One day in the after-school Good News Club, I noticed a little girl wearing a shirt that said, “It’s all about me!” I said, “Um, don’t you think that’s a little self-centered?” The other kids immediately jumped to her defense: “It’s a joke, Miss Robin.” “It’s supposed to be funny!”
I backed off but it got me thinking because it seems that for most of us, it IS all about us.
Case in point: I was telling a friend about a pizza I’d had from a newly discovered little store-front place in my neighborhood. “It had big chunks of vegetables and grilled chicken …” She interrupted with, “I don’t like chicken on my pizza. I like traditional pizza. I want pepperoni and sausage and …” she continued to describe her ideal pizza and then went on to a story about when her sister had ordered a pizza and they had mistakenly sent the wrong one and, and, and …
My original intention of sharing with her about the new place that had really good pizza at a really good price was lost in a quagmire of her pizza experiences. So be it.
However, it got me to thinking how often we are in a conversation with someone and the conversation gets hijacked because they turn it into a story about themselves. As in, “it’s all about me!” Of course, you and I would never do that — it’s rude! I started listening more carefully to what people were saying and to what I was saying, and when. And — horrors! — I was doing it, too. Not all the time, but occasionally. I’m sure that Grandmother Eloise would tell me that even once was too often.
Lois’s husband Bill has an excellent technique for handling these kinds of situations. He simply stops talking or contributing in any way and lets the interrupter ramble on. Finally, when they wind down, they realize something is amiss. They may realize that they’ve done or said something inappropriate or they may continue in happy oblivion. I’ve tried his technique a couple of times with varied success. And I’ve become much more aware of my propensity to jump into a conversation and turn it into something about me, usually in the guise of adding to the conversation as in, “Oh that happened to me one time, too, and you’ll never believe …” (Oops.)
Do you remember your parents — or some older person — using the phrase: “He loves to hear himself talk”? Yeah, it’s like that. I’m not sure if it’s that they just like the sound of their own voice, or if they really believe that what they have to say is more important than anything you have to say. It is possible, of course — no, not that what they have to say is more important, but that they believe it.
So the other day when I stopped by to tell a neighbor that Jet Blue had a sale on airfares to Boston where his daughter lives, I foolishly began with “Hey, Herbie, how long since you’ve visited your daughter?” That was the last thing I got to say for the next 15 minutes as he rattled on machine-gun style about his daughter who seldom calls and his ne’er-do-well son who had once again gone through all the money Herbie had sent him and, and, and …
I never did get to tell him about the bargain fares — when he finally stopped long enough for me to get a word in sledge-wise, I patted his arm and said, “Hey, I gotta get going,” and fled. He was still talking as I walked away, something about wishing he could afford to go visit his daughter.