The Case for Finding Someone Interesting to Talk To
Let’s call him Nick. He was a fairly new acquaintance I met because of work that I invited to the occasional friendly hang-out. The last time we met up for brunch, we ended up saying our goodbyes when it was almost time for supper. We talked about what was happening with our jobs, what book we were currently reading, and what movies we’d been watching. We argued about the best brand of Scotch whisky and whether it was worth watching an entire season of a popular TV series. He talked about possibly pursuing postgraduate studies on business and management abroad and expressed concern about the massive fires in the Amazon rainforest and I told him about my dreams of publishing a book and brought up an article I had read on the New York Times about this person they hired to travel the world and write about her experiences. I thought that was a dream job if there ever was one and he agreed.
It wasn’t until I was driving home later that night that I realized I spent over six hours with this person and barely even felt the hours fly by. I looked back at the two or three other times we hung out and the experience had been the same. It made me think about the quality of the conversations I have with the other people in my inner circle, and if other people were challenged, or at the very least contented, with the interactions they’re having with the people in theirs.
On my end, there’s my family, of course. Bless my mom’s heart but our talks usually revolve around which cousin is having a tiff with which aunt or uncle, or repeating to her what the character in the Netflix movie we’re watching just said because she didn’t catch it the first time. Sometimes there would be the odd motherly reminder, like to rest a little when I get home before taking a shower, or to quit drinking Coke Zero because god knows the chemicals they put in there to make it sweet. You get the idea.
I see different groups of close friends regularly and our chats can and do get a bit more substantial. We talk about stuff like what we did the last time we saw each other and what our other friends are up to. We talk about potential investment opportunities and how much more we can earn if we move our savings to this online bank instead of that one. We air our frustrations at government bureaucracy and incompetence, discuss the benefits of a supposed “wonder cure” for acid reflux, and talk about the things we’re going to do on our next big overseas trip. And we tell the corniest jokes to make each other laugh. A lot.
Then of course there’re the people at work, with whom I probably talk to the most on a daily basis. As writers and, erm, “content creators,” we discuss a wide variety of topics that usually center on things that we feel our audiences might be interested in as well. Our chat groups go through ebbs and flows of activity—sometimes it can get fairly quiet, meaning barely any chatter save for the occasional work reminders; other times, one of us would check the chat late and discover hundreds of unread messages. They’d have to spend a fair bit of time backreading to catch themselves up on what they missed. Just the other day we all got into a spirited debate about the dating habits of Gen Z-ers and how they compare with, erm, generations that came before them.
All of this is to say that, as quality of dialogue partners go, I think I’m pretty lucky. I’m not exposed to just one group of people with similar backgrounds and interests, and so conversations are almost never banal or routinary. You might think this isn’t extraordinary; that we all have a diverse group of people with whom we have interesting conversations with on a regular basis, who force us to flex our mental muscles and maybe sometimes question previously held beliefs. But I’ve come to realize that this isn’t exactly the case.
There are those who choose to surround themselves with people who make them feel good about themselves constantly; whose chats revolve around the same things every time, and who never allow themselves to be challenged by new information or ideas. Some people interact with the same group of people day in and day out—whoever’s in their household or place of work—and their social media network is a gigantic echo chamber that throws their own thoughts and opinions back at them. And others just take a more lackadaisical approach to the whole thing: they fall back to what’s comfortable and familiar and avoid or flat out reject even the slightest hint of novelty.
There's nothing wrong with this of course. This isn’t a dig at people who just want their people to be like the situations they’re in—simple and uncomplicated. Lord knows there’s plenty enough in the world to worry about. But I have to wonder if they just haven’t met the right person who can press the right button, who will pique their interest enough for them to sit up straighter and actually engage. Oftentimes this initial encounter will feel effortless and right.
There’s this old saying I read about how shallow people talk about other people, that ordinary people talk about events, and that smart people talk about ideas. This sounds incredibly pretentious and condescending, but on hindsight, may contain some bit of truth. It’s good exercise when regular jibber-jabber transcends the conventional and the superficial, and you find yourself actively using parts of your brain that may have lain dormant. And meeting a person that can bring that out of you is a bit like finding a stray P1,000 bill in your jeans pocket—unexpected and bound to put a smile on your face.
True, meeting new people can sometimes be incredibly taxing and pointless, particularly if you feel like you already have enough people in your life who fill different mental and emotional buckets. But to encounter someone who compels you to think harder and differently, who pierces the veil of tediousness and routine, and who enriches your life even for just a span of a few hours—all of that is worth the trouble, methinks. And hey, if this person is already in your inner circle, then all the better. You should do all you can to keep them in your life.