Stop talking about work…REALLY???

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By Kenneth Justice

~ Last night at coffee a late twentyish couple was sitting together on their first date and were engaged in the usual “first date blather”,

—) “So where did you grow up”

—) “How many siblings do you have”

—) “Do you believe in space aliens?”

—) “What kind of underwear do you prefer?”

They were sitting a couple tables away from me but their conversation was a bit loud and I couldn’t help but overhear most of what they were saying. The dude was REALLY into the lass, but I could tell that she wasn’t ‘feeling it’. The dude’s main problem was that twenty minutes into their date he shifted gears to talking about his job and didn’t seem to realize that he was losing the interest of the attractive woman sitting at his table.

A lot of people have interesting jobs and I would love to hear all about them; the Prime Minister of Great Britain, an astronaut, or George Carlin could most likely entertain someone with ‘work talk’ endlessly, but talking about your job for forty minutes on a first date is probably not the best strategy to get the girl to play footsy with you under the table.

People enjoy talking about important subjects. That is perhaps the strangest thing about Western Culture I’ve noticed in recent years; people will flock to my coffee table to talk about a wide range of subjects because they are starved for intellectual conversation; yet for the most part, in their private lives the average person seems more focused on talking about leaked celebrity naked photos, family gossip, or boring work blather on and on.

When I’ve hung out with men at house parties the conversation is almost always dominated with athletics; American men talk about football and baseball as though it’s more important than anything else, and my European friends can talk about soccer till late into the night. It’s not that I have anything against talking about athletics, I actually enjoy them in small spurts. Yet, Western Society, which was built on the minds of great thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume and Paine, in recent years the dialogue seems to be more directed by the great MTV icons Beevis and Butthead.

I also find it a tad bit annoying that anytime I write a series of articles which a certain segment of my readership disagrees with; people cut me off. I write articles discussing the fundamentalism of certain religious groups or I merely question if people are placing science on too high of a pedestal and the traffic to my blog practically drops off overnight.

People in Western Society are so damn temperamental! What happened to us as a people for us to be so driven by our emotions, so consumed with talking about triviality, and so obsessed with talking about work on a first date?

I’m currently working on my graduate degree in philosophy and it blows my mind away that Western Culture used to believe that philosophy was an integral component of education in society. Have we merely exchanged critical thinking for Desperate Housewives and Reality Television? God help us.

I need another coffee,

Kenneth

 



Categories: Culture & Society

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53 replies

  1. It must be a generational thing – I don’t recall EVER discussing my taste in underwear on a first date – or ANY date, for that matter!

    We have become an entertainment culture. We have lost the disciplined habit of critical thinking and replaced it with cynicism. We have lost the ability debate meaningfully and replaced it with screaming out our talking points. We no longer have the ability to follow a complicated argument and have retreated into a self-indulgent childhood where we demand easy answers.

    We now see education as nothing more that the union card which gets us a job.

    When every idea is held to be of equal value – then it becomes an affront to disagree, no matter how silly their notions are.

    I could go on….

  2. Oh, amen! Sometimes I worry that good conversation is going the way of old fashioned letter writing. Are they becoming lost arts?

    We seem to have become very intolerant towards disagreement, too. I really enjoy a good conversation with those I disagree with. LOL, those people may be pathetically wrong, but they are intriguing. Even in sports, I like the one fan in the room rooting for the wrong team.

    As to critical thinking, I really hope I’m wrong, but that seems to be fading away, too. We seem to be obsessing over individuality and tolerance and diversity, but underneath it all is this strange march towards conformity.

    • Ah, but there are still some of us the love diversity exactly because it allows us the opportunity to discuss things that normally get swept under the rug with our more familiar counterparts! I love a good rousing “discussion” as our family calls it, but in high school we called it debating or arguing. 🙂

      That is half the fun, getting new ideas and concepts from one person and carrying them over into the next conversation with someone new!

