- Richard Haywood
The art of conversation…and not being a dick during a conversation.
We’re all doomed. Doomed I tell ya. Doomed to become a nation of idiots who talk at each other. Doomed to descend into a primeval swamp of non-conversant amoebas. Our ears surely will cease to have function because evolution discards the bits that aren’t needed. At some point menfolk will stop having nipples and our ears will drop off. Cos like…what’s the point in having them if like…you know…WE DON’T BLOODY USE THEM?
In Tesco I peruse the groceries with all the attention the average mancustomer can muster (which involves grabbing the shit I need as quickly as possible and getting the fuck out of Dodge). It used to be that a woman screaming at her kids was quite rare. It would gain attention when a mother bellowed at the top of her voice. Now? Now it’s so normal that nobody bats an eyelid.
Kids shout that they want shiny stuff. Mums and Dads shout that they can’t have the shiny stuff. The kids shout louder. The parents shout louder. The kids whine. The parents slip into that elongating of vowels thing that teenagers do, “I said noooooooa, you can’t bloody have ittttttttta”
Life is stressy, yeah I get that. We all get uptight to the extent we snap and take it on those we love. And that’s okay because we understand when they do it us. We absorb it, and they, in turn, absorb our tantrums. Sometimes we descend into an all out rant where no amount of common sense or verbal reasoning is gonna stop the flow of verbalising shit thundering from our gobs. We need that rant. It has to come out so let it out. Rant and blaspheme and swear like a squaddie, do it, go for it, get it out and jump up and down. Yeah! Purge the demons and the angst of life. Be at one with the chaos of living in a modern age…because you’ll feel better for it and later, when you’ve calmed down, you will be uber calm and lovely cos all the bad shit has gone and your brain will make you a big old dollop of Serotonin which’ll make you feel all warm and gooey. So gooey you might offer a massage or a foot rub, so gooey you’ll the other half watch the action romp shoot-em-up football match romcomsitcompukecom Gok Wan doing a makeover on the telly.
What isn’t cool is making the human race cease to have ears. I like my ears. Stop your fuckwittery so I can keep my ears. If I ever have babies (which is soooo unlikely as I’m 39 and single and a writer and I have another job (boo) and…stuff) then I want my babies to have ears, and their babies, and my babies babies babies – they might need their ears too.
When the Zed day comes (which it will) and the Aliens land (which they will) and the monsters crawl from the seas (which they will) and the cross bred German Shepherd Dog / Goats take over (which they will cos I’ve got a secret laboratory and I’m almost perfecting it now) then I want my babies babies babies to have ears so they can hear the zombies / aliens / sea monsters / Dog/Goats attacking from the rear.
“ATTACK FROM THE REAR….”
Ask any soldier / copper person the importance of those four words and they’ll tell you, oh golly gosh they will tell you those four words are quite vital in the midst of a big old scrap, riot, insurrection (or resurrection) (phone insurance not covered in the event of insurrection or resurrection), war type event.
Cos like, someone spots the baddie zombies / aliens / sea-monsters / Dog/Goats and yells a warning to everyone else. But! But without any fucking ears we ain’t gonna hear ’em.
So. The art of conversation.
There is an ebb and a flow to a conversation. You speak, they speak. You speak, they speak. You speak and they listen. They speak and you listen. It really isn’t rocket science…and talking of which…how did the rocket scientists ever make the rocket science without the ability to listen to each other? Huh? Ha! Got you there.
“I ask the right honourable gentleman to explain to the house why, Mr Speaker, why the NHS is shit?” “Well, I will not answer that question but instead I will shout a lot and point out all the bad things you do…like…immigration, yeah…immigration and taxation…you’re shit” “No…You’re shit…and you made the NHS shit…and everyone hates you, why did you make the NHS shit?” “Haha, I don’t like that question so I shall ignore it and shout some more…” “Ha well, I’m gonna shout too and a whole hour of time will be wasted with fuck all getting done while this House of Commons is packed to the rafters with a million Members of Parliament all earning a fortune for sitting here booing, cat-calling and generally behaving worse than a primary school outing to the fucking Pantomime.”
