I saw a great business/calling card recently. It said, simply, Stop Talking.
I can’t stop thinking about it, may go back to the store and buy it. How perfect for me, and people like me, the listeners of the world who would sometimes like to speak and be heard. Or to hear nothing.
I can think of so many people I could hand it to. The boorish bore at a party. The acquaintance painfully describing her latest divorce or operation. The office mate who takes personal calls all day long. The know-it-all in meetings or classes. The clerk who gabs with everyone in line about their health, vacation or children. My neighbor in his hot tub at Midnight. Anyone gabbing nearby on a cell phone or in a theater.
Come to think of it, if I could go back in time, the school wierdo who followed me home when I was 10 because I was the only one who would listen to him.
The world is divided into talkers and listeners, just as it’s divided into neat freaks and slobs, morning larks and night owls, and those who are punctual and those who are always late (perhaps subjects of future posts). We are all put on earth to drive each other crazy.
My own listening skills have served me well as a professional writer. It’s no accident I was drawn to journalism. My curiosity about people always overcame my shyness and I’ve been able to interview anyone from cute boys in high school to famous authors and infamous mayors. And not just ask questions, but listen to the answers!
Socially, my ability to listen sometimes helps and sometimes hinders me. It helps if a friend or relative needs comfort. It enriches my life and my writing to hear conversations and nuances many miss. But it hinders if I’m surrounded by boisterous talkers who won’t let up for a minute.
I’ve gotten better at cultivating friendships with those who also listen and avoiding those who don’t. Paradoxically, I’ve developed more tolerance for humans in general, but less so one-on-one. Yet it’s still surprisng to me how little curiosity many people have about others or how unable they are to simply acknowledge a comment without changing the subject or giving unneeded advice. In other words, to Stop Talking! For just a few minutes even!
So would this card really do any good? Probably not. For us listeners, it’s a pleasant fantasy.
Pass them out on the street. People might think we are deaf mutes asking for money. No, we can hear quite well, thank you, we just want a little silence – and maybe the chance to speak. For just a few minutes even!
I like to take my own photos for my blog. Sometimes the photos find me and spark an idea. Sometimes I write my essay first and have to go searching for my photos. As with these. As I sat and looked quietly out at the ocean, people on their cell phones were walking/talking behind me. If I were sitting here with a friend, I would want us both to stop talking and let the view speak.