Emotional Intelligence · Our Subconscious

Conversation Stoppers

And The The Ever Giving Friend.

My friend Hendrik – and for all the dissonance in our relationship, we are good friends – likes giving presents. But there’s a problem: he doesn’t like receiving them. Christmas in this respect, is a particularly painful time for him because many of his customers offer their regards by way of a present. This means he’s on the phone trying to find someone to give it to.

Thus, on occasion, I find myself being given things that his university offloaded on him – well, they were thought of as presents, usually bottles of wine, but then he doesn’t drink. Having worked at the university for twenty and more years, you might imagine that the message had gotten through by now, but no. Irrespective of the fact that they had been told for the first ten years of his tenure. Bottles of wine are given to all, irrespective of whether they like wine – or even want it.

Which is what this post is all about, really. It’s not about the giving as such, but why a person who gives is so incapable of giving something that a person needs or even wants. Were we having a conversation, such people would be more than willing to talk – for them to listen is quite another thing altogether. I mean, they will listen to the things their colleagues say, which is fair enough. But listening to somebody they do not respect – that is another thing altogether. And remember that a university academic is a person of no small importance, and therefore has the authority that tells him (and they are usually a ‘him’) that he doesn’t have to listen to me because I – or Hendrik – do not have the authority he has.

Closing Doors On Conversation.

The result is that they close a door in some way or another – and I speak metaphorically here: they will attempt to stop the conversation in one way or another. Usually they change the subject, or sometimes they just say “this conversation goes no further” – which happened to me last weekend when Henrik’s cousin Jan (the fraudster) came for coffee. Five minutes after that I was on the train home. I do not need this kind of behaviour in my life. I do not need people who slam doors in my face. It is impolite and anti-social, but that is what modern society is all about these days. It’s all about them, their needs and their safety from risk.

Which is why, on the whole, I keep clear of academics. I simply don’t need the aggro. A rare exception was the Russian professor I met earlier this year, the repercussions of which are described on my private blog. Such as they aren’t. Well, that’s why I steer clear of academics, but will still give them an opportunity to prove that they are worth avoiding.

In our day and age, there are few enough people who can truly converse, and they are invariably a delight to meet. That is irrespective of their being a conductor on a train or their manning a shop counter. There is always something to talk about, even if it isn’t something I’m interested in – but that is where I get to learn something for a change.

The Comfort Zone

The real point of all this is to point to a large part of society who says “I’m right.” This is a situation where they truly think that they are right, however this can only be true just as long as nobody else interferes with their way of thinking. Well, this is where a person’s inability to accept presents comes in: if someone like Henrik can’t accept presents, it means that he can’t listen either. All these things point to a person who is enclosed within their ‘comfort zone’ and they are enclosed to a degree where nothing else exists.

Except when someone like me turns up, that is. Because I have a sense for this kind of behaviour, and given that the signs are so easy to see, it means that I can home in on their most obvious hate with ease. Even hinting at this is usually enough to ‘set them off’ in other words, they’ll close doors. They’ll start dissembling, making excuses or changing the subject – or, as mentioned, simply state that the conversation is now at an end. Which is fine by me: all I need to know is that they behave in this way. Long experience with my ex taught me, in retrospect at least, that people of this kind cannot see beyond their own needs and never will.

In short, they will never be able to listen to somebody who is saying something that they do not want to hear. Something that lies outside their box, their comfort zone.

Henrik is perhaps the only exception to this rule that I have ever met, and we’ve known each other for a comparatively short time. That is to say, five years or so.

Now that such attitudes are so pervasive – finding someone who can truly listen is so rare that it’s like finding the philosopher’s stone. Such meetings are truly magical and the memories remain strong in my mind for months.

Top Down Thinking.

It’s like the conversation with the man who was sent by my housing association to discuss their renovation of my bathroom. He had a variety of tiles to show me, some for the walls and some for the floor.

I mean, it would have been nice if the three tiles he had for the walls had been different, but no, they were all three of them an off-white. Not much of a choice, then. The slate grey of the floor tile was better than what I have now, but the choice was still limited to slate grey, slate grey or slate grey. In short, somebody in the housing association had made his choice based on his own likes – and this is key to understanding the comfort zone – assumed that it would be liked by everybody. Top down thinking by any other name.

It’s not as if he gave us a choice of buttermilk, off-white and a pinky beige for the walls. Nope: he made his choice and that was an end of the matter. Speaking to the guy surveying my bathroom, his stock answer to such matters was that it wasn’t his job. Well, this kind of person is part of that section of British society that is unkindly called the sheeple. But then, it is how they behave. The other side to this post is not just to speak about what such people want, but to highlight the things they will say in order to retain the integrity of their comfort zone.

The key to which is that the conversation will always be diverted back to the realms of their mind that they are comfortable with.