  3. Um, you’re gonna need more than one coffee.

  4. Guilty. I am temperamental. If I even get a whiff that a writer can’t see the other side of the coin, I am out of there. It is impossible to be right all the time and never make the point that we understand part (at least) of the differing opinion. I spend most all of my time with people lately talking about being people. It is fascinating to hear people identify their fallacies and their delusions. When they grow they can share how the came to see that they were being defensive or stubborn.

  5. In my final job (before I retired), I was not popular in my office as I didn’t conform and talk about trivialities or the ‘norm’.

    Sad really.

    I worked for a private boarding school (now that might identify me to some) and my favourite conversations were with teachers of languages, religion and art (with outdoor education flung somewhere in the middle). My favourite conversations were about ideas, philosophy, spirituality, travel, art, foreign cultures and anything that didn’t involve the current ‘chick flick’, hollywoood gossip and TV ‘soaps’.

    Like I said….I was not popular.

    We have choices in life. We can be ‘popular’. ‘mundane’, ‘ordinary’ OR we can be interested in all the rest of the universe.

  6. A fellow female volunteer at my church this past Sunday said she went on a first date last week and was disappointed that the guy talked about his job so much. Boring!

  7. You nailed it (again)! We have such amazing opportunities for connecting with different people in meaningful ways. Yet, as you pointed out, the internet (and daily discussion) is full of trivia.

    That poor guy on a date. Maybe he thought his job was interesting???? I once overheard a man in a restaurant talking to a woman loudly and at great length about what he normally had for breakfast. His tone of voice suggested he was talking about Great Ideas. Sigh.

  8. We know people so superficially, it makes it hard to connect with them on a meaningful level. How do I share ideas with you about things that really matter when I don’t know how you will react or if you will even understand me? So we default to the sports talk.

  9. Yes we do not think for ourselves. We let T.V. tell us what to think, eat, wear, how much we should weigh. etc. . . . We have become drones and if we do step outside of that and do our own thing then those around us look at us strangely. This generation is so caught up in themselves that I just wish I could be around a 100 years from now just to see what the world will be like.

  10. I can’t say I’ve had that many first dates, but one common thing that always comes up is work, and never underwear. It makes me wonder whether a second date would have happened with some of them if we talked more about our underwear…

  11. To be fair, if it was a first date, these people barely know each other and are testing out the water to discover just how comfortable they would be delving into something deeper. I might be a pretty private person, but I prefer to get to know someone a little bit before I delve into the deep stuff. So that means sticking to the banal unimportant stuff for a date or two. As far as surface topics go, one’s job is a pretty safe one, and a good way to judge interest, and let’s not forget the fact that we spend a lot of our time (too much, really!) at our place of work. Sometimes, it’s about all a person has, which is a whole ‘nother topic, but that might be why so many people fall into the trap of talking about work so much. It’s what fills most of their day.

    Now, I agree entirely that there’s no substitute for a really nice deep conversation with a person about things that really matter. Odds are, though, those conversations are happening below the surface, just like the nature of those topics themselves, behind closed doors, with people we really trust and know. The setting matches the conversation: the coffee shop may spark the occasional deep diatribe, but, let’s be honest, most people are there for the caffeine, not the philosophy.

  12. Critical thinking? what’s that? does it come in lavender or a roll on.

    As for traffic dropping to your blog when you express divergent opinions, mmm that’s just human kind in a nutshell, we only want to expose ourselves to narratives which support our reality, anything that challenges it in any ways, is rejected by both brain and browser.
    I was told, by a popular blogger, yesterday, that i have to “pick a lane” if i care about my readership, because if i keep sharing my “radical progressivism” I’ll end up alienating readers more than attracting them. I considered it, but then i thought, blog as you live, and continued alienating. So far in 2 weeks of blogging, i offended everyone who eats mean, and most everyone who prays, I gained 95 followers and lost 21, i am sure if all 95 actually read my posts i would have lost at least 60% of them. c’est la vie

  13. I suspect that things are exactly as they’ve always been in regards to conversation and thought. Yes, there were some great “thinkers” (I hate that term…my guess is a lot of people were great thinkers…these guys were just better at talking about their thoughts), but you’ll notice the list of greats is pretty bloomin’ small when compared to all of the humans who have been on the planet. It’s not as though 1000 years ago every person was chewing on the “big questions.” I think most of them were probably a lot more focused on the trivialities of life like people are now. The difference? TV and internet and coffee shops let us know that this is what other people are thinking/talking about.

