Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Youse-day

Part of being a good Miser Mom is learning to deny myself (joyfully), thinking about things beyond my own selfish desires.  In this vein,  year or so ago I read a book on attracting attention . . . The Pursuit of Attention by Charles Derber.

In Chapter 2 ("Monopolizing the Conversation; being civilly egocentric"), Derber described studies in which he analyzed how many modern conversations go: a bunch of statements beginning with the word "I", alternating back and forth about the person doing the talking.  Sometimes the person who responds completely changes the subject:
Pat:  I went shopping today.
Sam: Yeah? I didn't have time; I was painting my house today. And I kept on finding more stuff to do . . .
Sometimes the person who responds doesn't change the topic, but still changes the subject to himself:
Pat:  I went shopping today.
Sam:  Yeah?  Me, too!   And I got a whole bunch of . . . 
Even when the second person eventually hands the conversation back to the first person, it's often by way of taking the conversation over for a little while:
Pat:  I went shopping today.
Sam:  Yeah?  Me, too!   What did you get?
What you don't hear, at least not very often, are conversations that use the word "you" a lot.  Conversations that ask for more detail.  That support the other person who is speaking.   If you're interested in reading a bit on this yourself, you can check out a great description of conversational styles at The Art of Manliness; Brett and Kate McCay describe many strategies for avoiding "conversational narcissism".

I read Derber's book, and I knew the author was holding up a big mirror to me.  And I realized that this is a way of talking that I really wanted to fix.  In the same way that I try to avoid complain-bragging about being busy, I've decided to try to have one day this week where I attempt to start sentences with something other than the word "I".  To replace that word/idea, wherever possible, with the word "you". "You look good". "You really helped those people out the other day".  "How are you?".

Darned hard to do.  I'm not good at it.

How about you?

1 comment:

  1. I try to get better at it; I'm not very good either. Reminds me of something a certain Dean used to tell us in staff training - people love to talk about themselves, and if you just keep asking them about themselves then they'll be really happy and think you're really nice.