Monday, August 5, 2013

Sincerity of the Close-Talker

Don't hate me because I am writing from a Cape Cod lakeside, under swaying trees on a perfect seventy-five degree day after a relaxing swim... Hate me because I pointed it out.

Anyway, I had an experience with a close-talker the other day. I had to take the my dog to the vet for a checkup and she was taken care of by a very nice doctor -- an extremely caring and concerned young man. His only problem: he was a close-talker. He didn't allow enough personal space. 

It occurred to me that he, like some other close-talkers I have met, seems to be driven by an overly powerful urge for eye-contact. It seems to me that close-talkers have more of a need for the invisible personal tether than most of the rest of us do. They seem to have more of a need for intimate personal connection, in conversation, than many others.

As we talked, he stood a little too close. But I could sort of feel him bending his neck toward me whenever I looked away; trying to get me to look him in the eye. 

Now, I am a big proponent of eye-contact in my interactions with others. I am always lecturing my sons about it: look someone in the eye when you meet them or talk to them. They're sick of hearing it, I am sure. (It's rule number 47A in "Dad's Guidelines to Being a Gentleman in a World in Which There Are Too Few".) But, in the natural progression of conversation, people do look elsewhere from time to time. Close-talkers seem not to be able to stand this.

While talking to this veterinarian, I would occasionally look down at the dog. (She was, after all, the subject at hand.) He'd crane his neck ever so slightly, as if trying to look around the corner into my eyes. 

My unlikely philosophical muse: Krimpet

I find it touching when I meet people like that. I wonder why they have come to this sort of desperation for -- what? -- reassurance they are being listened to? -- a driving need to make an impression upon the person to whom they are talking?

Whatever does it, I think close-talking comes from a sincere place. Many of us find it unsettling, but, I think it tells us something very real about the person who does it. Whatever it is; whatever that elusive thing they care so desperately about is, the fact remains: they care.

I'll take a close talker over a posing "victim" of ennui any day.

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