It’s simply what we talk about…

a two coffee morning

by Kenneth Justice

~ “I feel so starved for deeper conversation…every woman I meet lately seems so shallow and uninteresting to me….they don’t seem to be able to talk about anything of substance” that is what an older-divorced man told me and my friend as we were sitting at the café recently.

Divorced for more than five years now he had been telling my friend and I that he was growing tired of the dating scene…..”I wish I could meet a woman whom I could look forward to seeing every day and who always had something interesting to talk about” he said.

While I definitely echo his sentiments in the concept that a lot of conversation these days  seems to revolve around the trivial……sometimes that is okay. To put it quite simply; every conversation we have can’t be intellectually intense or we might get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.

One of the difficulties I ran into while working with people at the jail and at the rehab clinic is that it was difficult for me to have so many intensely personal conversations with people;

—-) Spending 4 – 6 straight hours day-after-day with people in tears…as they worked through the personal issues that landed them in jail or in the rehab clinic was overwhelming at times

—-) Listening to dozens and dozens of people a week pour out their hearts to me and their most intimate thoughts was extremely difficult for me to handle…I led a number of group counseling sessions and sometimes I would have has many as 10 people in tears at a time……I found that there is only so much raw emotive energy I can handle week-after-week

It’s not that I don’t want to talk about personal issues or deep intellectual problems; but when you are in a situation where its all your doing….it can be a bit unnerving……..exhausting…..and you can find yourself longing for someone to hang out with who just makes you laugh at their silly jokes.

I suspect the same principle applies in a relationship; if all you ever have are deep intellectually stimulating conversations you might burn each other out; there’s only so much depth that we can each handle in one sitting.

I suspect though that are culture is a little too imbalanced toward the silly; too many conversations are about celebrity news, athletics, and other various trivial subjects….and for that reason a lot of people are longing for something deeper to talk about.

As my friend and I talked with the divorced man….one of the things that became quite apparent is that he was a poor listener. Every time my friend tried to get a word in the man would talk over him; he was dead set on talking about himself and his own problems….and he wasn’t interested in a back-and-forth conversation.

That is the key isn’t; having a good conversation involves a lot of listening…and a lot of people simply are interested in listening.

Not that long ago I had an eighteen year old guy sit down at my table and confess to me that he had tried cocaine the night before…it was his first time…..and then a few days later a nineteen year old young woman confessed the very same thing; she had tried cocaine at a party over the weekend after being pressured by her friends.

Both of the teens were looking for someone to talk to in order to work through the various emotions they were dealing with in relation to having done a drug that is considered such a taboo in our culture……..neither wanted to talk to their parents about the experience at all…….

Most of the conversation with the two teens involved me listening and asking a couple simple questions, “How do you feel about what you did?”, “Do you think your friends are a bad influence, or were you going to the drug regardless of your friends“, and other such things…..

If we want to have deep conversation with someone we have to be prepared to listen. We have to listen to their ideas, their philosophy, their thoughts…..even if we don’t necessarily agree with everything they are saying….we have to listen.

Good listeners make good friends. Perhaps one of the reason I enjoy writing these articles every morning is that it gives me the opportunity to talk…because so much of my life is about listening.

But its also important to paint a proper picture; much of what I listen to isn’t ‘deep and stimulating’….much of the conversations at my café revolve around the lighter things of life….because its by talking about the everyday things that we build trust in our friendships; its by talking about those little things that leads us to talking about those big things…..

And all of this talking involves a lot of listening….because if you aren’t willing to listen then it probably means you aren’t willing to have a deep conversation….

time for another coffee,


Categories: relationships

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64 replies

  1. What you write is so true. Many people are poor listeners.

  2. Sorry, I got a tad distracted there … what was it you were saying?

    I listened to a chap who runs a charity called LossUK working with struggling youngsters. Brilliant stuff. He made the comment that you might just be the first person who had really listened to someone – and that it might be all the help they needed. All good stuff if you have the occasional conversation. Easy to forget that good listening is giving – and too much giving is exhausting. Always reminds me of the lord taking himself off from time to time.

