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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

That "I" Word

Ever notice the word you'll often use when someone says something that doesn't interest you at all is "interesting"? Pay closer attention to how many times you mindlessly utter that word, and how others unthinkingly say the same when you speak. I realize small talk serves a useful social purpose. At the same time, our ubiquitous use of the word interesting in fact reveals how totally uninteresting small talk really is.

Although tempted to scream "dull!" when someone's small talk is lulling me into a coma, so far, I've avoided doing that; my mother would be proud. But, lately I've also been avoiding reflexively saying "interesting" in those harmless conversational situations. I've switched to a non-committal  "huh" or an equally unthreatening nod or shoulder shrug,  meant to convey -  dishonestly - that I'm still paying attention.

I hear you out there - "Interesting, Pat." Translation of interesting this time = Get to the point. OK, the reason I've been reflecting on this and putting more effort into reducing my use of the "I" word when trapped in a small talk web is my concern that that meaningless word could find a way to sneak into conversations where it doesn't belong. I do not want to hear myself say "interesting" when offensive or insensitive statements are made or when an alternative fact is offered when a challenge or even a mild admonishment would be more appropriate.  And, more important, I want to be paying closer attention to the words others use when responding to me in any conversation transcending the weather, the latest Twitter battle, what someone had for dinner last night. In any non-small-talk conversation, I'm now on high alert if I speak and someone says "interesting."

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