Wednesday, September 11, 2013



The wise old owl sat on an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
I wish more folks were like that bird!

More and more people are talking but fewer are listening.  They HEAR you all right, but they aren’t LISTENING.  They don’t even pretend to listen.  Just watch them -- fumbling with their smart phones, cleaning their nails, making lists, staring into space.

Some of those stargazers hear you, but they’re not interested in understanding you.  They’re too busy formulating a response to what you’re saying – even though you haven’t finished saying it.  That’s why mid-sentence you are interrupted with: “Oh, that reminds me…” or “Funny you should say that…” and BOOM!  You’ve been high-jacked, and Speaker and Listener have changed roles.      

  There are also "listeners" waiting to one-up you.  You’ll be in the middle of describing your boat trip on the Amazon when you hear: “That reminds me of the year I lived in Ghana, and the village chief taught me how to play the ju-ju net shaker.”

Some “listeners” just want to be RIGHT (by making you wrong). 

It doesn’t matter what the subject.  Anything will do.  You say: “We were in Calgary last month -- that’s in the Canadian province of Alberta” -- and they’re immediately on their smart phones, pecking away like robins looking for worms.  If -- after a minute or two -- they quietly put down their phones and study their shoes, you know you’ve been validated: that Calgary IS in the province of Alberta 

There is also a preponderance of listeners with nothing to say but who have a pathological need to keep their mouths moving.  They trail your speech with a flow of empty monosyllables like “uhhuh, yeah, and right.”  I don’t know why they do this.  Possibly because they miss the sound of their own voice.   Social media like Facebook and Twitter, e-mailing and texting, instagrams and Pinterest have significantly reduced the number of opportunities for face-to-face communication. 

The need for speed – another consequence of the electronic age – has further compromised the quality of communication between people.  Fast, faster, and faster yet have led to language shrinkage.  Common phrases have been reduced to acronyms, such as: LOL, BFF, IMHO, DIY, LAT, and OMG.  This bastardization of English has, unfortunately, been legitimized by the Oxford Dictionary, which now includes these non-words in their once prestigious pages. 

The current dearth of talking venues has created a growing population of people who want to be heard…but, at the same time … there’s a significant decrease in the number of people who are willing to listen.  This imbalance has resulted in the growth of Toxic Talkers. 

I was recently trapped by one such Motor Mouth who had just returned from a hiking vacation.

Admittedly, what I know about hiking (and all I want to know) is what I know about walking:  you put one foot ahead of the other, and then the “other” in front of the “one,” and you don’t stop until you get to wherever it is you’re going.  The only differences I can detect between the two are that hikers usually carry water bottles and backpacks while walkers don’t.     

But I listened politely as he described all the nooks and crannies, hills and dales, flora and fauna he saw on his trek.  But what he didn’t see was my glazed eyes, repeated yawns, and jiggling feet; otherwise, he would not have followed up his monologue by taking me over the same ground on his I-Pad – forcing me to look at photos of nooks and crannies, flora and fauna, and hills and dales.

And, then, just when I thought the ordeal was over, he said: “Well, that’s enough about me.  Now tell me … what do you think of my vacation?”   

As painful as Motor Mouths are, I prefer them to the “Gotcha” talkers.  The former make no attention demands on you (leaving you to zone out), while the Gotchas wage sneak attacks.  Suddenly, out of the blue, you’re yanked out of your reverie with: “Carol!  So what do you think of that?”  

The old rules of communication are no longer viable… not when research shows that those who talk the most happen to be the same people who rank themselves the highest on listening skills.  

Today’s wise old birds need to update their advice to more accurately reflect the reality of the 21st Century:


If that wise old bird from days of yore --
Who spoke much less and listened more –
        Should stop to count his words today
        He'd never get to have his say.

                Whingingly yours, Carol


  1. Wow! One of the best ever...they keep getting better and better, Carol! Personally, my conversations get hijacked daily. It's left me feeling as though whatever I am saying must really be irrelevant, or my conversations would not consistently get hijacked. Either that, or I just happen to know a lot of inordinately self-absorbed slobs.

  2. Spot on, as always!!! I'll have to self-censor the rest of my comment, lest my most annoying conversation hijacker make her way here and then use it against me... You can probably guess who I'm talking about (but don't even mention it).

    1. As always, Eli, I love your droll sense of humor, and, hyes, I know who you mean. Much love to all of you, and Happy New Year wishes.

  3. You are too funny, Carol. I think I have been in both roles. So excuse the blush in my cheeks!

    1. I like that -- "blush in my cheeks."

      And thank you, as always.


  4. Guilty as charged. But hopefully not as much as being a good listener.