As a writer who was in a verbally abusive relationship for many years, the current political climate is rather familiar.
Funnily enough my main reaction to both is the same. It’s not being offended at being insulted. After the initial six weeks (in a relationship) or fifty years (in politics), I become bored…
- Bed wetter
- Social justice warrior
- Latte drinker, etc.
And much like being called a creep, bastard, wanker, an apostate (had to look that one up as I was not studying for the ministry), oversensitive, etc, I have the same sense.
That the standard of political sledging has slipped: to the same level experienced by those in abusive relationships!
Insults on repeat.
And similar to sport, my prescription is the same. We need to raise the standard see Australian Institute of Sledging?
For I do prefer, the insult that make me laugh. The one that makes me think.
Not the one that makes me nod off. Been there, Heard that.
Freedom of speech belongs to the loud and aggressive.
Freedom of speech is their cacophony of voices shouting all at once.
Freedom of speech is their smothering words that silences all other.
Freedom of speech is the preserve of the crowd that excludes all but them.
Freedom of speech is not our freedom extended to the foreign other.
Freedom of speech is not our freedom to accommodate a new point of view.
Freedom of speech belongs to the true listening of the quiet and thoughtful, the ones crushed underfoot.
You never really wanted to go out there. You’re outnumbered for one thing. You know that any false move in front of them will be the last and final one. You’re thinking that the light is too bright, your voice will be too soft, your tread too heavy, your stance too awkward. You’re really scared to death, deep down. You don’t know why what starts you on those first steps out there. You shuffle tentatively at first. Then you’re puzzled as to why you then confidently stride forth. It’s as if you’re already a success. Like you’ve already been applauded and called back for more. And then you meet.
You’re all alone, just you and them. You never expected them to listen, even for a moment. You start as you always do. You focus on relaxing yourself. Or you’re trying to look relaxed. Or acting as if you already are. But now you don’t have time to be confused. You’re already speaking. And listening to your tone, your rhythm, your timbre and your breath. For it’s as if to your great relief, at the very last moment, someone far more confident than you’ll ever be has stood in for you. And saved you. And for that you silently give great thanks.
But you were waiting for the whisper, the voice too loud, just enough that will silence you and your words forever. But it never speaks. It is struck silent by the silence. It never speaks because there’s nothing for it to say. Yet you say it just the way you’ve said it before. And in the reality, it’s better than you’ve ever heard. You never think the pause for breath, which seemed in practice so short and now is an everlasting chasm of time, is perfect comic timing. You make the joke that you’ve heard far too many times before. You know they’ve heard it for the first time. As now do you.
At last! Another opportunity to catch up on the backlog of outstanding work.
A teleconference! I dialed in, entered the meeting identification, my pin and spoke my name.
Then I placed my phone in hands-off mode and muted myself.
I knew I was safe because:
- I wouldn’t be asked to contribute
- I had very little to contribute
- I didn’t want to contribute
- I had a document to compose.
As people signed into the teleconference, I started to listen absently. As it continued, my attention wandered even more. Meanwhile people were dropping in and out. This meeting I thought was starting to resemble Tripp & Tyler’s A Conference Call In Real Life.
But once the momentum resumed, I every so often stopped what I was doing and jot down a few notes. I thought to myself this was a very unfocused conversation indeed. Perhaps a facilitator or mediator might help. Besides nearly everyone else was on a higher level than me. And as I discounted that idea chaos struck.
My phone began to blare hold music. I looked carefully at the console. No. None of the lights were flashing. I still was on mute and still connected to the conference.
As the participants realised what had happened, a dull and boring meeting had become a hunt for a culprit. Much like school roll call, one by one we re announced ourselves over the continuing hold music. I took two attempts as I had unmuted and then muted myself.
One person failed to respond. He had received another phone call mid conference. And in answering that call had placed the current call (us) on hold. He had to be contacted as soon as possible to continue the conference and save our sanity.
One of the participants suggested calling him. Which sounded contradictory until he added the words “on his mobile.” The meeting collectively held its breath (as best you can over Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries) and waited for the call to put through. No. He wasn’t answering his mobile either.
Which meant a physical intervention was required. Somebody must find this person and physically remove him from his phone. We waited a few minutes until this was organised.
“Are you near his desk? “Can you see him?” “Can you catch his attention?”
No to all questions.
“Can you go to his office and speak with him?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Once more we collectively held our breath (Ride of the Valkyries is a long piece of music) and waited. Upon his return the hold music still continued. The culprit was in his office on the phone and couldn’t be disturbed (in another teleconference).
This teleconference will be postponed until a later date and time…
It was early December 2003. At that time I had separated, was couch-surfing at a mate’s place and was looking for accommodation. I had inspected a small place in South Brisbane earlier that week, applied and then was accepted, and now was on my way to sign the lease.
I chose the wrong platform. Then the wrong train. I then found the right train. I raced down the escalators to catch it. I reached the platform, saw the train and promptly dropped my wallet scattering coins. I looked across at the train, I looked down at the change and chose the train. By then I assumed I would be late. I phoned the real estate office to warn them. And as well it was raining.
