Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More information!

I often get a chance to hear people talk when I know both of the speakers myself.  What I hear said between them frequently leaves out key bits of info about each that the other doesn't know.  Sometimes, I am in a position to mention that one of them is a scientist or played volleyball in college, not just a biographical fact but something quite relevant to the talk they are having.  I am surprised that it wasn't mentioned by the person the info pertains to.

My take on this is possibly the one that a pain-in-the-neck teacher would take.  You know, the nerdy sort of person who always tells you more than you want to listen to on the history of chess or the chemical composition of BPA.  Maybe I am a "mansplainer", the sort of male who tries to impress a pretty concert violinist by explaining the violin concertos of Mozart to her, without knowing much but talking to an expert.  I am interested in each of the speakers knowing and enjoying each other and when a simple statement of fact has a good chance of deepening the insight, I ask myself if it is something embarrassing or private.  Of course, I make that evaluation in my head without benefit of the person's permission or reaction.  I may be wrong and get myself in trouble for revealing something the person did not want known.  It can be that the fact was not to be mentioned to THAT acquaintance even if closer friends know about being double-jointed or allergic to strawberries or whatever.  

I have not made any serious miscalculations that endanger a friendship, so far as I know.  As a parent and an elementary school teacher, I have the idea that any query and any subject might be mentioned or discussed in a polite and limited way.  But I know that many people don't have the habit of saying much about themselves, their knowledge, opinions or experiences.  Besides, as we age, we might not be as quick at remembering something about ourselves or its relevance to what is being discussed.  If I have a doubt about revealing something to one speaker to another, I try to mention the fact after the talk and suggest an email or phone call that could be a follow-up to the conversation.

It is difficult to find the right amount of personal revelation.  Too little seems to be the norm among my friends but I think it is just because it takes effort and some nerve to reveal that I was a spy or won an award for my basket-weaving.  The general lack of revelation seems to me to be related to the phenomenon I saw in the classroom, more with undergrads than younger or older people, that of simply keeping quiet.  Being quiet can be a very good thing but it can be overdone.  Many times, looking at the faces of the students after a talk or conversation, I would see animation in someone.  Calling on that person with a request to say what they thought nearly always resulted in a wonderful statement but one we would clearly not have had without my request.  Since I can't notice everyone, I could feel the loss we all suffered by over-closed-mouthedness.  We need more information!

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