  3. I agree, listening is a key, when it comes to conversation. I just want to talk about things that are not problem related. I want to have conversations about the universe or nature or beauty or art. I long to stop hearing about people’s personal problems. Some people have been saying the same thing for YEARS! Literally, I have memorized their conversations. Few people seem interested in things other than themselves. No one wants to talk about poetry and paintings and travel. Blogging is fun because it’s diverse and you can find out interesting things and meet people who write poetry and talk about issues. You can find beauty and photographs that are amazing. You can travel and meet people from all over the world. I’m burned out with listening to people say the same thing over and over and over again. None of them are looking for solutions, none of them want to change their situation, they just want to talk about it FOREVER. I’m finished with all of that. Life’s too short. People used to talk about changing the world, now everyone seems to talk about how much they hate their lives. I don’t want to listen to that anymore.

    • “people have been saying the same thing for YEARS!”

      dude you’re so right. With thanksgiving coming up it reminds me of the typical conversational starters I hear ALL THE TIME;

      —) “so how’s work”
      —) “so what’s new”

      not only do people talk about the same thing….they ask the same questions….everything can get very repetitive…

      great comments 🙂

    • Same song, over and over 😃

  4. As you said. Listening to a conversation is important just as is reading to writing.
    And we do mean listening to, not just hearing, someone talk.

  5. When I make a new friend, I listen to their story like I am reading a novel. Maybe a year from now they will repeat a “theme” that is at the crux of their experiences. I will remember all the previous conversations and I may be the only one who understands. Having history with people is invaluable. I find depth of conversations only comes with trust. Your dater sounds a bit like a blow hard. No woman will trust a man like that.

  6. You beat me to some of the points I was going to make about the divorced man. He makes a gross generalization about women, and my first thought ran along the lines of “look for the common denominator, dude.” I tend to follow the pattern/lead of the person with whom I’m conversing. So if he’s complaining about all the conversations he’s having with women, it might not be the women where the problem is originating. You beat me to this when you observed he wasn’t a good listener.

    I had a friend in college who was full of opinions, and he wasn’t a good listener, either. I’m not one to argue, so I’m usually quiet when I disagree with someone’s opinion. This guy was so busy talking that he never noticed, and then he confessed me liked me one day. I was so surprised by this because I hadn’t agreed to anything he’d ever said. But then again, he’d never noticed because he was too busy talking. It seems your divorced guy suffers from the same condition.

    • ” So if he’s complaining about all the conversations he’s having with women, it might not be the women where the problem is originating”


      I was so surprised by this because I hadn’t agreed to anything he’d ever said. But then again, he’d never noticed because he was too busy talking”

      lol too funny, I have so many acquaintances and friends who fit this exact description you’ve given; they rarely listen to me and so they don’t know what I really think about something…and they simply assume I agree with everything they say and believe!

    • I always thought that was a Southern Lady thing. Glad to know it isn’t just me. Or Southerners. Or ladies.

    • Dude, I have some VERY die hard conservative friends and die hard liberal friends; and both sides of the aisle believe I’m fully in their camp because they never take the time to actually ask me what I think about the issues……so no I definitely don’t think its a southern thing at all….more like a United States thing 😉

  7. Listening seems to be a lost art….

  8. We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.

  9. Great post. Question: Did you mean to write aren’t instead of are in paragraph 11?

    I wonder how many of the women that guy talked to had something to say, but he wasn’t listening? Or maybe they would have said something deeper if they thought he was listening (people can often tell when others aren’t listening). Then there’s the question about whether he was seeking much younger women (who often wouldn’t have much in common anyway) but that’s going a bit far afield.

    • thank you for catching that…yup a typo on my part 🙂

      “I wonder how many of the women that guy talked to had something to say, but he wasn’t listening?”

      probably a lot of them!

      “Then there’s the question about whether he was seeking much younger women”

      well, I talked to the dude for awhile and I actually think he was dating older women…..but I don’t think its either here nor there 🙂

  10. I’m a good listener till one point. If someone talks by using so many details as I am the stupid person on earth, involuntary she/he losts me. My brain closes up without my will. And if I try to pay attention again, the monologue is were I left it 🙂 This is my sin.
    Then…I do have friends with all kind of degrees or less degrees, I won’t change them. They come as they are.

    • “If someone talks by using so many details as I am the stupid person on earth, involuntary she/he losts me”

      Dana, you and I think alike on this. It drives me nuts when people give the most intricate details…..I would rather them get to the point and then give me the details afterwards!

