Some people just don’t know when to shut up. Frequently I am guilty myself.
The case that stirred this thought occurred, as I was captive in a service establishment recently and had to listen while a guy related a whole lot more about his personal life than yours truly or the attendant on duty cared to know.
The guy spilled his guts without prodding or even much of a polite question about how things were going. I don’t know if he suddenly felt he was among friends, if he had been one little white pill short that morning or was just lonely. Whatever it was the filter was off and the longer he talked the more uncomfortable I became.
I’ve come across that personality from time to time and it’s tough not to run away from them screaming.
I’m careful warming up and exposing myself to people but somewhere over the years I learned that it’s really pretty easy to get most people to open up, even if they aren’t like the guy described above.
A misspent life in sales and newspaper interviewing left me with the talent to ask a few innocent questions and get most people to open up on most subjects.
My father-in-law, God rest his soul, could crack folks open like a walnut and would listen and sympathize with the wackiest of stories. Then as soon as he was a friend he could sell them that new washing machine along with a new dryer to boot.
He was just practicing his sales vocation as it had been taught to him. The personal life stories didn’t really matter to him that much.
While I’ll admit most of the time I’m content to sit quietly and listen to coffee talk and barber shop chatter every once in a while I like to work someone just a little to see what’s really deep in their head or laying just across their heart.
You don’t get them started by talking about the weather or the national news headlines. Unfortunately they’re ready to open up about their coworkers, bosses or difficult customers if you want to hear the negative. If you want to hear the positive talk about pets, children or grandchildren or sports if you know their favored team just won big.
OK, the sports might not always stay on a positive track but you can get people engaged if you’re passionate about sports or know they are or appear to be.
Most people really want to tell their troubles and joys to someone and often that someone is a complete stranger. My downfall is that I have been guilty too often of listening to those problems without caring, without attempting to offer a blessing of some sort. Heaven forbid that I might actually open up to that person myself.
As usual I’ve used too many words and said too little.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org