No, I’m not talking about adults acting like teenagers. Hell, there are times when I’d love to be that way. I’m talking about people so infatuated with their career, hobby or themselves that they talk of nothing else.

And when you ask them a simple yes/no question that triggers one of their internal recordings, you get a 20-minute monologue, not an answer. “Did you fill the car’s tank yesterday?” is answered by a tutorial of vehicle propulsion systems along with an analysis of leaded vs. unleaded fuel. They’re projecting their preconceived notions of something totally different on you, all because you happened to use a keyword that triggers their internal recording.

Of course, politicians do this intentionally, as a matter of course. They’re not the people we’re talking about here. I’m talking about decent people who never learned to listen, to themselves or anyone else. The react to the first phrase or clause you say, never hearing the rest of your question or statement. If they don’t know how to listen, how can they respond? “We can do A or B. Which do you prefer?” They never hear anything after, “We can do A.” They either repeat the entire decision chain that brought us to A or B – or come up with a million and one riffs on A. While this is common in community meetings where people who never participated in lengthy processes and discussions show up on voting day, it’s also too common in the day-to-day use of words that passes for conversation.

Are we so eager to show someone we care that we just jump in without letting them finish? Or are we so eager to show off our knowledge that we jump in to demonstrate that we don’t know how to listen?


It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

[Attributed to Mark Twain, among others]