Being Talked At: The Death of Conversation

“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That‘s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers rarely meet.” – Truman Capote

I’m inclined to agree. I have recently discovered that I seem to attract people that ‘talk at’ me than ‘talk to’ me. What do I mean by that? They monologue at me, my part of the conversation is non-existent. The point of me actually being there, being involved with this ‘conversation’ is negligible – I am literally there to hear what this other person has to say – they may as well be talking to themselves.

In conversation there should be give and take, questions and answers, turns taken in talking and listening; it doesn’t always have to be in equal parts. Information should generally be exchanged, commented upon and the conversation often ends up going in tangents onto other subjects as one party or another interjects with a related piece of information. You know how it goes.

Some previous articles on this phenomenon have called those people that talk at you as broadcasters, they monologue, like the villain in a movie. When in the grips of a ‘broadcaster’ you feel about as helpless as Mr Bond strapped to a table with a laser slowly inching towards his junk. There’s little you can do to stop a broadcaster from monologuing. They don’t care if you’re bored, they won’t pay attention to the fact you stopped listening half an hour ago, they won’t notice your eyes wandering, your hands fidgeting or even your attempts to interject with questions, comments or opinions of your own.

It’s impossible to have a conversation with a broadcaster, I’ve found. I have been dating a broadcaster for approximately two months; the amount of actual dialogues we’ve had can be counted on one hand. I wrongly assumed that this monologuing would subside, and conversations would be borne from the rants and we would get to know each other.

The broadcaster’s diatribes tend to be rather superficial; about interests, or hobbies, or things they want to advertise about themselves; never about the intimate details of their lives. If you’re lucky enough to share the interest the broadcaster enjoys rambling about, you might be able to enjoy their company. But it wouldn’t matter if you lacked enthusiasm; the ‘conversation’ would remain the same. Mostly, the speech is not altered for your lack of understanding on the subject.

If you feel the need to comment, several things could happen. The broadcaster could wait for you to finish speaking and continue with whatever they had to say before you had any input, clearly having not acknowledged your ‘part’ in the conversation, giving perhaps a small nod, ‘mm’ or ‘yeah’ before continuing what they were going to say before you rudely invaded their monologue. More often than not, they would begin to talk over you after you begin to speak. You could either stop and let them carry on, giving up on your attempt to interject an opinion or observation, or they could talk over you louder and louder until they have effectively drowned you out.

When I met this man that I’m dating I admired his passion about the interests we share, at first. I put his behaviour down to perhaps meeting someone who shared his interests, wanting to show off his knowledge a bit and mainly, down to nerves on the first few dates. As time wore on I started to realise that it’s incidental whether I was interested or not, and actually; this outgoing, confident, passionate man, was incredibly socially awkward and did not know how to carry out the give and take of a conversation. I empathised, being a little socially awkward myself, and waited it out to see the more we got to know of each other, the more he would relax and conversation and intimacy would blossom.

Two months later, after a lengthy dialogue with a friend of mine, I’m giving up. I still know little of him, and despite my occasionally getting to interject with some of my experiences, he knows nothing of me. All I can wonder is, what is my point in all this?

With some people it seems like bragging; I understand this, to a certain extent. When you discover something new and exciting you often love to share this new found whatever it is (a new boyfriend, a diet and exercise regime or a hobby for instance) and it can end up being a bore to your audience. I’ve done this on numerous occasions! But this doesn’t seem to fit the bill here.

With other people, it can come across much more as egocentrism; their monologues have a self aggrandising, narcissistic tone. It appears as if the role of the audience in this relationship is to affirm their opinions, massage their ego, laugh at their antics and admire their insight. It seems at first glance as a person who thinks a lot of themselves! However, I feel this ‘broadcasting’ is a sign of poor self-esteem, and certainly a sign of lacking self-awareness. A lot of these episodes seem to be seeking validation; validation that they are smart, that they are knowledgeable and that they are perceptive.

Perhaps this is why true conversations never come; perhaps the insights of the audience may be threatening to the broadcaster; the audience is not allowed a plinth in these monologues as it would undermine the broadcasters’ own observations, either because the audience came to the same conclusion as they did and the significance of their ideas and opinions are less noteworthy as a result, or because by disagreeing this renders their search for validation void.

It seems innocent enough, however…However, what about the psychological impact this type of behaviour has on the you, the audience? You do not have a part to play, you are the audience; a faceless mass, an observer. You could be anyone! If you speak, you are spoken, or indeed shouted over. Your comments are left unaddressed. You may have learned something from the monologue, but you would not have imparted anything. Your opinions are not worth hearing. You have nothing to say that is important enough to be heard. You are nothing.

It is most likely subconscious on the part of the broadcaster, but spend enough time with one without being heard, and you begin to feel belittled, and perhaps a little worthless. You add nothing to the relationship, after all. It’s a slow process of eroding the audiences’ self-esteem.


8 thoughts on “Being Talked At: The Death of Conversation

    1. Thanks Melissa!
      Definitely the right decision to let that fish swim. Hoping to find this mystical guy that knows how to make conversation! Seems a rarity these days.


  1. Pingback: NEXT! | soddinl

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