Lately, I have been a quiet observer at work. I have stopped talking and started paying attention. Listening intently, taking it all in, and not judging. Just marinating in the interactions of others, for I myself have refused to talk for the sake of talking. If I could pull off the whole Maya Angelou silent for years after a life altering experience thing (by no means am I making lite of her plight), I totally would; I would not allow a word to come from my mouth. And like Maya had Bailey, I would make just a single confidant privy to my thoughts via minimal verbiage.
So, you may be thinking, why go silent? Why not be cordial and speak when spoken to? The answer is simple my friends – because I am surrounded by an archetype of characters that I label as “crazies”. The crazies don’t listen, they hear only what they say or think, and ignore you. Completely self-absorbed, utterly uncaring, and fixated on their own problems, they ask “how are you!?”, with the intention of receiving little more than surface level answers.
They lack empathy, and this contributes to theirdistorted world view and closed minded perspective. I have been honest, at times, to a fault. Being careful not to divulge too much for fear of judgement. Any answer other than “I’m fine” is too much for their brains to compute.
I understand formalities and propriety; they are the crux of the American brief encounter exchange. I just don’t see the point in asking a person “how are you doing today?”, only to get an answer that is not superficial and shallow. Talking for the sake of talking is filling a space that needs to be left unbothered by that frequency of soundwave. Nobody is okay all the time. There have to be uncomfortable moments; those times are the impetus for change and growth. I am not done growing, and I think we all need to change a little from time to time, so why in the hell would I always respond with the dry and completely false answer “I am fine. How bout you?”
Have you ever asked Siri something and she doesn’t really get what you mean? She goes to the web for an answer that has nothing to do with what you asked, or she says “I’m sorry. I didn’t get that”. All the while her voice is pleasant, there are minimal inflections and her cadence is robotic. I am not shaming Apple, I am just saying she is a robot, and she can give robotic responses. The algorithms and programing that went into her existence undoubtedly took time. She was made to fill a void in the lives of people that need some assistance. She can even carry on a conversation and give you responses that have connotations of sarcasm. The people I spend a minimum of 40 hours a week with are a little like her, they are not hearing what another is really saying, so they give an answer that has no meaning. The repetition of exchanging words is done thoughtlessly, and often, the exchange may be better off not existing at all.
My favorite sort of interactions are the ones in which I talk and get a nonsensical response. Sometimes that response comes in the form of unrequited advice, the likes of which prove to me that they do not really know who I am. I would love an “I’m sorry. I didn’t get that” answer from them when they are unsure of what to say. Instead, they come off as phonies that have no intention of really developing anything beyond a weird encounter that we both have to live with – or at least that I have to live with because of how deeply unaffected they are by anything I have to say.
Here’s a secret, if you are in a conversation and you find you have nothing to say because you weren’t listening, or you cannot relate, then express that. What is the harm in saying, “I can’t identify”. Drop the façade and be who you are. If people don’t like it, then they don’t have to talk to you. Stop forcing these strange and strained conversations. Stop giving advice if you were not asked for it. Trust me, you will not implode. In fact, it may make life a little easier. Imagine talking to someone and learning something! Imagine talking to someone and not trying to compete! Imagine talking to someone and them listening! What a wonderful world.
My earnest attempt at really seeing the people I interact with for who they are has led me to this conclusion: my fellow educators (meaning the ones in my building with whom I work) tend to be narcissist.
No shots have been fired teachers, calm down. If this is not you, then it’s not. But to the ones who are in the school in which I am gainfully employed at the present moment, you know who you are – actually, you shouldn’t because the internet is a big place and I’m keeping this all as low key as possible.