hey. I’m laughing. uhh. I’ve worked a bit each day this week, so far.
I’m at camp as usual.
there are parties.
it’s grey and rainy here on the east coast. I’m drinking some peppermint tea.
thoughts turn to small private rituals. thoughts turn to sobriety.
thoughts turn to purely gestural conversations. Thoughts turn to adversarial conversations. To using people as a foil, and to the objectification of people more generally.
I like conversations where the content is more important than the gestures, and the gestures support the content. It’s ok sometimes when conversations are purely gestural for a certain while. We call this goofing off or bullshitting. Sometimes a sublime thing happens wherein a purely gestural sort of exchange comes to mean something very clearly, though no constituent part of the exchange is easily translatable into verbal content. Most often that doesn’t happen, tho, and gesture remains gesture. Such goofing can still prepare a situation… so that content can emerge. There are issues of motivation and belief. Sometimes people have a conversation in which neither/none of the participants is motivated about the content, but both/all people might still have some briefly sustainable interest in the gestures.
Often people speak and respond to one another too quickly. In conversation we’re constantly making snap judgements about how to interpret each thing we hear, and that’s as it should be. We constantly must interpret what we hear, since most statements are ambiguous. But often a person quickly settles on one particular interpretation of what they’ve heard, and then responds in a way that doesn’t admit any possibility that that they didn’t understand correctly. Usually the conversation doesn’t recover, will not succeed, though it may continue for a while as gesture. Speaker #1 hears the response from speaker #2, recognizes on some bodily level that there is confusion, but then lets the conversation advance anyway. That is, #1 responds to #2′s response, perhaps visibly registering some dissatisfaction, but without insisting on a review of the initial exchange. If only the misunderstanding had been so dramatic or ridiculous as to make it impossible to continue, these people might have been saved some time and frustration.
Other times #2 says “I’m not sure if you mean X or Y or Z.” This is a good thing to say, though it will make some people impatient. Some interlocutors will think #2 is playing dumb, or turning the conversation into something needlessly academic, or in any case delaying progress. A person was perhaps certain at the outset of the exchange that their point would be clear, and it was just a matter of progressing to the end of the script. In many cases it’s a failure of imagination on the part of someone who assumes that if they have said some words, and they understand in their own mind what they mean, others must also understand.
Another thing people are sometimes able to do is respond based on one particular provisional interpretation, but do some kind of signalling to the other person to indicate they aren’t really sure of the interpretation and are especially open to being corrected. This is also a good thing to do. It’s a way of slowing things down.
Some common reasons why people speak/respond too quickly:
- Defensiveness. The person doesn’t want the conversation to succeed, because it’s going to lead somewhere they don’t want to go. And/or the person is afraid of revealing that they don’t understand certain aspects of the topic. And/or the person is afraid to reveal a more general inability to converse with other people. The latter could seem far-fetched but no doubt some people have that basic anxiety.
- Lack of imagination.
- A person’s participation in the exchange is goal-driven… they have an agenda… they have a specific place at which they want the conversation to arrive.
- A person isn’t really interested in the topic (lack of motivation), though they may enjoy the gestures, the company, certain appearances, etc.
- They don’t believe it’s possible to discuss the topic effectively. Or they believe they’ve already discussed it, in the past, as effectively as could be.
Those are some paragraphs and a bulleted list about talking, especially about the beginning of conversations after person #1 says a thing and before person #2 says a thing, and then directly after person #2 says a thing and so on, but mostly these beginning things. Voice is of course is interesting. It’s made out of everything, and can change completely.