I went to the PDX Ruby meeting again last night, and it was fun even though there wasn’t a presenter or a topic planned. The group moved on to Lucky Lab after about an hour. I sat down at one of the picnic tables outside with a few people I recognized by sight from the previous meeting, and since they were just sitting there, not talking, I asked what sorts of things they’re doing with Ruby. So they told me. Afterward, when I got home, I started to think about how weird it was to sit there and listen to people talk about their work, in one case in quite a bit of detail (which I don’t necessarily mind, because I’m curious about other people by default) but not have anyone reciprocate.
After a while, that feels pretty offensive. The polite way to chat with strangers if you are going to discuss anything personal (and I don’t mean deeply personal, just things that go with “who are you?”) is that you ask about them. And they ask about you. People like to talk about themselves, and I am no exception, so to keep the conversation balanced, you make sure both people get a turn. Right? So when people don’t, I wonder, do I smell? Are you really bad at talking to other people and entirely not interested in anyone else? Did you assume I had nothing to say? What’s the deal here?
I’m capable of butting in when I have something to say (actually, I’ve caught myself being rude about it a few times lately, probably in preemptive reaction to situations like the one above), but I don’t like to be overly aggressive, and I feel embarrased when I realize I’m doing that. It’s frustrating when other people don’t leave room for the people they’re speaking with to jump in and say something about what they think or like or do. Because it’s a conversation, not a lecture.
The thing last night wasn’t that big of a deal, but it got me thinking about the nature of conversation. And I really, really want someone to ask me what I’m working on so I can talk about the feed aggregator around other programmers without having to randomly bring it up (“Oh, that’s what you do? Interesting… so anyhow, I’m working on this fabulously cool thing and I’m sure you want to hear all of the details!).
Is that weird?