Monday, August 10, 2009

Being Unusually Chatty

A friend from out of town (we'll call him Burma) was visiting this past week, and while we were in the midst of a conversation, his wife (Kate) made a comment to him that caught my attention, a comment that I often hear people make towards me. We were discussing another old friend of ours, and it went something like this:

Burma: I've never been able to get close to him [our old friend]. We never had very personal conversations.

Me: Really?

Kate: Wait, you don't usually have personal conversations. In fact, you're being unusually chatty tonight.

Burma: Well, I'm drunk, so ...

I doubted Burma's story about being drunk, seeing that he was barely halfway through his only bottle of beer, but I was making sure to closely watch his reaction to the comment. I was curious how it made him feel.

See, being told that you're unusually chatty is the same as being told that you're normally not very talkative. I've already mentioned in the past how people tend to point out my quietness; this is the same thing, but perhaps as a more "politically correct" version.

Often when this sort of comment is directed at me, the intensity of my self-consciousness temporarily spikes; I'll probably have a more difficult time staying focused on the conversation at hand. In the past, I would frequently disappear into my thoughts altogether, and trying to get myself back out again to join in with the people around me would be quite difficult. I become more aware of the scrutiny of others, more aware of how my quietness makes others feel, more aware of the process of the conversation (of the body language and facial expressions and the feelings and attitudes that are conveyed), and I become entangled in that web of awareness.

But my friend hardly skipped a beat. He's a much more social animal, so I'm not surprised. I think he's more private than he is introverted, but it was curious to see a little of his wife's perspective of him. Plus, it was nice to hear what he was implying: That he is comfortable enough with me to have personal conversations -- to be chatty, as it were.

As curious as it was to watch someone else deal with a scenario that I regularly face, I did wonder whether I should somehow deflect his wife's comment. And I wondered whether I would have appreciated a deflection. But I had no idea how I could accomplish such a thing, anyway. I'm not that skilled at conversation to begin with!



JP said...

Hey you, I've been holding my tongue, so to speak, on comments up to now. But when you say: "I'm not that skilled at conversation to begin with!" I have to respectfully interject. Based on a recent event, you are a perfectly good conversationalist! I could easily say "great", which I thought was true, but I think I'd lose my cred with you.

Zeri Kyd said...

Hi, JP, well, thanks for the compliment! I think how skillful I am at conversation is inversely proportional to the number of people I'm talking with (or even to how stimulating/chaotic my surroundings are). :-) Still, we all have our moments, especially given the right motivation.