See. It’s endemic. We are infested to the highest points of our society with people who are not using their ears. The very top echelons of our advanced civilisation are ignoring the shit they don’t want to hear and just going blah blah waffle arse bugger tits waffle blah.
How do we re-train and make this better? Simples. Everyone has to save a pound up, possibly a pound fifty. Find an old cafe full of old people and get a cuppa then find a spot in the middle. For the time it takes to drink that cuppa, don’t speak. No utterings of words shall fall from your mouth. Be silent. Shush. Ssshh. Be a monastic monk. Be a fucking tree ( a tea drinking tree) and then…magical things will happen.
You will, in the course of that cuppa,be enlightened in the Art of Conversation so perfected by generations of people who have seen the very worst of mankind. They have survived wars, disasters, loss, bereavement, family tragedies and everything anyone can think to throw at them.
They will talk. And that talking will quite possibly by the most beautiful thing you will ever hear. Within those conversations you are earwigging on, there will be betrayal, disaster and a whole manner of bad shit. There will be funny stories and mundane musings of life. But the speaker will speak and the listener(s) will listen. The speaker then shall not speak and will magically transform into a listener while the other ones have a go at speaking. They will take turns. Speaking and listening. The listeners will make strange noises from their throats. These are non-verbal signals to the speaker that they are not only listening, but they are fucking listening. They are listening the shit out of it. They are owning that listening. The noises they make, grunts of approval and disgust, snorts of derision or laughter, raising of eyebrows, nods of heads…they are emboldening the speaker to…to keep on speaking because…Because they are listening.
You hear with your ears and eyes. You show interest. You don’t play with your phone or stare at the fluttering thing in the distance. You listen to the words and the way the words are spoken, the tone, the nuances, the expressions on the speakers faces.
We don’t like politicians any more because some clever fuckers taught them all how to speak in a manipulating format. They use open hands and expressions of earnest. Which is all a bit shifty and weird.
In time, with practise, you will learn to listen not only to the words being said and the tones they are said in, but you will spot what is not being said. What’s being left out. What is being avoided. Advanced listeners can adapt their Art of Conversation to either gently pry into the thing not being talked about, or avoid it and so make the speaker feel safer. The really advanced listeners will know when it is time to express opinion or offer advice….ha….but be warned….many a beginner thinks that by the instant offering of advice or opinion means they are a good friend and have helped solve some shit. But that path is fraught with peril….don’t go there until you are an advanced listener.
Once you have had your cuppa and got the general gist of how people talk and listen, you may start practising. Here are some basic points to help you on your road to recovery to prevent the human race losing their ears because or your fucktardness.
THE FIVE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF NOT BEING A DICK DURING A CONVERSATION
Don’t boast. Don’t boast about good you are, how wonderful you are or the wonderful things you have done. Just. Don’t. Boast.
Don’t interrupt. Some people will hog the speaking time. In time you will learn to avoid the hoggers but to start with, just learn to listen, even if they waffle the shit on and go blah blah blah. This is good training. In fact…go find a hogger and engage them in conversation for there is much learning to be had from the hoggers.
Listen with your ears and your eyes. If you really have to look at your phone, offer an apology then once you have finished simply say “sorry, please carry on…”
Do basic nodding. Nothing more. Basic nodding shows the speaker you are listening. Look at the speaker and nod a lot.
THE FIVE INTERMEDIATE PRINCIPLES OF DEVELOPING YOURSELF PAST BEING A DICK DURING A CONVERSATION
Don’t Boast. This principle must be followed at all times during the training phases. No deviations. Just. Don’t. Boast.
