I have just returned from a meeting with one of my son's teachers. We covered what we had to cover in 30 but then the man proceeded to talk, in excruciating minutia, for another 45 minutes. FORTY FIVE MINUTES. He repeated himself, he backtracked, he wandered off topic, and he got bogged down in details that no one in his right mind could possibly have care about. I kept picturing that scene in Airplane! when Robert Hays' character is relating his past experiences to various passengers who subsequently kill themselves in increasingly imaginative ways.
For over an hour, my side of the conversation consisted of this:
And that's it. I got to nod frequently, however, in a comatose, really-making-a-grocery-list-in-my-head kind of way. I thought that the older I got, I would develop more of a patience with the talkers of the world, but it hasn't turned out that way. In fact, the older I get the more I resent having my precious time taken up with the somnolent ramblings of some clueless, self-centered bore. I mean, those 45 minutes are 45 minutes that I'll never get back. (In a previous blog entry, I briefly explored the trials and tribulations of dealing with a talker. TechRepublic member Chaz Chance#,a much nicer person than I, countered with an argument for having more patience with those people. He made a great point which he expressed thoughtfully. I think we all would do well to follow his advice. Unfortunately, I'm impatient and surly and The Talker is the bane of my existence. Thanks for trying though, Chaz.)
Look, we all have our shortcomings and our faults. If they can't be changed, or we just don't choose to change them, then the next best thing is to just come to terms with them. Recognize them. Shake their hands. Take them out to dinner and a movie. It's OK to be imperfect and sometimes your own awareness of your imperfections is kind of endearing to other people.
But here's my question: When you can do something to change behavior that imposes on others, shouldn't you make the effort? For example, if you can't chew gum and walk at the same time, it's OK, but in the name of all that is sacred, stay off the cell phone while you're driving. If you resemble Smokey the Bear in both girth and hairiness, don't insist on wearing Speedos to the beach. And ix nay on the tube tops after age 50.
Maybe, like Mr. Teacher, you have a tendency to talk too much, as has been pointed out by your family, friends, teachers, co-workers, doctors, accountants, spiritual leaders, grocery clerks, pedicurists, dog sitters, and total strangers. If so, it's probably time to make a conscious effort to shorten your discourses. I'm sure there are some self-help courses ("Be a Bore No More"?) or some non-profit organization ("Save the Larynx Foundation"?) that can help.
If you have to, duct tape a stop watch to your head and rig it so that it electrically zaps you after about four minutes of non-stop talking. (OK, that may be a bit too much.) But we've gone hog wild over the effect of second hand smoke on non-smokers. What about the effect of verbal onslaughts on the fragile bones of the inner ear?
Or course, I rambled in this blog. But the glory of the Net is that you can click that little X and walk away at any time and I'll never know it.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.