  14. And to think today I even said that our feelings do not always have en emotional connection. We feel with out mind and think with our heart or something.

    We disconnect ourselves from others and just think about ‘self’. Feelings or thoughts revolve around ourselves. Leaving out all rational thoughts, through what might be considered as emotional behaviour. Though clearly there is no feeling involved when we are so disconnected to the world around us.

    And one we do say we feel disconnected while at the same time we disconnect ourselves We do deceive ourselves by saying we feel things we can not rationally explain, when it is not a feeling we are missing.

    Maybe the mind, our thinking is very much connected to our self being and emotions. Now that we do not think as much we might give up on feeling emotions.

    That sounds like a good idea fro research, how our heart and mind are connected.

  15. I think what people talk about is very situational. At social gatherings, where you may be among acquaintances but not friends, the conversations are likely to be fairly lightweight — sports, the weather, where did you go on vacation, have you seen that movie yet, etc. And, for me, anyway, my conversations with work associates are either lightweight or about work; rarely do I get into any sort of controversial topics (religion, politics) with work associates.

    But with family and close friends, our conversations can get deep into all kinds of things — politics, religion, philosophy. And as to first dates, my number one question is “what kind of underwear do you prefer.” The optimal answer is “none.”

  16. I agree with angel2inspiration and believe part of this is because we don’t know who we are so we don’t bother to find out who they actually are. We default to what we do, watch on TV, and blather on with our meaningless surface-level trivialities. We’re afraid that if they find out about the real us inside, they may reject us. And even in marriage it can stay on a superficial level, never getting to true intimacy. But meaningful communication is built on understanding the other person. So it’s sad to see what you overheard because people so miss the opportunity to discover the great treasure hidden inside the other person, and that’s certainly more exciting than what kind of underwear they like! All people deserve to be known for who they really are, not ignored by our trivial deflections.

  17. I couldn’t agree more 🙂

  18. It is nice to talk about intellectual topics

    >

  19. “People enjoy talking about important subjects. That is perhaps the strangest thing about Western Culture I’ve noticed in recent years; people will flock to my coffee table to talk about a wide range of subjects because they are starved for intellectual conversation; yet for the most part, in their private lives the average person seems more focused on talking about leaked celebrity naked photos, family gossip, or boring work blather on and on.”

    I think they talk about those irrelevant topics to distract themselves from the problems they feel powerless to solve. I would much rather read your blog because you offer something exciting and new to think about.

  20. There’s the art: telling people things they don’t want to hear in a way that they will accept. Social media is enlightening in allowing us to track just how well we’re doing this.

  21. Most people are interested in only one or two subjects. Many people don’t care about anything at all. I find though, that when it comes to talking to people I know, the conversation is always about them, and how someone or the entire world has done them wrong.

    It is also sad that political correctness has shut many people’s mouths. It’s hard to strike up a conversation with someone without having to worry about how they are going to react to your personal views.

    I get quite aggravated when I visit my kids. Even though their dad writes about politics they seem to be clueless to what is happening in the political arena. Why is that?

    I long for good conversation. I don’t care what it is about. I’ll be willing to spend hours talking with someone about the sexual mating rituals of the African honey bee if it offers interesting conversation.

    Talking about work? Not me. The second I walk out that door I can’t remember what it is that I actually do for a living. Who cares, I’m off the clock.

    Wanna impress a woman on a date? Talk about her and only her. A man and his life only becomes interesting to a woman when she inquires about it herself. Keep yourself a mystery to her. It will make her desire you more.

    Dating is like fishing. You have to put just a little bait on the hook at a time.

    Funny post!

    • Well said! A little bait on the hook. I am betting that you are one who changes bait to see which catches the bigger fish as well.

