There are some people in the world that are very determined to debrief. Regardless of the situation you might be in with them they need to download. They need to tell you what’s happening to them, why it’s happening, what it means to their life and so on. This doesn’t always feel like a conversation in fact it feels more like you are being talked at than conversed with. For the listener it can feel as though you are cornered, trapped until the story ends unless you can find a means to contribute or your phone rings and you can say it’s really important that you take the call. Good listeners, I presume, have means to withstand or perhaps even enjoy this type of information exchange. There is a difference between someone carrying you along with a story and an outright information dump. It can be particularly difficult if you already know the story but the teller pushes on regardless.
You might be busy, you might have a hundred things to do, but the neighbour, or your child, your parent, your partner or your colleague doesn’t see that. They just see a person before them. A set of eyes and ears that can perceive their information and regardless of your interest they must share it with you.
When I’m caught in this situation I imagine a beaver building a dam. They go about their task with determination and a single-minded focus. They are doing what they have to do. They can’t stop, they can’t waiver. Just like the determined little semi-aquatic mammals, some people are trapped by their biology and their life experience. While a process of self-awareness could assist them, in these moments they have no alternative but to push on, to relive their experience and give it to you with as much detail as possible. Seeing someone in this process, in this uncontrolled one-way information dump, has at times triggered my compassion. I’m not so much moved by the story but I am moved by the human being before me that is unaware of their actions to the point that they can’t see the human being in front of them is smiling politely and is not really interested. At other times I give my all to listening to the details. I pick apart what the person is saying and try to see if there are sensible things I can say to help them. There are other times when all I can do is allow the process to come to its natural end, escape when I can and take my battered psyche and lick my wounds. Ok, a little over dramatic but let’s face it, we have all heard things from time to time that we wish we could un-hear.
To be fair, I’m no different. I do it too. I’ve caught myself debriefing. I’ve felt the need to share as much as the next person. And this has made me wonder what is it about telling other people things that is so important? Does it help us validate our fleeting existence? Does it assuage an unconscious fear of being meaningless? I for one am guilty of pandering to a desire to make people think and more importantly to make people laugh. But so much of what goes through my mind is lost once I’ve thought it and moved on. It’s only what I share that remains. But for how long?
I don’t have any great answers. What I can share is that I think it’s a fine line between sharing a deep and meaningful conversation and thinking you are sharing a deep and meaningful conversation. Sharing ultimately creates connections and as social beings those connections underpin our sense of well-being. Perhaps that is what we are grasping at when we don’t stop to consider if we are truly sharing or just downloading. So if you do find yourself captured, remember while listening you can also observe and as our brains are very clever we can take in multiple means of information. We can console a listener and have compassion for them while in the same instant disagree or hold what they say in contempt. We can also observe our own judgment and perhaps consider how similar we are to the person in front of us. A human being caught in any behaviour that is not totally under their control is a being that deserves understanding. If they have no tools or means to bring about awareness how will they ever have self-understanding or change their behaviors?
Beavers however, to the best of my knowledge, don’t concern themselves with such things. They just go about building their dams. It’s only we humans that expend the same or more energy on thought around an action as the actual action its self.
Information dump over. I leave it to you to consider.
Evan Shapiro www.amazon.com/author/evanshapiro
This blog is edited and used with permission of the author. Originally posted @ www.evanshapiro.net/blog