There are a myriad ways that this will be done, but their character will always take one of three forms:

  1. The evasion: where somebody changes the subject.
  2. The platitude: this is where somebody lacks the imagination to be able to change the subject but wants to. All they can do is reach for something that means nothing but is also incontrovertibly inoffensive, even if shouted out loud. The so-called ‘sheeple’ thrive on conversations of this kind, and love it when their friends share meaningless platitudes with them. Here, nobody threatens anybody, even if they raise their voice. The comfort zone remains intact and unthreatened.
  3. The insult: this is where the person is clearly stating that they are uncomfortable with the things you are suggesting. It also tells you that they will employ everything in their power in order to get you to agree – it’s like America telling the Russians to behave. If the person is armed, be very careful. If they aren’t, give ’em a hard time because they’ll back down very quickly indeed; these so-called powerful people are actually very weak. Especially when you have the keys to the things that make them feel uncomfortable.

The Unawareness Of Our Subconscious.

Be warned that in a situation of this kind, where they have employed one of these conversation stoppers, that these people are utterly unaware of the things you are speaking of. You will have spoken of something that hurt them – and it will have hurt because it is outside their comfort zone. The point here is that you will have hurt them, and they will be rightfully aggrieved that you did so. That you only spoke of something quite innocuous means nothing: the hurt to them is total and complete – and you, the speaker, the perpetrator – are the aggressor.

This means that it is impossible for them to learn anything from you in a conversation (if you can call such a worthless interaction a conversation). The only thing you are likely to learn from them is their particular variant on the three themes laid out above. Not that this tells you much, but that’s life. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Believe me, I know all the tactics in conversation whereby I can meet their avoidance tactics head on, but this usually winds up in their getting aggressive or even more sheepishly defensive. But then, in meeting them head on will unveil the pearls in the mud very swiftly indeed.

They might be rare, they are worth finding. Because they have a future where most are happy without one.


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It is hard to understand why intelligent people think austerity can work, but the fact remains that they do. They believe that if a government spends less, that government will have more money. This is directly related to the phenomenon of ‘Purchase Money’ where an individual sees their income as their property.

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Let There Be A Child In The Man.

It would be last week that I was speaking with a friend, and he mentioned his behaviour towards a common acquaintance. The fact was, he’d been teasing this person and afterwards, did feel a little guilty for his actions. He said that he felt as if he’d smacked a child across the face.

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Only, looking at this from the other side, if he’d teased me in the same way, I’d have played along rather than acting like a spoiled brat who has just had his toy snatched from his hands. This is an adult – the man – who is acting like a child. Those of you who have commented on recent Facebook posts will know that I actively encourage serious criticism, and the harsher the better. Not only that, but I enjoy seeing other people’s points of view.

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Conversation In Goethe’s Time, And Ours.

Goethe lived at a time when, according to Rudolf Steiner, most people thought in the manner of Aristotle. That is to say, broad brush strokes that today would be scorned as generalities. Indeed, were someone to speak with Goethe today, they would be frustrated with his unwillingness to be specific.

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2 thoughts on “Conversation Stoppers

  1. I followed your link in the comments section of The Slog to get a better idea of where you are coming from. My comment there was sincere, and I find that you clearly put a great deal of effort in formulating and expressing your world view. It would appear that you need others to engage with you on your terms and I am good with that as your modus operandi. You might have superior knowledge and insights, which are beneficial to those who follow you, or you might be deluded in your sense of insight – I am not saying that you are, just that you might be.

    For me, a hallmark of wisdom and insight is the embrace of the principle of uncertainty – you know; known unknowns and unknown unknowns – which serves to temper our arrogance.

    Have you come across the ideas of Marshall Rosenberg?


    1. Thankyou for your comment, J24.

      The first thing I expect of a person who ‘gets it’ is that they can think reflexively; that is to say, they will ask themselves the following question: “is it me, or is it them?” That will keep a person on the straight and narrow, so to speak. Because every person they meet will show them another facet of themselves – and thus they will come to appreciate their own merits… the requirement, however, is that one learns one’s demerits first. Which is, after all, why most people choose not to question themselves, the answers they get might not be the ones they want. Being able to deal with the answers one does not like is, in my book at least, the first step to wisdom. It also helps one untangle one’s own illusions… the very things that lead to delusion.

      As to uncertainties, one has to reason this through. Because there are some very definite certainties in our lives, namely if you kick a boulder with your bare feet, you will hurt yourself. There is no uncertainty about that. However, there is no telling if it will rain tomorrow. We can say with certainty that it did (or did not) rain yesterday because it happened. Thus one has to have considered uncertainty in a world that has a good many certainties.

      There are also areas where uncertainty carries a certain bias – for example, we all die. We just don’t know when… yet on average, people live (say) seventy years. What is quite certain is that people do not live longer than 150 years… So uncertainty is something of a mixed bag.

      I hadn’t heard of Marshall Rosenberg; there is little that speaks of him understanding the processes of the subconscious. Few psychologists do, that doesn’t mean it can’t be understood – it just can’t be proven. Nor is it particularly hard to understand.


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