The talking that ain’t heard, and my frustrations about it

By Carla Vaz. Carla, 27, is a writer from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

A long ago, I was sitting at a bar with some friends. I had tried to engage in the chatting, but observation became far more interesting. Like a ping-pong ball, I turned my head back and forth, following the conversation that was intending to be a debate.

– But you gotta understand that…

– But, see, you have to understand this…

It was perfectly clear. It was evident in the aspect of each one (of the rivals of chat). As one spoke, the other’s gaze was there, both pretentiously attentive and lost in their own thoughts. If we were in silence, we would even hear “A-ha! That argument…I have another one that will break your legs!”

The truth is that each of them came with pre-conceived ideas and speeches. And when they heard another one, one that was different from theirs, the only concern was how to support their previous point of views that they carried in their suitcases. Suitcases full of dust and cobwebs. If we had closed our eyes, we could have seen them attached to their briefcase of convictions, shouting so that the other understood theirs as if it were the highest perfection.

By the bar conversation, you could get all the others, from Facebook, between family members, lovers… All the discussions that do not talk. Each one with their own flow of thoughts, not allowing to be flooded by the others. Just preoccupied with counter-arguments. When was the last time that you’ve heard “It does make sense what you are talking about”?

“I can see where are you coming from.”

That phrase was popping into my head non-stop. “I can understand why you have such an opinion (even though I don’t agree with it).” I can see where you are coming from. And while they debated (or tried to), I continued asking myself why it was so difficult for people just to hear each other. Would it be that difficult to understand where the other person was coming from? Understand that every opinion and point of view is formed by a tangle of events in each other’s lives, that many opinions are valid if you only strive to understand “where the others are coming from”?

I remained quiet. As if to spare me from the wear and tear of the unheard speech. The “debate” was then over. We got some more beers.

– Good to see you! It’s always lovely to brainstorm!

– Brainstorming? – I thought- Ha!

So we went back home. Each of our suitcases was still old and heavy, yet full of dust. Not a thought exchange. But at least our truths were intact, right?

Another time I was at a job’s meeting. My former boyfriend, my friends and I were planning what the next steps would be. By now I can’t deny it, I’m an active listener of the chat and a hopeless observer. But I promise that it brings me most of the time to the present moment. Being right here, with you!

So there we were, trying to brainstorm some ideas. They all came with theirs already, trying to show to the colleagues. They were all very talkative. I tried to speak once, but I was cut off. Twice, and I was cut off again. Their heads were all over the place, and they didn’t stop for a second, not even to hear each other.

Before I was cut off for the third time, I remembered what my former boyfriend said to me. I told him about my difficulty in getting into a conversation with very talkative people who cut the other speaker off all the time. I’m traumatised with that kind of talk. He told me to speak louder. So I raised a little beat my voice, in a millimetrically adjusted gap that I found between one and another colleague’s speeches. My (half) speech awoke something in the lady beside me, who got slightly louder than me so she wouldn’t miss the time of speaking up. She seemed to need to talk at that exact moment. I didn’t even complete a half-reasoning, but she seemed to have a certainty about her speech, that it would be decisive, and that it needed to be right away. I was waiting for what she had to say. Then I realised that she was just repeating the same idea that she was sharing since the beginning of the meeting, but only with another arrangement of the discourse. The exact same speech. Maybe no one had heard.

I returned to my observer spot of the brainstorm. My colleague’s altered voice was followed by other voices who also felt the need to be heard and – as she- who needed to be heard right at the moment, regardless of whether the other had finished speaking or not. The noise was staggering until I couldn’t understand anyone else. So I also entered into my own stream of thoughts, wondering what it would be like to put a wall between them, keeping them from seeing and hearing one another. The conversations were so self-centred that it didn’t seem that it would make any difference. I found this an interesting way to conduct a meeting.

My former boyfriend then spoke louder than all the noise. People stared at him. We’d talked before, and I told him the points that I’d like to address. He spoke for me. People agreed with what he said. The same thing that I’ve just tried to say. So I began to ask myself if my voice was too loud. “Do I need to scream to be heard? Do I need to be a man? Maybe I need to be taller? Have a firmer voice? I’d guess that I just needed to have ideas and a voice to be heard. How silly of me!”

I decided then that I was not going to scream. I decided that I wouldn’t talk louder. And decided that I would not bother talking to anyone who would not listen. Is there anything better than writing? Here I cannot be interrupted! What a glorious moment! And for anyone who likes to have a real brainstorming, exchanging ideas and real talk, I leave here my invite to a cup of coffee or a beer. And for those who just feel the need to be heard too. I promise to keep my attention on you, my heart open and my bag ready to trade carts with you. I

promise to listen to you, not to interrupt, and accept that we can have differences and diverging opinions, with mine not being more relevant than yours, okay? Call me!

47 comments on “The talking that ain’t heard, and my frustrations about it

  1. Carlos Vaz Gomes Corrêa on

    E aí, vc. percebeu que não é o tom que sustenta a penetração da palavra ou do pensamento, mas a disposição do outro em se deixar envolver. Isto está faltando ao mundo moderno: a capacidade de ouvir, nascendo da carência de silêncio a importância do que vc. vem fazendo: escrevendo, esfregando na nossa cara que é importante dar espaço ao que outro tem a dizer. Baixinho, quase um lamento ou um gemido de dor do próximo que precisa ser ouvido.

  2. isis mendonça on

    Muito boa explanação!
    Cada vez mais as pessoas tentam influenciar a vida e as decisões das pessoas.
    Diálogo como monólogo.Triste!

    • Carla on

      Que bom que gostou e se identificou! Precisamos exercitar nossa fala, principalmente nós mulheres, que temos a nossa tão tomada pelo outro

  3. Artur Brandt on

    Pretty good, Carla! We have so much access to worldwide information and so little to the other’s reality. Why is a remote fact more valid than someone else’s? I wonder…

  4. Christina on

    Your title caught my attention immediately and am so glad I was able to read your observations and thoughts. “Brainstorming? – I thought- Ha!” I sympathize with your sentiment! Brainstorming seems to be the new buzz word to excuse poor discussion and dialogue.


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