Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Deflection: A Strategy For The Quiet

Because this was what Ove had learned: if one didn't have anything to say, one had to find something to ask. If there was one thing that made people forget to dislike one, it was when they were given the opportunity to talk about themselves.

Excerpt from A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

It took a long time for me to learn to talk with others competently, and I can't deny that one of the first and best strategies I learned was to ask questions; in other words, I learned how to deflect. At first, I didn't even know how to do that well. I didn't know what types of questions to ask, or how best to phrase them. Some of the hardest situations were ones in which -- not only did I not have anything to say -- I couldn't think of anything to ask in response to what others had said.

I eventually learned, partly by listening in on other conversations, but also by paying better attention and being prepared. What's more, I found that I enjoyed asking questions. It's a strategy worth learning if you're planning to be in the company of others, but it's also a useful skill all on its own. Understanding others was a great way to begin understanding myself -- both what I am and what I'm not.

Nowadays, having little to say is less of an issue for me than having too many questions to ask. I guess anything can be overdone. Still, even if I don't care as much about whether others are comfortable with my silence, I find it invaluable to be able to join in when I want. And in those cases, being able to deflect will always be handy.


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