Body posture and non-verbal communications. If you rest your forehead on your arms or the table, the speaker may think you are not listening. If you pick your nose / arse / scabs the listener will think you are not listening. Altering position for means of comfort is fine. Fidgeting is not. Hoggers will make you want to fidget. Don’t fidget. Practise non-fidgeting. Sit still and listen.
Verbalising your listening. Sounds tricky but this goes on from Basic Principles 2 and 5. Don’t interrupt with words and along with the nodding, practise the utterances of sounds that show attentiveness. A small snort of derision here, a scoff there, “uh-huh” is a good one as it seeks to propel the speaker to keep going. Less is more. Start easy and work up. Someone scoffing, snorting, uh-huhing constantly is just weird. Don’t be weird.
Head tilting. A lift in the head will show understanding whereas a side tilt shows focus. Head movements are a visual signal that you are following what is being said.
Seeking clarity. Sometimes, despite the best will in the world, you will lose the train of thought or the general subject matter at hand. “Who said that?” Is a good one. “He / she went where?” things like that. Some speakers are not so good at being clear and linear. Don’t interrogate or bombard the poor bugger with questions while water boarding them. Practise seeking clarity.
THE FIVE ADVANCED PRINCIPLES NOW YOU ARE NOT A DICK DURING A CONVERSATION
Empathising without patronising. Oooh we’re getting into advanced training methods now. To empathise is to show a vicarious understanding of what is being said by the drawing of experience from your own life. The speaker is telling you something that makes them sad. You went through a situation once that made you sad so you can relate to the sadness. This will show in your eyes, facial expression and the non-verbal utterances coming from your gob along with the head tilting and nodding. This is not patronising as patronising is stretching your claw like hand out to pat the speaker on the nose and say “there there”. You are not experiencing their direct sadness as the sad thing didn’t happen to you. It is their experience but you can show that you get it. Do this without interrupting.
Adapting your approach. By now you will have practised the Five Basic Principles of Not Being a Dick during a Conversation and from the many hours of practise, you will have learnt that there are differences in how each speaker prefers their listener to be, but more importantly, how, as a listener, you can put the speaker at ease to be comfortable in speaking to you.
Opinions and advice. Remember, they are what they are. They are opinions and advice. It is your view based on your life experiences and your vicarious understanding of the world at large and just because you offer your pearls of wisdom it doesn’t mean the other person has to do what you say. Sometimes the speaker doesn’t want advice. They might just want to get shit off their chest and know someone else can understand what they say.
Drawing a conversation to a close. This is inevitable and done well it leaves the other person feeling valued. Life is busy and we all have commitments. The hoggers will ignore all efforts to draw the conversation to a close but by now you will know when to offer gentle suggestive signals of sitting upright and picking your keys up to nodding firmly, holding eye contact and stating in a firm but friendly tone “it’s been lovely speaking to you but I have to go” bang, you said it, stand up and go.
THE ONE PRINCIPLE OF ENSURING WE DON’T ALL LOSE OUR EARS TO THE FUCKTARDS
Boast. Now you can boast. Find that hogger and boast the shit out of the conversation. Repel them with your boastfulness. Brag and tell them how fantastic you are. Make that hogger not want to talk to you again. You are advanced now in the Art of Conversation so you can deploy the strategic boast. Offer advice and opinion on everything they say. They are a hogger because they don’t know the Art of Conversation. Did you know that before embarking on this training programme you were that hogger that talked without listening. Hoggers are shit that will lead to the whole of mankind being wiped out by the Zombies / Aliens / Sea monsters / Goat/Dogs attacking us from the rear “ATTACK FROM THE REAR” Because we all lost our fucking ears due to the general hoggingness and fuckwittering of the bloody hoggers. Boast at them. REPEL THAT HOGGER. Fuck ’em.
Next time on RR Haywood Rants at the World we shall discuss love, or other deep stuff. Not sure yet. Might just focus on perfecting my Goat/Dog species instead.