Enough About Me

I have twice recently had the interesting experience of meeting new people who told me a lot about themselves. Actually, that is neither the point nor the truth. Complete strangers tell me things all the time. Sometimes they cry. I hate it when I make people cry! Here’s just one example. We once went to a liquor store in search of Portuguese wine. A bit of an esoteric quest, but that was our assignment for our wine group dinner, specifically the wines of the Duoro River. We went on a little road trip to a store we had heard had a great selection. We asked for help from the wine manager, an older woman who directed us to one of the staff who was the Portuguese wine expert. My husband wandered off with him, and as the wine manager was still talking with me, it would have been rude for me to walk away mid-sentence.

After just a few minutes, she shared with me that she was unable to fly. Could never get on an airplane. You can imagine that this would effectively kill a career in wine buying. And not only that, she could barely hold it together when friends and loved ones were traveling as she was completely terrified that something would happen to them. By the time Justin looked around for me, she was in tears and I was comforting her and I hope I also mentioned to her that she should get some help. I want to think that this says something about who I am as a person. That people instinctively know that I care. My husband is not convinced that’s it.

The recent interesting encounters I am referring to were not quite so random.  I initiated both. The point is that at no time during either of these recent encounters did the person ask anything about me. Not a word. One was at a social event, where I introduced myself to the woman seated next to me. She introduced herself, and I acknowledged that I recognized her name. She proceeded to talk about herself, her health, her philosophy on life, her history in our small town. I encouraged her, I asked questions, I was genuinely interested in learning more about her. She asked nothing about me, not what I did, or where I grew up, or if I had children or how many. Nothing.

The other chance meeting was at a store, when I realized the woman in line in front of me was the mother of one of my daughter’s friends. I introduced myself, and told her I was a fan of her daughter. She never asked me how I knew who she was , or how I knew her daughter, or even who my daughter was. She proceeded to talk only about herself before paying and walking out the door.

Maybe one was distracted, the other too busy. Does their disinterest say something about them or about me? Does it say anything at all? I think it says a lot, and makes me not interested in having further conversation with either. Does that say something about me?? What do you think?







12 Replies to “Enough About Me”

  1. I don’t think it is disinterest, Cheryl, but I do think the behavior is equally brought on by you and them. Most people, in my experience, are self-centered, even when they are wonderful, loving, kind souls. If you are the type of person who presents with empathy (as you are), then many people, especially those needing but unsure how to express something in themselves, tend to take advantage of your willingness to listen. I don’t especially mean take advantage in a bad way because sometimes what a person needs most in a specific moment is to be seen and heard and if you are there and willing, it is lucky for them (and perhaps for you) that you have shown up. If every time you see someone, it is all about them, and believe me, I have those people in my world, then, I think it’s time to question whether there is a relationship beyond the therapist/patient one. My two cents.

    1. This is a great way to look at it. I love thinking that I am there in a moment of need. Thanks Sara!!

  2. I believe a lot more people are desperate to be acknowledged and seen and heard than they care to admit and when someone like you, an empathic soul with sincere eyes and sincere interest in others, comes along it is a gift to them. Throw in the fact that some persons are a bit too self-oriented and distracted and you have the formula for what happens to you. It happens to me too. I used to think it was because I am single and therefore seen as some kind of “other” but I realize it is just possessing an interest in people and being a good listener and empathic that creates these dynamics. I am amazed at some of the things people have shared with me within minutes.

    1. Same here! Justin thinks it’s bizarre. I am kind of flattered! Glad to know that you and I are kindred spirits, although we knew that already!

  3. There was this one time , recently, that I called my sister to discuss something. Of course, the topic changed to politics, and there my input hit a dead end. I am so glad that I can always be there to get my sisters point of view , at least I started the conversation.

  4. In the forty years that I have known you, I never found you to be either empathetic or sympathetic. Nothing wrong with that. Now if we want to consider sarcastic, then that’s another story! You were the Queen of Sarcasm! Lol

  5. I think it says a lot about them. I’ve had that happen. I am a naturally curious person, so I always ask questions about others. And I always think that will prompt them to ask questions about me.
    But I’m not sure what, exactly, it says about others. It’s easy to assume it’s arrogance. But, it’s possible it’s shyness, or just awkwardness. I have been trying lately, to think only positive thoughts and to do positive things. Maybe I’m a sucker, and maybe I’m just right. Who knows.

  6. People love to talk about themselves. It takes only a modicum of interest for many to open up and share personal moments.

    When I traveled cross-country alone back in 1993, there were two things that really struck me: people across the United States are wonderful, and *everyone* has a story–and they told their stories to me. Sometimes I got the chance to tell some of my stories, too!

    As a children’s librarian, I find adults confide things in their lives that are deeply personal, and I have no idea what I said or what I did to encourage them to open up. The issues they bring up are about their children, the kids’ education, fighting with the school system to get services, marital issues, family crises, health and more. There are times they cry, looking for books to explain death or cancer to young children, and I cry with them. Sometimes just being a warm body with a set of ears that prompts these revelations.

    So, Cheryl, sometimes it is your openness, eye contact that shows you are interested, and kind words that show you will be a sympathetic listener. And sometimes you happen to be the right warm body at the right time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *