Pat Talk: A Guide to Conversing With Patrick D Ryalls

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m bad at conversation, but I certainly wouldn’t say I’m good at it. I’ve known people who are really good at anecdotes and I am not one of those people. They really seem to enjoy telling stories and know how to do it well. I, on the other hand, consider oration a constant struggle to hide how easily I trip over words or get lost in meandering tangents.

I could probably get better with practice, I’m sure, but then we come to my second problem: I bore myself. It’s true that even in my purposefully boring life I still do things (or have things happen to me) which could be amusing when retold, but here is a fact: The more often I talk about something, the more it bores. And this doesn’t just apply to the anecdotes either. The default thing people talk about when meeting people is jobs, right? Well, (ignoring how much I hate my job to keep the example easy) I quickly grew tired of telling people what I do for a living. But when I found out my actual title (Nighttime Post Press Production Supervisor) I enjoyed working that in when they asked (always sure to include the fact that for years I didn’t know my own title), but soon I tired of that one too. The hypothetical person I am speaking with would find this information new, but to me it has become tired. If you’re not, like, one of the first three people I’m talking to about something, the odds are that I have lost all excitement for it, and that’s bound to hurt the quality of my conversation. (From the other side, I really don’t enjoy if a person is talking to me about something they’ve told me before. I assume that since they don’t tire of their anecdotes, they probably keep them in rotation, so when they forget that I’ve heard it, out it comes again. I guess it’s fine if I’m only hearing it for the second or third time, but I’ve had people repeat the same things to me more often than that and it grows weary.)

Related to that, I can’t be bothered to fill everyone in on the details I need for my anecdotes and stuff. I already know what I do for a living, so when I want to tell someone about something that happened at work, for example the time I lost a fingernail because I got a hand caught in a machine (all anecdotes are about injuries, right?), I go off the idea as soon as I realize that I would actually explain what I do, what the machines are like, and how I used to have a fingernail. All that is taken for granted by me, and thus bores me (see above). So the result is either a weak telling of the anecdote and the details, a telling of the anecdote that suffers from lack of details, or just skipping it altogether. Thus, the more often I see and speak to a person or the more common knowledge that person has on a subject, the surer my footing on the cliffs of speech (metaphorically). And this also carries over to other things. At a couple of the jobs I’ve had I’ve been made to train other people. I hate that. I hate having to go over that stuff. Specifically because it is work, it is such a routine that it goes way beyond a story I’ve told a few times. It’s something I’ve done daily for a depressing number of days and talking or thinking about it just makes it so much worse. I will never enjoy training someone unless they already know everything I’m supposed to tell them.

I do, however, consider myself a good listener. Apart from that bit about people repeating themselves, I like hearing what people have to say (that may be why the repeating themselves bit is so annoying). This, of course, places the burden of the conversation upon my hypothetical conversing partner, which (with some exceptions for people who don’t mind carrying the conversation) again weakens the whole thing. And that’s why the best of all options for me is the be in a larger group of people having a conversation. I get to listen to the back-and-forth and chime in if, at any point, I actually have something I think could be interesting. Of course, there is the constant threat of people who will take my silence as a bad thing and try to directly bring me in. I’m sure their intentions are good (trying to make me feel like part of the group, as if that has ever been a PDR goal), but it just brings me back to the awkward attempt the get my brain to catch up with my mouth of a regular conversation, only now I’ve got a bigger audience.

So there you have it. Another look into the workings of my finicky hermit of a mind. I can and do enjoy talking with people under the right circumstances, but those are some pretty specific circumstances. Otherwise, why can’t we just enjoy the silence together, eh?

Anyway, that is just talking. With written conversations, I have more time to deal with my sentences and sort my thoughts. Sure there are the pitfalls of typos, forgetting words, overuse of parentheses, and all that, but generally I can get my points across much easier. And when I’m tired, I tend to just ramble on and on and on. Like this has been.

Why can’t I get to sleep? I’m totally tired. Come on, body! You’re supposed to know how to cover this part.

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