Then I turned up on time! And the rain stopped. I easily found the real estate office. But the entrance wasn’t easily accessible. I circled around the back and found a gate. Looking over the gate, I saw it opened into an indoor-outdoor area. To the left of the gate there was a window/counter and the back office door. I let myself in and announced myself. I was asked to wait and did.
After about 10 minutes or so, there was a knock on the gate. I opened it. Standing before me was a young woman. My guess was that she was tallish (5 feet 9 inches or 175 cm). She had blondish brown very wispy hair, quite the thinnest face and blue eyes. She reminded me somewhat of the actress Kate Hudson. But I didn’t say anything. She was wearing a white or off-white blouse and beige trousers. She had no earrings, no rings, just a watch and had a red Indy 500 strap around her neck. She wore little make-up and didn’t need even that.
We introduced ourselves. I said to her it seemed that you have missed the rain. I then leant through the window and mentioned that she had arrived. I asked her where she worked. She replied that she worked at one of the local radio stations. I immediately thought she might be one of the announcers. But I didn’t say that either.
We both sat down and waited for our appointments. My dynamic Scottish property manager appeared, filled out and processed the paperwork rapidly and then disappeared. In the meantime, my acquaintance’s New Zealand property manager appeared, processed the paperwork whilst having an animated conversation. I listened while I waited. In that time, I worked out that perhaps the other property manager was from Nelson in the South Island.
Finally I was called to the counter for my deposit. I paid my deposit and again had to wait. I started to get worried about time. I began to think of leaving when the New Zealand property manager asked me, “Did you get your receipt?” I replied that I hadn’t.
As I was waiting, my acquaintance attempted to put in her deposit. She searched through her purse for the extra money and came up short. She asked me if she could borrow 60 cents as she had given a tip. It turned out she was 10 cents short. I gave her the remainder. That was all I had left in my wallet after the spillage. We laughed at that.
I was then asked where I was going. I replied back to work in Brisbane. I said I was taking the train back. Despite that she offered me a lift. I accepted. It would be quicker by car.
When she received her receipt, we left. She opened the door to her car for me. I got in.
And then began a remarkable conversation. It started in the usual way. She told me she was an account manager. She mentioned also that she had previously been in an advertising agency. She asked me what I did for a living. I said that I was in Information Technology support and added that I preferred the people side of it.
Then something odd thing happened. I made a comment. It was something like “God willing” or “In faith.” Quick as a flash, she asked me if I was religious. I replied, a little bit reluctantly, “Yes I believe.” I then added that I don’t force my beliefs on anyone. I concluded that people should find out for themselves. She happily left it at that.
We moved on to the next subject and the next. In a short drive from Clayfield to Brisbane, we covered quite a few subjects. I still wonder how so much was said in so little time.
In the end I was dropped off at work. We wished each other well and really that was that.
But I was puzzled. How did we cover so much in so little time? I turned the conversation over in my mind. After a while I remembered what she did when I spoke. As a good listener, she focussed on what I said. But as Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” That’s why she was a brilliant listener : she focussed and asked me what I didn’t say.
Yes that day I learnt a lesson in listening…
Quite possibly the people in this conversation may recognise themselves so apologies (accolades and gratitude actually!) to all in advance.
I’m in the queue with my two or three bags (by then) of fruit and vegetables. I’m not prone to queue rage as I’m second in the queue.
In front of me is a woman with a large basket on the counter. The cashier unpacks and repacks and enters each purchase. Fruit and veges out, a touch of the button and fruit and veges back in. It wasn’t taking that long. I’m in no hurry anyway as it’s a long walk home.
Behind me is a couple, a man and a woman. The man leans forward, and steps past me. He has recognised the woman being served. She’s a long-lost friend and he greets her as such. I’m happy minding my own business and enjoying one of the better moments life can offer.
Then the introductions begin. The woman at the counter is introduced (to the one behind me) as an artist. Then the counter introduction, the woman behind me is introduced as an ex-writer!
I start laughing. That’s too much for me.I say,”I can’t pay that. There’s no such thing as an ex-writer. They’re always in between books!”
It was a long bus trip from the city to the suburbs. It was made worse by the conversation I couldn’t avoid.
The two girls sitting in front of me were going through a laundry list of possessions. Each one seemed to be trying to out do the other. It reminded me of Clarisse in Fahrenheit 451 saying that people only talked about things.
Even if they had moved to talking about others I would have been annoyed with that too! In Fahrenheit 451 people also talk about other people!
My bad mood that day aside, I thought later about that conversation when I was studying how adults learn. We first learn about things then other people and then ourselves. And we talk about things and other people and ourselves.
My point is we don’t learn from talking. Insight comes from listening to things, others, yourself and that world beyond. That put me in a better mood!
- Conversation 101: How To Not Be Really Boring (cookiesandsangria.wordpress.com)