Dear Amy: My husband maintains that when a person is speaking, we should remain completely silent until the speaker stops, and then wait two extra beats, to make sure the person who is speaking is not just taking a breath.
The trouble is that when we do this, his friends hold forth for 20 to 50 minutes.
I maintain that 20- to 50-minute monologues are fine for a classroom or TED talk, but are inconsiderate for casual conversation in a bar, restaurant, living room, or via Zoom.
I say it’s fine to insert an enthusiastic, “That’s right!” or interject a brief and relevant personal anecdote or pertinent news item.
I do agree that interrupting to change the subject is rude (unless the speaker has already held forth for 50 minutes).
He insists that all interruptions are equally disrespectful.
Dear Bored: TED talks (TED.org) are capped at 18 minutes – and many are shorter – because the founder of the famous speaker series knows that both speakers and listeners tend to wander if a monologue goes on too long.
What your husband doesn’t seem to realize is that for many people, even two beats of silence creates a chasm which must be filled!
Speakers might not be able to read your social silence as politeness, and if you aren’t occasionally offering an “Oh yes, I know exactly what you mean…” or a “Well, I understand your point of view, but I beg to differ,” then you are not really inviting a conversation, but settling in as audience members for a monologue.
Fortunately, it is not vital that you and your husband have the same conversational style. You might be a more engaged and lively listener, where he enjoys and is more comfortable enclosed in his bubble of self-righteous silence.
A spouse, partner, or family member can be extremely helpful in offering gentle (sometimes, not so gentle) course-corrections, because they observe social interactions with an intimate knowledge, and they notice patterns in behavior. Your husband can make suggestions, but he does not have the right to dictate how you should communicate with other people.
His own rigid listening style shows an impressive amount of tolerance toward other people. He should apply a measure of that to you.
Dear Amy: Why are so many middle-aged folks/baby boomers resistant to mental healthcare?
While millennials (like me) openly seek help for our issues, we watch our parents go in circles with the same issues — emotions, stress, social dysfunction — and insist they don’t need help.
They are often defensive and hostile to the suggestion, saying, “It wouldn’t work” even though they’ve never tried it.
For those of us who have put in some hard work on ourselves, it’s hard to watch them go through the same patterns over and over and refuse to talk to professionals.
Dear Frustrated: Even though I am of the generation you critique for not taking care of ourselves, I cannot reject your blanket assertion because I think you’re right!
To spitball my own assertions, I’ll try to explain that we boomers were raised by a generation who had stoically survived – and suffered through – a global conflict. Our parents encouraged us to “keep calm and carry on,” “suck it up,” and sometimes demonstrated unhealthy forms of “self-medication” in the form of nightly cocktails.
They also did not discuss what they considered to be “private” feelings with their children, and so their children – my generation – had to more or less figure things out, without a lot of guidance.
Also, mental health treatment has made huge leaps and strides in the last 20 to 30 years, thanks in part to the work and advocacy of boomers. (You’re welcome, by the way…)
I think it is helpful and compassionate for your generation to give your own parents credit for raising you to be in full touch with your own feelings, to take great and good care of yourselves, and to seek mental health help and support when you need it.
I hope you can encourage your parents to do the same.
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Dear Amy: I’m responding to the letter from “Upset and Embarrassed,” who experienced ageism and bullying from fellow nurses.
I recently retired from nursing and experienced the same thing. I wish I had done something about it. Instead, I let workplace bullying contribute to my choice to leave the profession I love.
Dear Retired: Judging from my responses, nurses don’t seem to respect one another as much as their patients do.