When you move to a big city, and your social life largely migrates to cramped apartment parties and music-blaring bars, you may find yourself becoming your own worst enemy: an interruptor. Unless you have rare-bird bodily charisma or a god-voice booming enough (or shrill enough) to cut through any din, you may adopt unpleasant strategies to make yourself known.
THEM: “So I was going to the doctor—”
THEM: “Yeah. And I was going there for a colonoscopy—”
YOU: “Oh, yeah, uh, this kid I know from school just got one of those.”
THEM: “Okay. And when I get there, I’m just sitting there waiting for at least two hours. Then someone finally comes out and calls out my name.”
YOU: [nodding violently, distractingly, rapt as hell.]
Interruptions can be well-intentioned. Sometimes they function as earnest gestures that say, I’m listening, I’m engaged. The nods and yeah’s and sub-verbal grunts of affirmation serve as signs of your continuing aliveness and attention. (They’d be unnecessary if we made the default assumption that people are paying attention to us, but that seems like too much to ask.) Often, the interruption is a means of saying, “Hey, how interesting, I have a life experience that is tangentially related to that, which I’m going to shoehorn into the conversation to confirm that your point is resonating with me.” Or, “You seem to be struggling for a good word; let me offer one up without really knowing what concept you’re trying to convey. In fact, let me intuit the rest of your sentence and hijack your train of thought entirely, just to show how in sync we are.”
Stop doing this. Letting people finish their thoughts is dope. Savor the rare pleasure of getting to the end of a sentence without feeling the other person has just been twitchily hungering for their opportunity to speak. Most of these interruption tricks try to fudge chemistry or familiarity in a smarmy, unconvincing way. The best way to do justice to a conversational partner is to sit there and give them the space to try saying whatever it is they have to say. Unglazed eye contact and a lack of phone use are all the cues it takes to communicate. If you want to be good to talk to, you could do worse than just digesting what people have to say before cooking up your thrilling response. Here’s a very cosmic Sagan thought, so ready yourself: imagine if conversation was about mutual exchange rather than just taking turns to say cool-sounding shit. (This might be the only insight worth taking seriously in Fight Club, a movie full of cool-sounding lines that have aged as well as a cheese wheel abandoned in the Sahara.)
All of this advice assumes that you are not one of those conversational tyrants who just tries to lasso in any topic in play and drag it back into the mud of your own dumb life experiences, incapable of escaping the personal pronoun. In that case, don’t even bother working on your listening skills. Just find the nearest mirror, hit record on your very smartphone, and bleat to your heart’s content.