СодержаниеRelationships → Часть 1

The old man rocked some more and smiled at me. “You’re alone much of the time. ”

He was right. I enjoyed being alone. I had friends, but I was always happy to get back home.

“How do you know that? ” I asked.

“Your pupils widen when I talk about ideas. ”

“They do? ”

“There are two types of people in the world, my young friend. One type is people-oriented. When they make conversation, it is about people—what people are doing, what someone said, how someone feels. The other group is idea-oriented. When they make conversation, they talk about ideas and concepts and objects. ”

“I must be an idea person. ”

“Yes. And it causes trouble in your personal life but you don’t realize how. ”

“That’s rather presumptuous of you. What makes you think I have trouble in my personal life? ” I had to admit he was right. Everyone has an imperfect personal life, but for me that imperfection was almost a defining principle.

He continued, “Idea people like you are boring, even to other idea people. ”

“Hey, I’m insulted, ” I said, not really feeling so. “I will admit I’m not the life of any party. Whenever I try to inject something interesting into a conversation everyone gets quiet until someone changes the topic. I think I’m pretty interesting but no one else does. All of the popular people seem to babble about nothing, but I usually have something interesting to say. You’d think people would like that. ”

“Actually, the popular people only seem to be babbling, ” he countered. “In fact, they talk about a topic that everyone cares about; they talk about people. When a person talks about people, it is personal to everyone who listens. You will automatically relate the story to yourself, thinking how you would react in that person’s situation, how your life has parallels. On the other hand, if you tell a story about a new type of tool you found at the hardware store, no one can relate to the tool on a personal level. It is just an object, no matter how useful or novel. ”

“Okay, so how do I become more interesting? ”

“If I gave you advice, would you follow it? ”

“Maybe. It depends on the advice. ”

“No, you wouldn’t follow my advice. No one has ever followed the advice of another person. ”

“Now you’re just being disagreeable, ” I said. “Obviously people follow advice all the time. That’s not a delusion. ”

“People think they follow advice but they don’t. Humans are only capable of receiving information. They create their own advice. If you seek to influence someone, don’t waste time giving advice. You can change only what people know, not what they do. ”

“Okay then. Can you give me some information that would help my personal life? ”

“Perhaps, ” he said, clenching his red plaid blanket tighter around his tiny body. “What topic interests you more than any other? ”

“Myself, I guess, ” I confessed.

“Yes, that is the essence of being human. Any person you meet at a party will be interested in his own life above all other topics. Your awkward silences can be solved by asking simple questions about the person’s life. ”

“That would be totally phony, ” I said. “First of all, it would be like interrogating him. Secondly, I couldn’t possibly pretend to be interested in the answers. If he turns out to be some shoe salesman living with his mother in Albany, my eyes will glaze over. ”

“It would seem phony to you while you asked the questions, but it would not seem that way to the stranger. To him it is an unexpected gift, an opportunity to enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures: talking about oneself. He would become more animated and he would instantly begin to like you. You would seem to be a brilliant and talented conversationalist, even if your only contribution was asking questions and listening. And you would have solved the stranger’s fear of an awkward silence. For that he will be grateful. ”

“That solves the stranger’s problem, but I have to listen to this guy drone on about himself. The cure is worse than the disease. ”

“Your questions to the stranger are only the starting points. From there you can steer him toward the thing you care about most—yourself. ”

“Wouldn’t he want to talk about himself instead of me? ”

“When you find out how others deal with their situations it is automatically relevant to you, ” he said. “There will always be parallels in your life. Find out what you and he have in common, then ask how he likes it, how he deals with it, and if he has any clever solutions for it. Perhaps you both have long commutes, or you both have mothers who call too often or you both ski. Find that point of common interest and you will both be talking about yourself to the delight of the other. ”

“What about sharing my opinions on important things? ” I asked. “I’m always getting into debates with people. It seems like I always have a more thought-out view of things and I feel like I have a responsibility to set people straight. Sometimes, though, I wish I could just shut up. But when you hear the crazy views that some people have— actually, most people—how can you just let it slide? ”

“Have you ever been in traffic behind someone who doesn’t move when the light turns green, so you honk your horn, then you realize the car is stalled and there is nothing the driver could have done? ”

“Yeah, I’ve honked. It’s embarrassing, ” I said.


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