Understanding the Art of Conversation
Posted on March 8, 2012
Talking is the most sociable of things and virtually everyone adapts this form of communication to suit their own style of getting their message across. It is quite remarkable that in a world featuring 100 million different living creatures including, at the last count, 4260 mammals, we are the only living species that communicates by talking, unless of course you include a dog on That’s Life whose owner claims it can say “sau-sa-ges.” Gorillas give it a good go, but for some reason the 98% of human DNA they possess wont allow them to, there is something in the remaining 2% stopping their speech evolving. Parrots can mimic the human voice of course, but, as funny as it sounds when you hear it, they haven’t got a clue what they are talking about, so as we are the only ones who talk properly, we might as well enjoy it.
As many of you will know, I like talking, in fact I like talking to such an extent that it has often dropped me in to awkward situations or got me in to a conversation with someone I should really have avoided. I also have a tendency to talk over people or barge in to a sentence or another conversation, though I am training myself to back off as I get fucking annoyed when it happens to me, so I guess the feeling is mutual. I believe a series of coincidences has made me a talker rather than a listener, starting from being born as the final child in a chaotic family of seven (including parents, but excluding rabbits, guinnea pigs, cockerels and chickens). When you are born into that situation you have no choice to be vocal to get yourself noticed, otherwise you could stay in your bedroom (my bedroom was a converted toilet) until you starved to death. If you didn’t speak up and demand attention, no one would know you were missing until your Dad discovered your skeleton some years later. “Well bugger me….I forgot about him.”
So, by the time I drifted in to the working environment I was small in frame but full of words, a perfect match when you go in to the world of construction and sales. I think every child should be thrown in to a building site or manufacturing environment for a month of intense training at the age of sixteen to experience a crash course in vicious sarcasm, ferocious piss taking and joke telling. You have to toughen up and find your voice pretty quick or you are history, it is a great way of learning to be razor tongued and quick witted, vital ingredients to take anyone forward in to the brutal world of business and employment. It doesn’t matter whether the individual is going to be a doctor, a lawyer or a banker, to be thrown in to the cog of the wheel that keeps capitalism turning over would be a great lesson at becoming more socially adept and it would certainly teach the pampered public school boy politicians of both parties a bit more about how the real world works, in turn making them more personable to the voter.
So, we have established what must of you already know, I talk a lot. As mentioned before, it has its downsides, but it can be positive too, I am adaptable in most company, I often have talk to site labourers and managing directors within the space of minutes and I have friends from opposite ends of the wealth spectrum who I am at ease with. However, there is one part of the art of conversation that I have never been able to master, and that is “small talk” with vague acquaintances. My ability to have absolutely no relationship with my neighbours is bordering on legendary and I am at the point where I almost fear going in to Sainsbury’s because of the prospect of bumping in to someone who I know, but I have nothing to say to. It always results in the passing words becoming more and more irrelevant as you meet these people in aisle one, three, seven, eleven and fourteen, so I avoid it at all costs. The other day, I saw a mother of one of the kids who was at our cricket club a few years back and I spent half of the time poking my head round the corners and backing up the aisle like a detective in a 1970’s American cop show, just avoid tepid conversation! Fuck knows what I looked like on CCTV? I do this to avoid saying things like….“Cuh….£1.35 for a loaf of bread eh!” or “two for the price of one, be rude not to!” Pathetic sentences that I later reflect on with a combination of shame and self loathing. When possible, I go to Sainsbury’s at 9.45pm with rest of the social misfits.
I will give you a great example of something that happened to me yesterday which gives you all very good reason not to make small talk with vague acquaintances. I bumped in to a neighbour the other day as I was getting out of my car when returning from the gym and as I was wearing shorts a sweat top and trainers and looking a bit worse for wear I quipped “Excuse the attire, I have been to the gym in my latest attempt not to become a fat slob.” These words would have been fine if she was slim, but the fact is, she has the physique that suggests she empties the shelves of Greggs bakery every lunch time. “I need to lose weight” she said in a sad tone. How was I meant to answer that? No answer was acceptable. “Yes you do you fat cow” is obviously too rude, but “No you don’t you’re fine as you are” is patronising as well as being a cretinous lie. I solved the issue by not answering, choosing instead to look down at my trainers in the hope that one of the laces would come undone. They didn’t, and she shuffled in, rather bemused that the conversation had ended there. I should have stayed in the car and pretended I was in a deep and serious conversation on my mobile, that’s what I normally do when I spot a neighbour, they go away eventually, though it can take a while if they are trimming the hedge.
My social ineptitude with neighbours is deep seated and it comes down to the fact that I have been blessed with a succession of them who spend their weekends with the curtains drawn whilst they masturbate in front of Formula One racing. I had three neighbours in succession who carried out this bizarre practice and all three of the fuckers insisted on telling me about the whole bloody event despite my protestations and obvious apathy towards cars fizzing around a tarmac track. Formula One fans don’t listen though, they expect everyone to be gripped by their description of the best qualifying time on the Saturday and how, at some ridiculous hour on a Sunday morning, the best car beat the second best car in an epic race lasting fuck knows how long. I wouldn’t mind, each to their own and all that, but if you dare mention that you happen to be a fan of football or cricket and not Formula One, they look at you if you have just broken in to their house and had a turd in their pillow case (something that became increasingly tempting). As a result, this hat-trick of bombastic wankers has turned me in to a social inadequate with regards to neighbours and I find it better now just to avoid them and just be known as the miserable bald twat at number 53. Suits me fine.
The art of small talk is probably something I will never learn fully, it is just so bloody pointless, but if any of you have managed to do master it, please let me know.