Coming back from a cafe with my friend, a nonsense ambiance lingers in the air. What have we talked about? Many things. And at the same time, nothing. You were there with your friend, and both of you stayed there like rocks. Coffee dripped slowly from the filter, it was raining outside. At the corner, the TV was broadcasting a football match. There are noises all around, we are also making noise, but there is the undeniable void that after sensing it, you cannot stand sitting there anymore and decided to go home. I didn’t care enough to go back, so I stayed.
Do you have time?
One of the questions we often ask each other when we want to meet is “Do you have time on this/ that day?“, and more often than not, the answer is “Sorry I have …to do on that day“.
“Do you have time?” itself is a meaningless question. We always have the same proportion of time that we have control to manage. Other than work obligations, we decide when to eat, sleep, hang out, exercise. We have the options to say yes or no with people we want to meet and the power to reach out or reject networking. We can spend hours for a stranger we just met and just 10 minutes with somebody else, using time as an excuse.
Instead of asking “Do you have time?”, why don’t we state the reason we want to see each other?
“I miss you, can we meet?”
“I feel lonely. I need somebody to talk. Can you talk with me?”
“Can you MAKE time for me?”
It is very simple is it? We talk because we want to share something, or because we just need to be around somebody to reduce loneliness, or we miss that particular person, or we are worried about something.
Yet, we rarely say this, perhaps partly because a “NO” answer will hurt. After stating our reason to meet, a NO is a rejection to that particular reason, compared to classic question “Do you have time” when a “I am busy” is enough to cover whatever really going on.
“When you do have time?”
“NEVER” (Actually, I ALWAYS have. What a stupid question. I just don’t have time for YOU because I DON’T want to, but you don’t wanna hear it, NEITHER do I).
Formula of meaningless conversations
We are not born to be good conversationalists, and we don’t have to level up our skills. People talk a lot about soft skills and tactics to connect with people, while in fact, there are 2 main factors
Curiosity and sincerity
If we are curious (either because we are naturally curios or because we personally care) and sincere, conversations will flow. We will be curios enough to cross the awkward silence and be sensitive enough to read that facial expression, to break that wall of others. If we are curios enough we can read between the lines and not just focus on words.
In turn, sincerity helps us to open up. Sadly most of us come to talk with our walls shut and without either willing to express or curiosity to explore, we reach external distractions. And there are always distractions.
Many of us come to conversations and being either
Advice giver (plz, just shut up, and do you know that Quora is much better than you as an advice giver?)
Noise maker (talking nonsense to fill the void)
Why can’t we be listeners? Just shut up and listen. We listen by ask questions, if there is silence, ask more.
Don’t blame smart phones
2 years ago, a guy named Gary Turk from England made a wave all over internet with a meaningful and poetic video named “Look up“. The video does an excellent job as stating the lonely state of people immersed in online world more than real world
“I can’t stand to hear the silence of a busy commuter train
When no one wants to talk for the fear of looking insane
We’re becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies
To engage with one another and look into someone’s eyes.“
And no matter how beautiful and true the poem is, smart phones are never the real reason.
Devices just make it EASIER for us to escape to another world when the real presence of another or several human beings around us does not trigger any connection. When we feel the urge to reach out smart phones or when you see somebody does, it is a good SIGN that there is something wrong with the interaction. It is like cat and mouse game, the mouse is bored and there is fascinating piece of cheese over the corner. Internet is like a huge piece of cheese, and endless source of entertainment.
And when somebody does that, we get discouraged to continue and stop trying altogether. Opps. Game over.
Face-to-face interactions only make sense if there is resonance, relevance, echo. If we are not willing to do that by asking questions and answer honestly, then do not blame smart devices for stealing others’ attention.
If we cannot connect offline, online connections will replace it. When that comes, don’t blame internet. Blame ourselves.
Because, wait, we can look down too ha ha.