talking and showing me how brilliant s/he is?”
The easiest way to tell, I’ve found, is just to shut up. If I don’t initiate the conversation and that person stops talking to me entirely? Yeah, I’m perceived by them in the ‘fan’ role. If I don’t assert myself and start replying only with ‘mm-hmm’ and ‘uh-huh’ and ‘yes, I see’ and s/he keeps babbling along like a brook and never stops to say ‘you’re being awfully quiet – what do you think?’ Yeah, that one has me slotted as audience member.
I suck at dealing with that. As soon as I feel like any warm body or receptive ear will do, I walk away. It’s kind of childish, I guess – but I’d like to think that people whose thoughts and ideas I value also value mine – and if not? Well, there are 6 billion plus other people on the planet so I’m probably better off putting my energy elsewhere and getting the return value.
Granted, I think everyone feels this way at times.
I know I’m horrid about ‘maintaining’ energy input into friendships over long periods of time. Anyone who has managed to stay in my life more than about a year can tell you that there are always periods where both of us ‘lose focus’ and one has to reinitiate contact for us both to start interacting again. But that’s different in my mind. Usually, it results from having too little time to do all the things we’d like to in life and too few resources to spend trying to nurture all of the important relationships in our lives at the same time. It’s not about not valuing the other person’s thoughts or time, which is what I’m talking about above.
I spend a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that I reply to people who talk to me, that I take interest in what other’s have to say, and that I don’t make them feel like I perceive them as simply an audience or a fan. Because I hate it so much being treated that way myself.
Someday, I’m sure I’ll find a more graceful way to deal with the whole phenomena – but at present I find I simply walk away when someone seems to be putting me in the situation of being on either side of a 1-way conversation, and as you can see, I don’t blog often enough to feel like I’m talking to myself. My way of coping is rudimentary, but effective for the moment. I suspect I’ll have to change it though as I get deeper into “social” media. Just a guess, but I figure I’d better get started figuring it out.
What do you think?
~ by Lucretia on May 27, 2008.