Self-Compassion For the Close Talker
The Close Talker
There we are having a pleasant afternoon in line at the supermarket planning the delicious meals we will create with the contents out of our trolley, and then it happens. The guy with the glasses that droop, who seems to find nirvanic joy in needling deep into his ear has decided he wants to have a conversation with you. He cannot believe that your eyes have drifted for a second to a magazine cover with Kim Kardashian. He tells you how the family has secretly sent the paparazzi kickbacks to get their faces strewn across social media. You, on the other hand, have decidedly distracted yourself with thoughts of how much earwax it would take to make an actual candle, and hope against hope that he loses interest and goes away.
He does not. Instead, he seems concerned that you are not listening, so he is now communicating this information mere inches from your face. Meanwhile, you silently wonder how long it would take to stack up enough of those Kardashian magazines to put this man at a safe distance from you. You rub your face, and look down at your phone to avoid his glance, but somehow he has slouched to your level. He has switched to a conversation about smart phones. He does not like Apple for their restricted marketplace, but also worries that if he purchases a Samsung phone that it might explode. You contemplate this as you hold your phone closer to your head, wondering how close it would have to be for your head to explode.
You have yet to get a word in, but you have somehow convinced him you are interested. You assume this is true given his even closer proximity. You find yourself pondering what the appropriate phrase might be to end this conversation, pretend faint, or begin to have a conniption fit. Any of these choices seem acceptable as he puts a hand on your shoulder to emphasize a point he is now making about the fashion world’s conspiracy to do away with the sublime pocket options of the cargo pant by offering a slim pant that has only become slimmer for the past 5 years.
Self-Compassion For The Close Talker
We have all found ourselves in this predicament. Perhaps, we were the close talker. It takes one to know one, right? It is clear that the close talker is looking for a way to connect, and just maybe this desire is so great that he does not even want to leave physical space to chance. Despite his good intentions, we feel stressed by the situation and as our well-being dwindles so does our compassion. When compassion fatigues sets in (probably 30 seconds into a close-talking conversation), we begin to judge, first the close talker and then ourselves for our vulnerability to close talking and our inability to escape it.
The mistake we tend to make in close talking situations is trying to resolve it by starting compassion for the close talker. This is problematic. The close talking is already eating away at our compassion. Trying to have compassion for him in the moment only brings on compassion fatigue faster. We needed to start with self-compassion.
Let’s try the self-compassionate way. The first thing we can do is to take a step back. Let the air pass through our body, taking care to make sure we do not draw more attention to ourselves with a deep sigh. Then, acknowledge the close taker’s conversational subject, and slip in that you love people but have this weird thing about your bubble. Mention how you blow this bubble up when you awaken, and do a 360 degree turn to demonstrate the broad circumference covered by this bubble.
Give yourself a self-hug to bring kindness to your experience in a physical way that restores rather than depletes your resources. Use the uncomfortable conversation topic the close talker brings up to segway into material that makes you feel more comfortable. “You know what I love about the Kardashians is how much they love dogs. I am a big dog lover, myself. I have a particular affinity for American Bulldogs and Basset Hounds. What kind of dogs do you like?” Or, something to that effect.
And voila, it is time to put your groceries on the conveyer belt, and make your way to freedom. The more compassion you are able to give yourself, the more you will be able to give the close talker. The more you are able to convey healthy boundaries about space and conversational subjects the more opportunities they have for vicarious learning. Every social encounter is an opportunity to learn how better to relate to our fellow man. Surely somebody has helped you before. Maybe it is time for you to pass on some of your own knowledge by modeling adaptive social behavior. This is your chance to pay it forward!
Wrapping It Up
While I use the word “close talker,” I do not mean to critically judge a group of people. Close talking is a behavior not a spiritual, moral, or cultural designation. The truth is that we all have our social faux pas, but this is no less a reason to activate self-compassion when social stressors are imposed on us no matter how well-intended they are. Goodness knows that if I am unintentionally causing someone else stress, I hope they are quietly practicing self-compassion.
May your future talks be at a safe distance. When they are not, may you first bring compassion to yourself, and then direct compassion to the person speaking at a close range. May you find the courage to model healthy social habits by moving to a safer distance, and articulating your own personal need for space in conversation. Advocating for self is the mother of all self-compassion. Listen to your mother. May the person speaking too closely to you learn vicariously through your good example. Finally, may the compassion you show close talkers give you permission to respond compassionately to yourself when you err similarly in the future.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 92. In The Books.