Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Talkers and Listeners


There are two kinds of people in the world: talkers and listeners.

On a scale of one to ten, ten being the Thanksgiving guest after three vodka tonics, zero, the cloistered Sister Mary Frances, I’m around a three, maybe a two and half.

There’s a one physical reason I maintain silence over articulation and it is simply that my vocal cords are slightly damaged; talking loud enough for the other party to hear me is difficult. And there’s my feeble attempt to honor the Benedictine Order’s preference for silence.

And then there’s the real reason, which is, when I am talking I get the impression that the listener doesn't give a rat's you-know-what about what I have to say, which is understandable because I don’t either most of the time.

And I might as well add that I have an electro-mechanical defect, that is, my brain and my mouth are not synchronized very well. It seems there’s a delay between the thought of a word and speaking the word. A spoken sentence for me is like a four cylinder Volkswagen Beetle sputtering down the road on two cylinders. Add to that a healthy portion of what is now called “inner dialogue,” and I’m just annoying to listen to.

The golden-tongued have no such delay. My beloved wife, for an example, can go from zero to sixty words per minute faster than a Tesla Model S at a drag strip. Thought and spoken word weave into one coherent sentence, paragraph, and story.

Not that talkers don’t have their embarrassing members. Who wants to endure the monologue of the over-talker? Whole paragraphs reside in his mind waiting to be unloaded on the unsuspecting. He is the proverbial mouth looking for an ear.

That person notwithstanding, I love a good conversation when I can really listen to what the other person thinks and why. I enjoy hearing words formed into sentences. I like the sound of voices. I can listen to National Public Radio's fund-raising segments even though I am not concentrating on the words being said. There is a pleasant cadence to the voices. The same with baseball games broadcast on the radio. There is nothing quite like the sound of a good baseball play-by-play man talking you through the game, moving in and out of the silence.

The truth is talkers need listeners and listeners need talkers. Put two listeners together and the silence can be life-sapping. Two talkers together remind me of a high school cafeteria food fight: throw something, duck, repeat.

There is a popular story of two famous non-talking, men of letters, Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth that sums up this listener's frame of mind. It goes like this:
"Wordsworth goes to visit Coleridge at his cottage, walks in, sits down and does not utter a word for three hours. Neither does Coleridge. Wordsworth then rises and, as he leaves, thanks his friend for a perfect evening." *
Now that is my idea of a good time.

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* Roger Rosenblott, Time Magazine essay, the Silent Friendships of Men

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(John, give me a number between 1 and 10.)

2 comments:

John said...

I'll say (pardon the pun) 7. My Myers-Briggs scores tend to say I'm an extrovert, but not by a whole lot and I'll equate extroversion with being talkative. I also tend to think out loud, which can be annoying to people I work with because sometimes what sounds like a definitive statement is just a trial balloon waiting to be shot down. At the same time, there's nothing better than silence and stillness and simply observing.

It also depends on the context; some occasions require more talking while others require more listening.

Francis Shivone said...

Thanks. Yes, context means a lot.