As I've recently developed an insatiable appetite for deep one-on-one conversations, at first I thought that my severe introversion is fading away, but larger gatherings always prove the opposite. I am usually lame when I hang with more than one person; I am awkward and find it difficult to participate in the conversation.
The larger the conversation group, the more it starts to feel that everyone is competing for as much talking as possible, not even listening to what others are saying. It usually feels like we all share a single magical ring which gives one the right to talk at any given moment and everyone else turns into Gollum. Everyone is trying to be the fastest gunslinger, so even if you don't want to interrupt the speaker on every short pause, you can't stop someone else from doing so. If you won't do it, someone else will.
Silence encourages the speaker to pursue depth. But, the problem with group conversations is that any opportunity for silence is usually extinguished, so the speaker can't even voice their thoughts completely, as they are interrupted in the shallows.
This happens less often in one-on-one conversations, where a pause after someone is done talking is not always an invitation for a partner to hijack the conversation. The best one-on-one conversations are the ones that are long, ideally a couple of hours, that usually pass like a couple of minutes. Reaching depth requires time and patience and a period of small-talk, the passionately hated activity for most introverts.
I'm not sure why other introverts hate it, but in my case the aversion is rooted in my belief that it was beneath me. I realize now that this is a mistake because neglecting it is pernicious as it slowly erodes the skills required to meet new people.
(How do you know when to accept your lack of skills and when to work on changing them? Personality tests encourage accepting your own personality regardless of how many flaws it has, instead of encouraging working on bettering it.)
Once this phase of small-talk is over, the deeper period can begin. Reaching depth can be attempted right from the start, but I find it awkward, even with closest friends.
Small-talk is the foreplay for the deep phase, and it’s necessary to give it the time it deserves. The deep phase is the most wholesome when no one is in their head too much, thinking what to say when the first chance appears; then it stops being a conversation and starts being a pause hunt.
I find the most joy in conversations when we explore together, not caring whose ideas we are exploring, but just sculpting with our thoughts. When we forget who started the topic. When we are teleported into another dimension, where time stops existing, where we no longer track each other’s talk time in seconds and measure it against ours. Where we just say whatever comes to mind first, without filter. Where we hear novel moving sentences not only from our conversation partner, but from ourselves as well.
I remember someone said some time ago that women bear the burden of men not being able to talk about feelings with their friends. They are our unpaid therapists. I’ve definitely noticed this in myself and in some of my guy friends, who are afraid to open up because they don’t want to appear weak. In these relationships, we miss out on the most genuine connections, just to satisfy some misguided macho ideals.
I don’t consider people with whom I talk only about ideas my closest friends, but those to whom I can open up completely. A good indicator for how close we are is hearing myself voicing my edgiest thoughts. Someone said that close friends won't judge you even if you say them. (This feeling of being judged might be the biggest indicator that I'm not conversing with a close friend.)
Contrary to what the hustle porn shilling thought leaders on Twitter might suggest, I don’t think a primary topic of conversation with your friends should be either money, business, or fitness. I think one can enjoy conversations much more if the gap with the inner monologue and the outer dialogue is as narrow as possible. If money, business, or fitness is really the main topic of your inner existence I’m sad that you haven’t discovered anything more meaningful.
The older I get, the more I realize that depth is the nectar of life. So, I seek it in every activity: from writing, to programming, to conversations. The depth gods always require sacrifice of time and complete attention, but in turn gift a state of bliss in which one forgets oneself completely and feels nourished and fulfilled afterwards.
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