Thursday, August 27, 2009

Two People Interrupting Each Other While Greeting/Talking

We all know those people with whom we inevitably have constant awkward moments. Every conversation seems to be the same trite bullshit filler. Things like, “how’s it going man?” or “yo what’d you think of that test.” (Assuming you’re in the same class in which case the once a month shared experience of a test is an opportunity for pathetically lame conversation that you both pounce on). Anyways, all of this aside, a usually subtle, but sometimes obvious, sign of such a relationship is when both of you interrupt each other (accidentally), usually trying to say the exact same thing. Something about the human understanding and years of practice has taught us to time our speaking appropriately so we know precisely when our turn to speak is and when our comrade is about to take his/her turn. However, with some people, (or perhaps simply between two specific people), all of this timing goes horribly wrong. You both seem so anxious to begin and end the conversation that your sentences come out in bursts and you can never quite figure out when the person is about to listen or about to speak.
Perhaps it is not as bad as I make it out to be and there is only one overlap of speaking during the conversation. Perhaps you greet each other and at the same time, one says, “hey man” and the other, “yo dude” and you have each interrupted the other. Then there is that inevitable awkward silence where you are both silent for a moment out of fear of making the same mistake twice. Between two friends, such an occurrence (which will inevitably occur a few times over the course of many years) is not awkward because you can both make a joke out of it. But with this guy, not only does it occur most times you interact, but your relationship is such that you’re not comfortable enough with one another to make a joke out of it. This is mainly because unlike with your friend, in which it was a mere accident, the “talking at the same time” with the awkward guy is a manifestation of how you two have the same conversations every time you talk and there is no real substance to anything that is said. It is almost as if you are both trying to get the conversation over with.
One time I was with a friend outside a dorm and we both saw someone we both knew (although not very well) approaching. Instead of greeting us with “hey what’s up guys” or something of the sort, she immediately cut to (about 10 feet away from us) “you guys ready for exams?” I was so taken aback by this jump-into-small-talk that I didn't know how to react. Clearly the only thing we had to talk about was upcoming exams but ordinarily we would at least hide that fact by giving the conversation the potential to go in other directions, instead of right away jumping into our one meager connection.
Another time I saw someone after winter’s break and at the same time, we both said “how was your break?” Wow, was this awkward. We didn’t even laugh about it; we just both insisted (with hand gestures) that the other describe his break first. It just made me realize how absurdly awkward our relationship was and the only thing we had to say to each other was about the only thing that was somewhat interesting that we shared; Christmas break.
A very similar awkward moment, which is perhaps a physical manifestation of the same thing, is the hallway shuffle. Everyone knows the hallway shuffle but doesn't have a term for it. It can occur anywhere and is by no means limited to hallways. It is when you are passing someone and for some reason you both can't seem to get out of each others' way so you both try to avoid the other but keep choosing the same direction and you end up in this sort of back and forth shuffle dance. It is very analogous to the interruption pattern i described, mainly in the sense that it is much like quicksand; the harder you try to fight it, the worse it becomes and the harder it is to get out of. I think the best exit plan for all of these situations is (like for quicksand) to stop, breath, calm down, and then approach the situation with a newfound confident enthusiasm. For example, just tell yourself you're gonna talk with that person for 5 minutes (with whom you normally only talk for 15 seconds). You'd be surprised what can happen... (at least I was)