3.15.2011

Is anyone listenting?

If you watch British programming, and you pay attention - you’ll note that rarely do the characters interrupt each other.

We Americans, on the other hand, don’t think we’re communicating if we’re not interrupting. Count how many times within a 10 minute period during your next business meeting somebody interrupt or talks over someone else. You may be surprised.

My mother was English. I don’t remember ever interrupting either my mother or father at the dinner table. (Then again I don’t remember many of the conversations.) But I do remember the driving need to say something, alas, at the expense of someone who hadn’t completed their thought. Its astonishing the amount of ‘over-speaking’ that occurs in every day business meetings. I regret to say that while I’m learning (still) to wait my turn - I interrupt more than, well, more than I like.

So what?

Ever wonder why we like to text, SMS, chat, or zing one another? Walking my dog Kairo this evening, I realized that I text because I can complete a thought, a message, a word - without interruption. I call someone on the phone when I want to elicit some information - when I ask a question and let the respondent riff, guided by a prod here and there, to get what I ‘came’ for. But if I call to share some happening or idea, actually having a conversation with someone is attended by the risk that I will be interrupted. If I want to convey a particular idea - the fascist in me wants to put it all out there without interruption - without having to navigate a conversational cadence that isn’t conducive to my objective. But maybe I'm missing the point.

I sometimes wish that I were more British. Raised in public school with public school manners. Everyone speaking their turn, completing their thought - everyone knowing they’d be heard. I think they call it ‘active listening.’ Most people just call it the art of conversation.

We text and email so we can be heard without it, without interruption. What I might like is largely irrelevant. But apparently I am an American - and we seem to do interruption best.

Is anyone listening?

~r