Modern Spiritual Disciplines#3

(This post was formerly titled “But enough about you…“.  It wasn’t until I was writing a later “discipline” post that I realized that this one describes the discipline of refraining from talking about oneself for a day.  I’m retroactively calling this one #3 and calling the new one #4 (q.v.))

A curious thing happened to me this week.  It reminded me of something I’ve wanted to write about for some time.

I was limping along (in the light, of course) with my cane.  An older gentlemen was watching as I stumbled on my way.  When I drew near him, he asked, “Did you have a knee replacement?”

Not an unreasonable question; I said simply, “no”.  Little did I realize that he wasn’t asking me about my knee.  He was actually saying, “Let me tell you about my knee replacement experience.”  He proceeded to enlighten me in great detail about the history of his knees, old and new… as well as about his life in general.

I honestly harbor no grudge against this man.  He just wanted someone to talk to.  I accommodated him as far as I was able, listening and even asking questions about his life in knee replacement land.

What I’m really getting at here is how often this happens in day to day conversation with people we claim to care about.  When I ask you a question, am I really interested in your answer or am I just trying to steer the conversation in a direction that suits my purposes, i.e. makes it all about me?  (“How’s your new car, Phil?  What?  You don’t have a new car?  Then let me tell you about mine.”)

I don’t bring this up merely for something to complain about, though it is one of my major grievances with current modes of non-communication.  Let’s instead see it as an opportunity to improve interpersonal relations by practicing a discipline.

Try going through a single day without talking about yourself at all.  Point all conversation toward the other party.  Deflect attention to others.  As Brian Regan so colorfully demonstrates: Drop attempts to play one-upmanship.  Ask questions.  Ask follow-up questions.  Show interest in others.

Radical, huh?

Scripture instructs us to live this way: “Outdo one another in showing honor.”  “In humility, count others better than yourself.”  “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

It’s hard not to talk about oneself.  We are typically our favorite topic.  But that is no way to get to know, understand, care for – in a word, love – others.

Give it a try.  Maybe it’s easier than you think.  Maybe not.  You’re bound to learn more about others in the process, but you could learn even more about yourself.

If you really want to be an egomaniac who simply must drivel on and on about yourself, do what any well-adjusted American adult would do.

Write a blog.


About rickconti

It's not about me, remember?
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