Quote from the movie: Fight Club
Narrator: When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just…
Marla Singer: …instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?
Yes, it’s true. The artistry of the spoken word is starting to be lost amidst other more convenient forms of communication like email. But since I am a traditionalist, I believe that it is important to hone this skill and put it into practice everyday in order to avoid the possibility of extinction.
I’ve always loved words ever since my mom read and passed on stories to me and my sister. Fairy tales, tall tales, bedtime stories…you name it. The importance behind reading was a hard sell back then, because I didn’t really enjoy reading until I was well into high-school. It was there that I discovered the Beat Poets and Shakespeare, which spoke to me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. It was love, love, love at first paragraph.
Words Could Tame The Savage Beast:
In grammar school I had learned a valuable lesson on the power of words from an unexpected experience I had with a school bully. Her name was Darlene and she scared the hell out of me. It wasn’t her stature, she was about my size at the time. It wasn’t her demeanor, either. Nope. It was her way of speaking to me. Authoritative, demanding, loud. She called me out in the hallways always criticizing something about me. My face, my hair, my walk…anything. It didn’t help that classes had been divided between those who tested well and those who needed more attention. Guess which class she was in? Well, this served to infuriate her and the verbal attacks came every day, without fail. One day, she must have been particularly incensed when she decided to pick on me for some minor infraction that I no longer remember. Darlene said that she would, “meet me afterschool at 3pm”, and my fear was exacerbated by the sideward glances, snickering and gossip that ensued from other students. She had called me out and in the unwritten rules of the schoolyard, that was enough to warrant a feeling of impending doom the entire day. My mind raced; I thought of ways that I could escape. Of course, my reasoning was that this would only prove my cowardice and make for a pained school year. It also would offer no guarantees that the conflict would stop. I knew what I had to do: I would show up for the meeting and try my best to resolve the problem as best as I could. When school let out, I waited and waited. Nervously, I watched as every class let out– schoolchildren running to their parents, their friends, their classmates. It seemed as though the flood of children would never end, but I didn’t see Darlene. I walked around the school, half hoping that she had gone home early, hoping that there was some family emergency that she had to attend to, some obligation that made her forget all about me. I looked into every face–probably contorting my own, thanks to my racing heart and rising fear. Still, nothing. I had walked the complete circumference of the school, checking once again the courtyard, the frequent hang-outs of bullies. I stood there so long that soon it seemed that I was the only one left. The emptiness weighed on me, it seemed like a ghost-town, and I felt a miniature sigh of relief escape my lips before worrying myself into a corner again thinking about what was going to happen the next day. Morning came. I got dressed like a gunslinger headed for the last roundup. The school bell rang and I thankfully missed Darlene throughout most of the day. As with most things, the talk had waned overnight. My classmates seemed consumed with the new pressing matter of the day: a pop-quiz perhaps, a new topic for gossip. Soon came lunch period and I saw Darlene out of the corner of my eye while taking out a sandwich my mom had packed with care. She called out, “Where were you yesterday?” Her eyes were searing, as I looked up from my sandwich saying, “Uh, where were you?!” The rise of my voice gave way to an expression I’d never noticed on Darlene’s face before. Judging from it, she had no intentions of waiting for me afterschool. It was a world-class bluff and I, having called her bluff, had surprised her. I talked and talked, prodding her again and again on her own whereabouts. ‘I had waited for you. I went all around the school,’ I said. With each word, I dissipated her hatred towards me. She became my best friend after that.
Developing A Voice:
I think that what I love most about the art is the ability to try on different voices, sounds, points-of-view. There is a wonderful thing that happens when telling a story or carrying on a simple conversation that doesn’t happen anywhere else. It is a connection between teller and audience. Just as in writing, there is a style that can be practiced. Sometimes I amaze myself when I find a new topic of conversation among people with whom I wouldn’t normally have anything in common. Oh sure, there are common themes: the weather, family, special upcoming events, talking shop (aka workspeak). Either way, it is great to see where the direction of a conversation leads. It is also helpful to know what to avoid. Striking a negative chord in a conversation can make for awkward silences and argument. Therefore, I think it’s best not to talk about politics, religion or hot-button topics of the day (say, gay marriage or abortion rights issues). So what is there to talk about? Plenty.
Getting To Know You, Getting To Know All About You:
The initial reason people talk is for basic informational purposes. It passes the time and simple exchanges can help a person ‘feel out’ another person in a non-competitive way. Normally, I feel that women are often better conversationalists because they often can get more information from a 5-minute conversation than men. Consider this example:
A man has been on leave from work due to a broken leg.
Woman – How are you feeling?
Male Co-worker – Hey, welcome back!
Woman – How’d you break your leg?
Male Co-worker – You look better.
Woman – Really? That’s awful. Are you back full time?
Male Co-worker – You didn’t miss anything.
Woman – Great! It’s good to see you.
Note that the woman has asked pertinent questions relating to the specifics of the broken leg as well as whether the man is working a full day. When you ask the male co-worker, his response will most likely be: I dunno or What do I look like, his keeper? This is why men aren’t always the best people to ask about specific details.
The important thing is putting your verbal verbosity into practice. It makes perfect. Honest!