Sympathy and Snoopery

I enjoyed Andrea’s blog post You just don’t get it. I seem to respond that way to people’s stories… recently a friend was talking about a parent who died, and so I talked about my parent who died. I remembered the darkness of those days and could share that with her, even though I didn’t know her father. In any case, it seemed better to express myself as “I’m with you” rather than “I’m looking at you from a distance and I’m sorry for you.”

My friend (who has always been chatty) seemed OK with it, but not everyone would want such a response, perhaps.

I realize (from reading around) that people sometimes wonder why a friend always brings the conversation back to him/herself. In some cases that friend is more interested in talking than listening, but in other cases that friend has listened and is using this method to say “I’ve been in your boat and have felt that same muddy water swirling round my ankles. You’re not alone.”

Sometimes I have a problem not unrelated; if I’m telling someone about my day, I’m happy if they reciprocate and tell me about theirs. I feel awkward sometimes about saying “well, what about you?” in case they don’t really want to discuss it. Someone I know gets irritated when one of her friends starts a phonecall with “well, did you have a nice day? Why not? What went wrong?” Her reaction is “I only want to tell you about it if I decide that myself.”

I like to be told about friends’ experiences… but I don’t want to come across as nosy or irritating, so I tell my own stories. Some of my friends seem to understand that my story is just half of the exchange, but others haven’t a clue about it. Some even take it as a request for advice, which can be infuriating!

Just a few days ago, I was reading Intensity by Dean Koontz. In the first few pages are two close friends (female students) chatting, and when one asked a personal question, the other laughingly called it ‘snoopery’. The first friend said she was dodging the question, and the second friend finally answered. I found myself thinking that the first friend, by insisting on a reply, had more courage than I have these days, but then I used to have that kind of friendship with Honey… I would say we were more like sisters, only I don’t know how many sisters have a relationship so relaxed.

It left me wondering what friendship means; if it means different things to different people; how much we are allowed to ask questions or be involved in another person’s life, and which questions we are allowed to ask? If email is seen as a ‘non’ way to talk, just as internet friends aren’t viewed as real? And why one person might be quite secretive about nothing at all, and another person is open about all sorts of things.

I suppose I’ve wandered away from the starting topic, but I enjoyed Andrea’s post because she put into words this thing… how people try to connect in different ways, and don’t always recognize those differences.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Timorous Beastie
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 06:52:52

    Timorous Beast and I often talk about this, too. He complains that some friends don’t ask about his life, but I wonder if they talk themselves, expecting him to reciprocate and when he doesn’t, they feel he’s being stand-offish. My mother almost never asks about my life other than the most superficial “how are you?” Sometimes it irritates me, but I suspect she doesn’t want to pry, and so she’s waiting for me to volunteer information. When I’m listening to someone else, like you, I’m unsure sometimes whether I should try to show that I’ve had a similar experience or whether that will be interpreted as me being self-absorbed. Mmmm. I enjoyed this post – it was thought provoking and yet somehow reassuring.

    Reply

  2. Timorous Beastie
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 06:53:18

    Snoopery – nice word by the way.

    Reply

  3. 1sojournal
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 17:33:10

    And I also like that word. I am so glad you posted this. It’s a difficult subject and a fine line to draw. But, reading of your experience is also very comforting and lightens the load of that defintion of being ego-centric to the extreme. Thanks for this one,

    Elizabeth

    Reply

  4. diddums
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 22:41:45

    Thanks for the comments. :-) I was glad Andrea sparked this off, as it was something that stumps me periodically, but it can be a hard subject to raise.

    Snoopery is good, isn’t it… I hadn’t come across it till I read it in the book.

    Reply

  5. ladybeams
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 15:32:16

    You’re right about friendships, etc. It is hard to know where to draw the line. Anything I want to know I just ask. I usually prefice it with “this may be none of my business, but…”. My BF on the other hand, never asks anything. He figures if his friends want to tell him anything they will without him “snooping”. It drives me crazy. LOL.

    Reply

  6. diddums
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 15:37:49

    I like your style; if you want to know, you ask, whereas I hold back and worry about it. Which, most often, doesn’t get us anywhere. OK, a few times I’ve asked questions which have gone unanswered, which is probably where the paranoia began…

    Reply

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