  11. I like to have a diverse variety of friends and acquaintances so that I may sometimes find the conversation that I seem to long to have. I’m not in control of what is and being myself is the best I can do — so this is what I choose to enjoy.
    ~ Eric

  12. Most of my job is listening. I’m sometimes listening for the things that aren’t being said even. That’s what people need to do also, especially in a solid friendship. The things that aren’t being said is usually what really needs to be heard. That’s why listening is so important and fundamental in any successful relationship. Regarding the types of conversation, I think part of the problem is everyone seems to agree that in the beginning politics and religion are things to avoid while getting to know someone. I agree but then it’s important to come up with other topics that will last longer than a couple of sentences each. Yes talking about daily lives are important but that becomes vain and can drive someone away. As stated by one of your other commenters, if two people find a common interest like art history or music trivia (okay that one may be trivial-no pun intended, but it wouldn’t necessarily be seen as silly as both would be interested in discussing it), then a more substantial conversation can build from that point. Besides, a conversation like that can lead into something much less silly by accident and that seems to work well. Just some thoughts. 🙂

    • “Yes talking about daily lives are important but that becomes vain and can drive someone away”

      some people are only able to talk about their daily lives and unfortunately it drives a wedge between them being able to branch out and meet new people 😦

      great comments Jen 🙂

    • Yes that’s true but that’s a little different scenario. That’s someone who can’t open up or is untrusting. Oh communication that crazy lil’ thing that really makes or breaks us. Go figure.

  13. Having something “profound” to say, or of “magnitude,” is bloody exhausting – to the listener and the speaker. On the flip side, I’m not much for a lot of casual banter, so I’m quiet a lot in person, a trait that many are no doubt thankful about 😉 Peace . . .

    • Rishinghawk,

      “Having something profound to say….is bloody exhausting”

      it can very much be so! When I worked as a counselor a lot of clients sat down with me expecting me to have some ‘profound’ statement that would change their life…but it doesn’t work that way

    • Not usually – but very now and then you say something that even surprises yourself 😉

  14. ….courage my friend, rise above it all, it is a brave new world out there and people have indeed become self centered, their shallow lives have much more value than yours could ever have….. or at least that is how it seems to me as well!

  15. Did you say something ? Maybe I wasn’t listening lol
    If you want to know my mind, you must listen to my words. Could be boring talk, interesting talk..
    We shouldn’t listen just to reply either, but listen carefully to understand.
    I like Italian say: From listening comes wisdom, and from speaking repentance.
    By the way, I like to read your post, so wouldn’t mind listening you either 😃☕️

    • “We shouldn’t listen just to reply either, but listen carefully to understand”

      excellent thought. listening involves taking the time to understand what people are saying 🙂

  16. Sounds like my uncle. Huge intellect; complains that nobody knows anything, that a stimulating conversation is imposible…. And it’s true ’cause you can’t get a word in edgewise! I’ll have a cup with you.

  17. I have to admit, I think I have become less of a good listener in recent years. I’ve always loved to have conversations about deep issues, but I feel like the people around me have become less interested in those conversations. Many times a week I am told that I’m “thinking too much” about a subject, which I usually take as a cue to shut up and listen to what everyone else is saying. That’s exactly what I do… but no one else every brings up an intellectual conversation. Thank God for the blogoverse. Without it, all my conversations would be about celebrities and movie ratings.

    • TK,

      I totally feel ya; I probably think way too deeply about certain subjects but I often figure if life isn’t worth taking seriously then whats the point??

    • I’m of the opinion that, at the very least, the important parts of life are worth deep thought.

      That said, I’m more than happy to have intellectual trivial conversations (ex. The townspeople in Beauty and the Beast single Belle out as being weird and an outcast because of her curious nature and love for books. What affect does this have on young children who watch Beauty and the Beast? Do they think they are weird for liking books? Do they think others are weird for liking books? Perhaps more important are questions surrounding Belle and Beast’s relationship. Has his abusive nature changed now that he is human? Did he change because of Belle or for Belle? Will he still treat her with kindness when she looses her youthfulness? Am I the only one who asks questions like these about children’s movies?)

      …. I’m going to end up writing a series of posts analyzing Disney movies one of these days. I can just feel it…

  18. “I found that there is only so much raw emotive energy I can handle week-after-week”

    I wanted to focus on this, Kenneth. It reminded me of when I was at a retreat learning peer counseling. At the time, I was bewildered. We were all there because we were considered “at-risk” and I had no idea what my problems were yet, because they weren’t as obvious as some of the others. But what I learned helped me so much. We were learning listening skills, for sure. But we were also learning that we had limitations, especially energy. It was okay to say “no” if we were drained. We couldn’t be effective in our help if we didn’t have the energy.

