I communicate with people all day. I compose and reply to emails. I chat via Facebook. I send text messages. I send inmail via LinkedIn. Hell, I even Tweet occasionally.
But, I rarely have conversations. Deep and meaty conversations.
Contact Vs. Conversation
Sure, I talk with family and friends. We exchange inquiries about health or work or weekend plans and give status updates on our children. It’s like hitting refresh on your computer. Now, if you ask me afterwards what’s up with so and so, this is what you would get.
So, what did you talk about?
We spoke about work and family.
What’s going on with so and so?
Well, work is okay and everyone is good.
That’s communicating. That’s talking with people. While, It’s nice to hear the voice of someone you care about and the talk is pleasant, it lacks any great meaning. Again, this is an update like news on the hour
But it’s not a conversation. By the way, a conversation as defined by merriam-webster.com is an oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas (2): an instance of such exchange
Like I said, meaty. You know meaningful, thought provoking, and insightful. Maybe, even soul bearing. ASIDE: I remember dropping off a friend of mine a while back. She said to me, “Good conversation gets me excited.” By the way, it was a platonic relationship.
Anyway, good conversation should impact you in some way.
I miss impactful conversations.
And I don’t know why I have them so rarely these days.
Maybe, it’s time. There was one particular friend of mine that I had during college and into my twenties. We had regular lengthy phone conversations. We used to have end of the year reviews that would drag on for hours. We gave more analysis to our past year than is given to the Super Bowl. Not only that we listened, commented, and questioned. By the time, I hung up I was exhausted but happy.
This wasn’t unusual for me in those days. Here’s a scene in my house when I was growing up between my dad and me.
“What time did you get home last night?”
“I don’t know like 2:30, 3:00?”
“What were you doing so late at night?”
“Nothing really, just talking.”
“What were you talking about for so long?”
“I don’t know, really.” And I didn’t. Some things were meaningful. Plenty of things were bull. Yet, we talked about everything. We analyzed, debated, and considered.
These days there when the phone rings, there is an instant time/value measurement that plays out in my head.
Do I have time to talk? Well, I haven’t talked to so and so in a while. Yes, but I have to get this done. Well, he/she is so hard to reach. But I’m tired, and don’t feel like talking.
I’m nearly certain something similar is happening on the other end when I call. I get it. Many of my friends have spouses and children and work long hours. We’re tired. We’re busy. With the time we do have, we focus on our families.
So, maybe it’s just about time.
And maybe not.
Maybe it’s me. I tend to be introverted. (Insert the “huh – but you are a blogger thought here?” Yes, but this is a controlled forum where I share what I want to and leave the rest inside my head.). For me to share something, I have to feel great trust in someone. I have to decide if I am comfortable being vulnerable.
Do I feel like explaining so that person gets it? Really gets it? Do I have the energy/desire to really let my feelings, thoughts, and fears come through? And what about if I do share all this? Will I be looked at differently? Will my children be looked at differently if I say something about them? Sensitive, introverted, I know. Welcome to my world.
It’s easy to say I don’t care what others think about me. It’s much harder to live that way. I do care what people think about me. Not everyone but some. So, there is always a filter going through my head. Does this need to shared? What might the reaction be? I don’t want to be judged negatively, so I’ll just keep it to myself.
It’s not just me. This New York Times article focuses on the challenge of making new friends when you get into your thirties and forties. I would add that much of what is discussed applies to maintaining friendships as well.
Whether it’s time, personality, or something else, meaty conversations are simply rare these days.
And I miss them.
I wish I didn’t have so many conversations! Every time I turn around someone wants to talk. Yes, there is plenty of back and forth, but for my friends, we just have that to get it out of the way to get down to the heart of the matter!
But, you are right, it’s all about time. And I made my friendships a priority in my life. Too often as we are growing up we don’t “make time” for our friendships and as such, they wither with neglect. It’s all about where our priorities are!
Like I said, I talk plenty, but I mean more than talk.
I think you are right when it comes to priorities.
I guess I don’t miss live conversation so much. As an introvert, I’m much better suited to online or email discussion. Of course, I still have plenty of face-to-face communications, but my limited inner circle meets my needs for in-depth discussions (dinner conversations with the hubs and kids, etc.).
As long as your needs are being met, that works.
I have my introverted ways as well which clashes with the other part of me. Sounds like a mess, eh.
Some of the best conversations of my life are those that took place after midnight. That is a time that lends itself to thoughtful introspection
I suppose people are less defensive and more at ease due to sleepiness.
It’s true. Makes me wonder if teenagers know how to converse anymore. When do they ever need to, right? When they can text with horrible abbreves and mispelings. 😉
I think the issue is time – and energy.
As young, unattached, relatively-responsibility-free, high school or college students, we have time. Our job is to learn and do homework, possibly along with a side job, Plus, at that stage the conversations are a necessary part, and byproducr of, figuring ourselves out.
Even while dating there is food for, and time for, meaty conversations. You set aside time to date – what else will you do with that time, other than delve into your own world, their world, and the world you are attempting to build together?
Even as newlyweds, there is time. True, each person gets home tired, at the end of a long day, but when you are home, you are home, no responsibilities and nowhere, really, to go.
And then –
One kid, and another, and possibly another.
And with kids come more financial worries, and responsibilities, and time-sucking duties.
More time-sucking duties and financial responsibilities mean less time at home with your spouse, and less time spent with friends.
Which, in turn, means less time for deep, meaningful, meaty conversations, and more time spent just trying to connect and communicate so that no one trips up from a misunderstanding.
And so life continues . . . I assume until the kids are grown, with their own kids, and the parents have retired. But possibly, when the kids become teenagers, they (if the parents have built good communication) will want to have deep conversations with their parents. This, I don’t know – I am at least ten years away from that.
But I do agree that the lack of deeper conversations is kind of frustrating and sad. I do think, however, that the biggest problem is lack of time – and energy.
And Betsy – I teach teenagers, and they do talk. Yes, they spend too much time on their phones. But they also talk – otherwise, they wouldn’t be teenagers. The problems happen when they try to talk in class. 🙂
I think you’ve stated this clearly and accurately. Time is limited and responsibilities seem to be unlimited. Something has to give.