      For me, the fact that you brought up politics tells me that you are someone who would be interesting to sit across a table from with a cup of coffee. Not afraid the delve into the darker side of the world as politics are definitely on the “darker” spectrum of conversation with most people nowadays.

      Being a gun-totin’-lefty-leaning-liberal in a family of right-wing conservatives, I have learned to be vocal about politics myself. I have to be when I am outnumbered by dozens 😉

  22. I think three to five minutes on discussing the job is sufficient for most everyone. After that, it is time to discuss books, music, politics, religion, world affairs, etc. If someone began a long discussion of their job, I think it would be just as much my responsibility to change he subject to something more interesting as it would be the other person, though. Some people forget that not everyone is obsessed with work discussions and sometimes need a little nudge. Instead of just sitting there, she should have politely introduced a new subject when he stopped for a breath.

  23. Have no fear! We talked about culture and identity today in my English class. The students, you are right, are starved for intellectual discourse. Know any good books I could use as prompts for discussion and papers?

  24. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a husband and friends who talk about current events, spirituality and philosophical questions. I am older, but would be very bored discussing reality TV and the latest edition of People magazine. I’m all for a little light conversation, but only in small doses. Also, I love humor that has substance!

  25. yes we have changed thought for trudge and ideas for idiocy

  26. Yes–that’s exactly what has happened. FOr some it takes too much effort to put a couple of relevant facts together to make a point. Some are brain dead after a day on the job (no slam intended) and others just don’t have anything of interest to say to one another. We have cut down on reading and dialed up the inane. Just look at all the ‘reality’ shows that have taken over the airwaves–there’s the first hint at where we are–Jim

  27. I like people with different ideas… I don’t feel like I have to agree with everything a person thinks in order to still “like” them. It really, truly is what makes us different and interesting… just coming back from a group of women I get to be together with – they are SO DIFFERENT from each other… many are totally different from me, and we have so much fun laughing about life and the hardships we all go through in different stages… and its just perfect! I wouldn’t want to change it for the world. I can’t imagine if we were all alike, I would miss those different crazy personalities or the sweet, compassionate personalities, or the OCD-ness of one awesome friend.

    But we also talk about deep spiritual issues together – and that is really great. We aren’t just getting together to hangout and talk about tv shows or go shopping… we are there to study Scripture and more philosophical ways of thinking about life and its journey. Its very deep, and sometimes emotional.

    And you know, I think its critical to not be too temperamental or easily offended… in order to be able to have deep relationships with others. There is something very spiritual in accepting a person as they are, as a whole being… and loving them anyways.

  28. So true.

    Open & honest debate is largely dead, replaced by an obsession with trivia.

    if you want to lose readership, discuss something relevant, helpful & a bit cutting edge. Post fluffy bunnies & they come flocking 🙂

    The word ‘balance’ is sadly missing from many lives. Let’s hope the trivia chase ends soon.

    Take care.

  29. Oh simmer down, Kenny J. 😉 I agree with you most of the time. You could have turned around and helped the guy out. A true citizen and part of the bro code, I think.

  30. The thing about talking religion or politics in a coffeeshop is that you may have to listen. For a long time. People usually don’t go to coffeeshops to listen, unless they want to write a blog. They are there to babble. To engage. To plan. They are more social centers than intellectual meccas — unless you go to a coffeeshop by a large university. Then, the conversations just simply turn weird.

  31. Hear! Hear! Excellent analysis, Kenneth, as usual!

  32. This put a smile on my face. OMG. Yea, what can I say? It seems like we live in somewhat of a shallow, narcissistic society. And it’s like you’ve been talking about. You know, the whole, ‘we don’t think for ourselves’ type of thing.
    Kenneth, you and my hubby ought to get together and go bowling or something like that (he doesn’t drink coffee. Can you believe it? A non-coffee drinking Brazilian). He’s generally thought of polemic within ‘Christian’ circles. He likes to start up debates and discussions on social media (namely Facebook, which seems to be the biggest here in the Brazilian world), that he knows will rock the boat. He doesn’t do it to be a jerk or anything, but he wants to get people out of their boxed way of thinking and open up a bit and think.
    You sound a bit frustrated here, my friend. But I love this post.
    🙂

  33. Philosophy? Okay, you do know that this puts you out and off by yourself. The vast majority of humanity does not understand philosophy. When they try they get a headache. You have distinguished yourself among humanity by being the kind of person that they can’t understand.

