Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I learn late in life to shut up

I just read a great post on a blog I read for work about how a 50-cent doll from Goodwill could gurgle and coo, but a more expensive doll from Kohls didn’t make a sound. She joked that the doll’s silence is what made it more expensive.

Her point was that, in our industry, there are a lot of people who talk when they should be listening. There are a lot of people who think salespeople do nothing but talk. I learned fresh out of college in my first sales job that this is not the case. My job was then and is now to get you to talk.

How can I help you find the right job for you if I don’t listen to your story about the last job you had? How can the dude down at Gateway Market help you find the perfect cheese to cure your craving if he won’t listen to you describe your need for cheese? How can the woman in the convenience store give you directions if she doesn’t know who you’re visiting?

Well, you might think the woman in the convenience store should hear about WHAT or WHERE you are visiting, but then we would all know you’ve never been to a super-small town. We went to Orange City, Iowa a couple years ago and when asking for help, the reply was, “Who are you here to see?” When we told her, she knew exactly how to get us to the right destination. Would have been even funnier if she’d said, “They’re not home today, they’re up on the farm visiting her sister.” Ha! But I digress…I’m talking too much.

I have become quiet. I do not need to add to every conversation anymore. I talk less than I used to. By talk, I mean actually opening my mouth and making words come out because, obviously, I blog.

(Being quiet doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say! Holy wow, that is SO not the case. I totally have stuff to say! Keep reading! Read every day! Read early, read often.)

I have even *gasp* made many a conscious decision to withhold my opinion from a conversation. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

Last weekend, I was walking with an old friend and the two women with us were running a constant stream of chat that went like this:

We could go this way.
We could. We could also go down there.
I think we should go this way. O! Look at those flowers.
The path is wet, let’s cut through the grass.
We should have gone on the sidewalk.
I wonder when they poured this sidewalk.
It looks new. They need more.
Wow, the lake looks really nice. I wonder if that’s where they rent boats.
They rent boats?
Look at how the sidewalk curves.
Do you think they rent boats there?
I like the landscaping, but they need a sidewalk where everyone is cutting. And more flowers.
What sort of boats do they rent, do you think?
Watch for the mud there.
Maybe people put their own boats in there.

During this entire exchange, I walked along in silence. My old friend noticed. He asked me why I wasn’t saying anything.

I just looked at him.

I mean! Really! What do you say?

I thought, “I can see the sidewalks and the flowers and since I wasn’t moving my face, I read the sign about the boat rental place?”

I didn’t say anything. I just smiled. I have grown quiet.

There are a few people who will read this and not know what I’m talking about because I talk just fine around them. There is an equation in play: an investment is made and returned. I listen to you and you listen to me and we learn from each other. We grow together. We support and chide and laugh and love and share and sit in companionable silence.

All I’m saying is that chit-chat tends to get me into trouble and I have finally learned to run with my lack of skill at making small talk. It’s OK to be quiet if you can’t add to what is being said.


Tina said...

This one is making me think, thank you for that.

I feel the urge to talk less as I get older. I am ignorant about current events because I don't have time to research anything. I spend my days with a 2 year old who isn't the best at conversations and a 5 month old who screams a lot.

I have been going to a knitting group lately and it's like I have forgotten how conversation works.

I have so much I would like to blog about, just to get it out, but no time to make it interesting enough for anyone to want to read.

dsmcaron said...

Tina, Tina, Tina.

I am so glad you wrote: thanks for that. I think this is related to age for me, too. I am sure you probably don't need time to make your thoughts interesting!

Anonymous said...

I bet the people you wanted to find in O.C. was a big lug with a face no one could forget

dsmcaron said...

Hello Anonymous! She knew exactly who we were looking for in O.C. - how could anyone miss you? LOL

Rose said...

Not sure how to say this...I guess like this...I used to not say much for a couple reason: one being that I didn't want to show how dumb I was and the other, being afraid to show it. Does that make sense--they are actually two different things. In one case I knew I was dumb, in the other I thought I might actually know but was afraid to find out I didn't.

dsmcaron said...

Rose, while that sounds like a dose of self-confidence was needed, at the same time it does beat talk talk talking when you only think you know what you're talking about. Your approach sounds wiser to me, the blabbermouth.