Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Rant of The Day: Unsolicited Conversations

The Level of Conversation Today
by JccKeith

What to rant about this week?  To tell you the truth, I can't say I have all that much to complain about.  However, in light of a conversation today at a pool, I just might have a few words.

That's the problem you see.  Someone else had quite a few words today for me.  Now it might sound a little crappy of me to say but I am not always in the mood to hear other people's opinions.  Sometimes, I just want to sit and enjoy the silence.  Having three kids who talk constantly and insist on yelling, singing and in general chatting away about nothing just to hear their own voices - silence is golden.

I'm not sure what it is about me that makes people want to tell me their life's story or even their unsolicited advice or opinions on things totally unrelated to anything going on around us.  It happens all the time.

Evolution Pic
Today, it was somewhat my fault.  I made the classic mistake of talking to a stranger.  My mother warned me about talking to strangers and now I see why.  No, he didn't offer me any candy, although it would have been appreciated, instead he offered several questions followed by opinions.
I asked him a simple question about the pool's policies on something and he answered then asked several questions about did I believe in evolution, what was my religion and several more disjointed questions.  Had we been at Walmart, I might have seen the relevance but alas we were in a pool.

Evolution you say, sounds like a good topic to discuss with some random person but I didn't have the chance to even answer the question.  The questions were followed by his opinions on evolution and other assorted things unrelated to each other.  Looking around at the swim team practicing in the adjacent lanes and at the children playing nearby I couldn't help but wonder if I had perhaps drowned and ended up in some alternate universe.  Maybe I had simply blacked out and forgotten the first part of the conversation we hadn't had which would lead to such questions.

While kicking myself mentally for asking this man a question I began to ponder what it is that makes some people feel the need to chat with strangers.  If it serves no purpose other than to start a conversation then what prompts the desire to converse?  And why is it so many people nowadays have such a hard time understanding the unspoken rules of conversation?

  • Whatever happened to "How are you?" "Hello" or even "Do you come here a lot?" An introduction of a name or basic topic, even a continuation of the topic of the original question is more acceptable than just delving immediately without warning into deeper discussions.

  • I remember when discussing religion and politics with people you didn't know well was considered taboo.  Or at least it was considered a bad conversation starter but was appropriate once initial pleasantries had been exchanged.  So what happened to asking one question at a time and waiting for a response or even sticking to one topic before jumping to another?

It might come as a surprise to some but I am a shy person until I feel comfortable with a person or a situation.  I am fairly certain I gave this guy the 'deer in the headlights' look after his barrage of questions continued.  Normally, I would have kept my cool by letting the other person talk or giving simple answers but this caught me off guard.

It made me think about how many other times I had become reluctantly involved in unsolicited conversations with strangers.  There have been times when I was sitting alone reading a book and people would still come over and start talking to me.  But at least they would start the conversation with "What are you reading?"  and then wait for a response.  But I still always wondered, "What part of the book open in my hands and my complete attention to it said I want to have a conversation?"  I don't mind answering an occasional question from a passerby when necessary but I don't want to be involved in any discussions.

People I don't know starting up random conversations with me makes me feel uncomfortable, shy as I am.  Unless the chat has some purpose or is specific to a location or event, it makes me have to search for what to say and how to respond.  I don't want to come off as rude yet it often happens to shy people like me.

So I have decided, in light of today's unsolicited oddity, I will not waste my time attempting to find words to say in an unsolicited conversation and subsequently coming across as rude.  I will save time.  I will borrow a line from Col. Sheppard in Stargate Atlantis and simply tell these people, "This might come as a shock to you but I'm not really in the mood for conversation.  So why don't you just do me a favor and shut the hell up!" Alright, I would seriously never say that to a stranger but any helpful suggestions on how to handle unsolicited conversations would be appreciated.

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