    Yes, most of humanity is more interested in gossip and useless conversation to pass the hours because they exactly do not want to think about why they are here or what philosophy best describes this painful situation. The x and me generations don’t care. Before them there were questions that were worth talking about but since then everything changes so fast that it’s not worth the effort to try to keep up. It’s too much work. The information age has overloaded their sense of responsibility and there are few of them wanting to shoulder that burden because they don’t have to. Asking why they don’t is simply to demonstrate how little you understand about them while complaining that they don’t do what you think they should.

    Good luck with that.

  34. I went on a first date with a graduate student who asked me out eight times. I finally agreed to spend an evening with him to prove to him that we had absolutely nothing in common and the whole thing would be a colossal bore. He surprised me. He talked about philosophy, classical music, science and why TV evangelists wore big white ties. He treated me like he assumed I had a brain and could keep up. We talked for hours. Forty two years later we are still debating. Sometimes one of us listens. If we come to an agreement, we just switch sides.

  35. I have only read two of your posts and now I’m sure I did some good to myself when I decided to follow your blog. 🙂

  36. I guess it depend what kind of friends we have. With mine it’s a mix of light and more serious conversations. It seems to me that in fear of disagrement people opt for easy. We need both for sure.

  37. Well, you haven’t run me off yet. And I don’t think it’s just because you’ve yet to rub me the wrong way. I don’t always agree with you but I always find your points well thought-out. So thanks. And keep it up! And if my traffic by your blog drops off, it’s just because I’ve been busy. 😉

  38. Ahh it is good to read your blog again. After you insulted me continuously by making me agree with much of your logic thusly your conclusions I have decided to come back and read your blog once more. (actually I just finished my busy season and am in a coffee shop right now reading your blog and enjoying every moment of it)

    Now to the serious task of philosophy. Beavus and Butthead. Okay so they are very philosophical just their philosophy is not one I hold to. At this time in history though that way of thinking seems to be winning out and most folks would not even know who those great thinkers you named are. It is truly sad. Socrates and Plato are seriously some of my favorites thinkers of antiquity. I just finished City of God by Augustine (which is one of the basis for much of our western civilization today. Though very hard to get through the monotony of detail.

    Anyways I thought I would leave a note with absolutely not end point except to bring up things that currently have no foreseeable solution.

  39. “People in Western Society are so damn temperamental! What happened to us as a people for us to be so driven by our emotions, so consumed with talking about triviality, and so obsessed with talking about work on a first date? ”

    I’m currently reading a book called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” (http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352153). The first chapter discusses how we moved from being a “Culture of Character”, where one’s behavior, respectability, and overall character were what defined you, to a “Culture of Personality”, where how others perceive you is what defines you. We’ve moved from being a society that defines itself as ourselves to a society that defines itself by how well we sell ourselves.

    That’s how we get to talking about work on a first date: we think it makes us look powerful, wealthy, prestigious, whatever.

  40. I’m the type of person that strangers walk up to and tell something intimate and personal to, I must have some vibe that says it’s okay. I’m not a tv watcher and so when I was getting to know Rick I decided to play twenty questions. Some questions we’re benign like, “Do you like pets?” And others more pointed, “What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?”

    The first indication that he was a guy with depth is that he answered them all honestly and completely. It was a great way to break the ice and we covered many topics, including core beliefs and deal breakers.

    Reality for me is what is happening here and now and what you create in the future. I’ve always felt it was accomplished with an outward flow. Today’s television is an inward flow…just like the Borg, you assimilate everything. It’s a new twist on consumerism. Only through communication can you have interchange… And balance.

  41. I think our society today judge our value on what we deliver (work is one arena) rather than on who we are. Our work and what we consume has become who we are. Very boring very souless and I try to move away from people that can lift their conversations or life beyond.

    That is why I like being here 😄.

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