There was a time when your personal life was your personal life. If you knew something extra-ordinary about someone, you either passed it along to the gossip network or if you followed the wise advice handed down to you to “mind your own business.”
Today, minding our own business is getting harder and harder. Now, you are privy to someone you don’t even know, will never meet and will never connect to in all of eternity. They use to say life is an open book. I’d like to reframe that and say – life is an open cell phone.
Yesterday in the post office a man talking on his cell phone for a few brief seconds had me hooked. “… well she was taking care of her husband … and then guess what! … she blew our her back. She on all kinds of painkillers, but nothing’s working … and in the meantime he’s…(in audible) … can you believe it! I think she should … (out of hearing range and end of story).
For some insane reason I wished I would have heard what he thought she should have done. Because, … maybe, just maybe, he knew some secret for managing pain that might prove beneficial should I need to know.
Then there are the conversations you really don’t want to know about. There was the man on the very early morning train platform having a rip roaring fight with his wife, and he didn’t care that we could hear and he didn’t care what he said. Too much ̶— more than I ever wanted to know about the decline of marital bliss.
Even a weekly trip to the supermarket is unavoidable in confronting the mundane.
Why do I need to know if your husband wants sauce with the beans or the meat in it? And, I certainly don’t want to know why he wants the one with the beans in it and you think he should have the meat. I now know better and try to avoid aisles with engaging cell phone conversations.
Then, there are the inane conversations you can’t avoid. While getting gas, the gal got out of her car and then it started – “…I just got out of my car, I’m going in to pay for the gas, I paid for the gas and I’m on my way back to the car now, I’m putting the gas in, I’m done now, I’m getting back into the car.” I kid you not, this really happened!
Communication is an important part of human connection that our brain seeks. According to Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of You just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, men and women have different communication styles.
Male conversations beginning in childhood are about hierarchy where conversation among peers provides a one-up the power ladder. The man in the post office was one-up by being able to not only spread the word about the woman in pain but that he also had a better solution to her pain.
Female conversations beginning in childhood are about connections with qualities that are either close or distant. The gal in the gas station most likely has a very close connection to another female in order to share such an ordinary life experience. I say female because I just can’t imagine any male patiently listening and being supportive to the process of getting gas.
Tanner also points out that both hierarchy and connection are not mutually exclusive to men and women but can be interconnected especially in conversations involving family. In conversations related to connections, the perceived dominant partner or older sibling may take a judgmental position while trying to appear fair yet still exert the I know best attitude (hierarchy).
The woman in the supermarket was appearing to be fair (connection – closeness) to her husband by calling and asking what type of sauce he preferred. When he voiced his choice she became judgmental (hierarchy) by disagreeing with his choice.
When the man was having the fight with his wife, his cell phone conversation was also one of connection (connection – distant). He was also able to take a one-up power stance (hierarchy) by allowing everyone to hear only his side of the argument.
Now, that we find it challenging to mind our own business, just know that our brains are wired to process and be stimulated by all kinds of extraneous information.
We now have choices — ear plugs, ear buds or stimulate our brain by trying to figure out if it’s a hierarchy conversation, a connection conversation or some combination of both.
And, if you’re talking loudly on the cell phone remember you too may be helping someone else stimulate their brain with your conversation.
By Joyce Hansen