[Applied Self-Confidence] I In Conversation

There’s a person I know that is incredibly selfish – to the degree where he complains that when he talks to people, he “can’t get a word edgewise in,[1]” but when I listen to my friend, he only complains and doesn’t pay attention when I talk about things. Prasad has poor listening skills. He’ll ask the same questions multiple times. We all have a Prasad within us, so, how do we minimize his presence in conversations?

There’s no I in TEAM, right? Well, there’s plenty of ME in TEAM… right?

I distill confidence as the willingness to put yourself aside. Whether that’s ego death, death of the author, or merely considering the thoughts and feelings of others, when we don’t force our opinions onto others without consent, things go better. I have this website as an outlet to express my thoughts at length, so when I talk with people, it tends to either about more nuanced or personal concepts than what I’m willing to share here.

There were three references to “I” above; pretty selfish, huh…?

Single-person writing in regards to opinions tends to be more direct so the ideas can have more immediacy. When they are less person-oriented, much more of the thoughts involve considerations of meaning and pedantry rather than expressing cause-and-effect or things that can be improvable. There are times and places where diffuse language can be helpful, especially in accusatory situations or situations where there is a potential for growth.

I just use “I” for the sake of immediacy.

In conversations, though, I will often catch myself when I have accidentally dominated the conversation. Sometimes, it’s fine. If I meet up with another friend than Prasad, either they or I might have something we want to lead off the conversation with and we’ll trade our thoughts and feelings like a friendly game of ping-pong. Where Prasad and others like him fail is that they hoard the ball for too long so it no longer becomes a friendly game but rather an excuse for long rants, which, causes the dual negative effects of struggling to get words in edgewise and struggling for attention.

Here’s an experiment that I only learned recently.

The next time you find yourself on a bus with strangers willing to talk, listen. Stoke the conversation by asking for more information. While I was contracting years back, I used to ride in the back of the bus where one once met some of the wilder folks to ride the bus, and in one particular example, I met another Prasad that over the course of a single less than 30-minute bus ride told me all about his job, his family history, and his deepest insecurities. It was a therapy session for him. He didn’t care who I was, he just wanted someone to talk to about these sorts of things.

I saw him again weeks later on that same bus and he acted like he didn’t know me.

Which is true. We didn’t know each others names, and other than polite salutations, he no longer needed someone to talk to so he stared out the window. One might get offended over something like this but the experiment involves finding strangers and letting them get all their words in edgewise, being curious about their life stories over our own, and letting them tell you about their lives. When I use the word experiment, it sounds like a manipulative exercise, but it really just involves getting out into more social situations and being willing to put yourself aside for a few minutes.

Sometimes, you may need to spill your guts to a stranger, too.

When we stop being strangers, though, there is usually a certain understanding that we help each other up through our mutually negative circumstances. Ideally, Prasad should be listening to me as I talk about certain aspects of my life and offering advice, just as I should for him, but instead, I pay attention only casually to what he has to say and offer non-constructive feedback based on the notion that as long as I don’t stoke the fire, the conversation goes fine. As much as we want to avoid or minimize contact with people like Prasad, sometimes it’s inevitable or the friendship isn’t entirely toxic, so when I met with him recently, much of it was just me half-listening as he ranted about, well, the details aren’t important for this.

I would have given more attention had he been interested in my situation.

But since he was more hypocritical in that he demanded the attention of others without giving his own, I realized that if the worst thing you can do to someone is not tell them vital flaws, then I will refrain myself every time when someone isn’t interested in anything except portraying themselves in perfected perceptions. After all, if Prasad’s biggest flaw which prevents him from leading a fulfilled lifestyle is that he doesn’t listen to others, why would he listen when I would tell him he doesn’t listen?

In previous years, I might have tried to get him to listen.

Now, I just look at people like this as curiosities like one might look at animals in a zoo, because who am I to want to shape and mold others into an image closer to my own? In these Applied Self-Confidence essays, I write with the assumption that my readers are willing and open to considering things they can do to improve their lives, and even if I’m harsh at times I try my best to operate with respect as we mutually advance ourselves to become better people. If they aren’t interested in reading what I write, then they aren’t interested in hearing what I think, and so I’ll just listen to the Prasads of the world while I work on aspects of my public-facing façade and personal biases that can help me become a better person.

In my conversations, I try to minimize the “I” as much as one can…

Quotes: [1] Prasad is a randomly-generated name.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: I had a recent email conversation with Prasad that I wanted to write abstractly about.
Related: Other Applied Self-Confidence essays.
Picture: Just spelling out the theme of the essay. Drawn 2020 April 01 [From 5:46am to 6:01am.]
Written On: 2020 April 01 [From 6:02am to 6:50am.]
Last Edited: 2020 April 01 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.