I am absolutely positive that at a certain point of your life you experienced a conversation with somebody who almost miraculously everything that you said referred to his/her own personal life. Somehow, and you were not exactly sure how it happened, the conversation began to look suspiciously like a bunch of autobiographical short stories of your supposed-to-be listener. Every sentence that you uttered was summarized with: “oh yeah, that reminds me of that time when I…” So at the end, you were left with this clinging unpleasant feeling that you had wasted your time and more importantly breath, as nothing what you said was in fact heard. You were viciously used as canvas for all the stories your listener threw at you as a response; which, consequently, cannot be defined as a conversation. So how can we define this crude experience that you had to endure?
My dear friend, you were and also quite probably will be a victim of a chronic autobiographical listener. This curious species live among us incognito until they hunt us down to flood us with Wikipedia-worth trivia about themselves. The term blabbing is very much adequate when describing the way an autobiographical listener talks. Moreover, it does not matter if you know the person well or have just met: stories will flow out of their mouth nevertheless.
Thinking about it made me realise that in some situations I also tend to listen autobiographically to others. Like for example listening to a friend talking about her relationship and in response giving her examples of my own – it is a real pickle why didn’t she punch me in the face back then… You may ask why I did it. Well, I thought that real-life examples would be better than empty words. As for now, I grew to question that teacher-like attitude. Why should anybody feel better after me dragging my life in front of them? When I am sad or have a problem, I want to get it off my chest. I want to be heard. Autobiographical listening leaves us with feeling of being ignored or used as a background.
Of course it does not mean that upon hearing some sad story I should emphatically cry and be equally depressed. Of that I am sure. How can a person listen actively? For many years I mistook active for advice-giving. But now I stand corrected before my potential listeners. I, hereby, vouch for my listening skills: no more autobiographical gobbledygook!
I will rephrase, nod, and ask additional question, I will name feelings and mimic the content while taking part in heart-to-heart. And only after such conversations galore I would be able to tell you how many punches I received for listening not the way I was supposed to…
… or proudly present a medal for the listener of the year 🙂