14/06/2013 11:09 BST | Updated 20/04/2017 07:33 BST

Conversation Killers


There are certain conversations that irk me. A fan of actual conversations, ones that require honesty and direct experiences that someone cares about, tend to give way to the following kind of interactions that are confused as conversations:

(1) Mere exchanges of things we read and now know about just so we can have this conversation: Someone pipes up "I read in..." or describes something possibly personal and suddenly, all parties involved start exchanging mere facts and bits of knowledge they've hoarded just to whip it out on occasions like this. It's not the exchange of facts and knowledge that's the bother, it's the realisation that this exchange doesn't benefit anybody involved-- mouths are moving, sounds are coming out, but you leave feeling like you could of just looked this all up on the internet: Why talk about your new ipad by giving the directions on how to charge it, the years of warranty and pornographically describing the box it came in?

(2) The soundboard: Someone initiates a conversation with you (or vice versa). He tells you what he thinks, what he knows, what he is doing, he has the decency to say bye and then leaves: You weren't talking with him, he was talking at you. You were just a soundboard, someone he can practice his monologue on. You could have been anyone and it didn't matter. But it had to be a person because talking at inanimate objects means possible mental illness.

(3) Verbal Olympics: Whatever you say, the other person will drag the conversation back to herself -- if you mentioned you were just at a wedding over the weekend, she will tell you that she has been to two and was in fact, a bridesmaid for one of the weddings. Mention, oh yeah, I've been a bridesmaid before and she will immediately point out that she has been a bridesmaid for so many of her friends' weddings this past year. So many that she should open a business to consult on bridesmaid etiquette. Whatever you share about yourself, she has done it multiple times, better, more extreme, more amazing-- aka she is better than you, just in case you didn't realise.

(4) Whatever you say, I am right. Cos that's just the way it is: In the other person's mind, he already thinks you're inferior. It may not be very obvious to him either, but in some way, he thinks that. You are either responding to a question or commenting on something, and without much thought, he immediately blurts "I can't believe you said that!" / "How could you think that!?" / (insert aggressive accusatory remark). In his mind, he also thinks you two are having a discussion about your differences. But the reality is, he is belligerently telling you why you are wrong and paying little attention to why you think that way. He doesn't care. His viewpoint only includes himself.

The last pseudo-conversation, I find, is the most detrimental. It embodies the trend of most contemporary dialogues and reveals an ignorance that is vicious. Modern debate, from everyday interactions to the political level is less of understanding as it is to win. To win is to bully the other person into submission, ensuring the labelled adversary feels belittled. The power in this is the diminishing of another's voice.

The logic behind believing that one absolute is the only correct stance is not there. One stance cannot possibly be right because everyone is different, has had different experiences that have coloured and changed their lives altogether. To make such an assumption is to proclaim that only your experiences are superior to everyone else's, that it is the blueprint for everyone else to follow. But how could that be if one person cannot embody every kind of experience possible to know which is right?

The signature characteristic of these pseudo-conversations is a lack of respect for each other. Without knowing it, these approaches to social interactions discourage sharing ourselves. In mistaken belief, these types of conversations arise because we want to be validated by others. "Please hear me" and "Please think I have worth" are the pleads underlying these interactions. But it's the risk of opening up and understanding others that does the trick. A celebration of existence comes with understanding what is being celebrated, not having it imposed on others.