    • Jaklumen,

      awesome observation. I had to write a number of papers on the very issue that your pointing out. The overwhelming majority of people who work in human service; counselors, therapists, social workers, etc….tend to suffer from burn out because of what you have pointed out; we have limitations when it comes to expending emotional energy

  19. Thanks for the like today. I appreciate your interest.

    I also find it really interesting that we both posted today on the subject of real listening… must be something in the air. Two different perspectives, yet both reaching a similar conclusion. Good stuff here!

  20. Personally . . . I’m too heavy these days and my wife lets me know it . . .

    when I was building houses all we did was jaw jack and horse around . . . we had a great time and still built complicated castles, I loved my job because of it and . . .

    like old Sandeep said . . . seriousness is a disease . . . sometimes it may well be.

  21. Great post…great advise. It does sometimes take practice to change but if you put your attention on it, you see when you do it and then you’ll start catching yourself…pretty soon…you’ll be listening. 🙂

  22. “having a good conversation involves a lot of listening…”
    That nails it. Thank you for a good and interesting read.

  23. I’m a retired social worker, only social workers never really retire. It becomes part of one’s DNA. And one thing we do is listen.

    I’m also Hard of Hearing (HoH) and sometimes functionally deaf (depending on the soundscape) and because of that I am one of the most focused listeners anyone will ever meet. I’m Avis, I try harder. 🙂 I had a male clinician I knew tell me that I was so focused I was intimidating. It’s the lipreading, I’m pretty sure – unnerves people. 😛

    Most people love to talk about themselves and I’m usually more than happy to listen. In fact, I have had Aspie friends who would talk to me all day long because I would sit and listen to their latest obsession. I always thought I got the better part of the deal since I learned something. Not that I did it every day. And you’re right, doing therapeutic work can be a draining form of listening, albeit beneficial to the other person. It is one of the reasons I learned how to meditate.

    However, what captured my attention in your post above is: ~ “I feel so starved for deeper conversation…every woman I meet lately seems so shallow and uninteresting to me….they don’t seem to be able to talk about anything of substance” that is what an older-divorced man told me and my friend as we were sitting at the café recently

    I hear what he is saying. My late husband had a depth that no longer seems to be available. Because of this I’m like your older friend – the men I meet are basically shallow and uninteresting, mostly because they don’t seem to know anything – and often feel a coffee date equates to a sexual commitment (a whole ‘nother topic). I am a polymath, as was my husband. Not a problem for us, but a problem to find others who are also similarly interested in so many things. And, unfortunately, the more educated a woman (the more knowledgeable) the more intimidated most men are by her – certainly at my age.

    And that’s the way things are today – we don’t listen to each other, many of us are shallow as a drying tidal pool and we’re all looking for meaning we might not find since we’re too busy looking to let it find us. Eh?

  24. Oh, forgot to mention, I meet many men who will do just what the older man did until they talk themselves out. It is almost like they are in a fugue state – pretty desperate for someone to listen. Sooner or later they run down, although it might take awhile. If I wait long enough (if I have the time) they end up both running down and getting embarrassed because sooner or later they say something that comes back to haunt them at the close of the conversation.

    Women talk with each other. Men tend to look to women to listen to them and meet their conversational needs. How many guys really have heart-to-hearts like women do? Men of my generation unloaded on their spouse. At least, that’s my perception and I’ve more than a few guy friends (mostly long distance now) who observe the same thing about older men like the one you met. Just thoughts from the peanut gallery.

  25. I have the same problem as your friend does, excpet towards general friendship. MOst people don’t like deep conversations, and on the rare occassion that they do come up, they don’t last for long.

  26. Your writing is really good!! I enjoy reading your blog, from a readers perspective it appears to just flow from you…well done!!

  27. So true! Becoming a better listener is something I have been exploring in my personal life, especially with my beloved. I happy to have “listened” to you speak through your blog 😉

  28. He must have been an introverted intellectual. I know how he feels.

  29. I agree that too many peoples mouthes are working while their ears are blocked. Listening is more important than talking to me. It is more important to talk little and say much than talk a lot and say little.

    For me I love to talk about God and nature. Good luck on finding people who want to talk about such things (even in the Christian community).

    In China there is a saying: “Rooster talking with duck.”

    In other words the rooster goes cock a doodle do while the duck say quack quack. Sometimes it was a lot of fun sometimes it was very frustrating trying to have a conversation with them.

    Yes it is okay to talk with people with differant interests but for me to have a good conversation it means sharing common interests.

    God bless you with love, joy and peace.

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