Talia Levy

March 28, 2023

i talked to myself for a year

In my last relationship, I often wondered with frustration at how a person could have so little to say. So little to contribute to conversation.

In that relationship, the boy never really brought up new topics to talk about. He never really elaborated on any point or idea. He also showed little interest in what I had to say, failing to ask me questions about the topics I initiated, failing to entertain my interests. I was met with low energy and a lack of effort.

I carried most of our conversation. I spoke for the both of us, and I brought up all the topics. Not because I didn’t want to hear what he had to say—I constantly gave him the floor to speak and share his thoughts—but because he didn’t give me anything to work with.

And speaking for the both of us, day after day, conversation after conversation, made me tired. It made me sad. But it improved my conversation skills immensely.

When I’m texted “yes ma’am” or “okay”, there’s nothing I can do with that. No follow up questions to ask, no details I can tie back to my own experiences. It gives me literally nothing. So, I got really good at creating a new conversation out of nothing.

And I got good at doing it fast. Because not only did I have to come up with everything to talk about, he wanted quick responses. Many times, responses in under ten minutes.

So, what I often started to do, was look around the room I was in and find an object that would hopefully spark conversation. I’d voice my opinion on the object, talk about a memory with the object, tie any aspect of that object to any random thought I had—you get the point.

I used what was around me to quickly find the next thing to talk about. For example, if you see a chair in your dining room, you could talk directly about the chair or the memory of buying it.

You could talk about other pieces of furniture. You could ask how much they’d be willing to pay for a chair, what their home design preferences are, or if they’d be willing to sit in 20 different chairs in a furniture store with you. The list could go on forever. And it’s truly an incredible tool. I found that tool out of an unhappy and pressured place, but I found it all the same.

Of course in addition to objects in the room, I’d think about my day and any memorable moments worth sharing. I’d think about my past and pull from my memories for things to talk about. I’d think about things I’ve learned and survey my knowledge base to potentially offer topics from there.

But probably my most used strategy was choosing an object in the room and running with whatever idea it sparked. Because it was quick and very effective. And through all of my strategies and this practice of constantly finding a new topic, I became better and better at coming up with things to say quicker and quicker. It made me a better conversationalist.

That relationship not only opened me up to that room strategy and overall enabled me to come up with topics quicker, but it made me take a closer look at how conversation works. What components make a good conversation.

If you’re talking to me, know that I’m probably analyzing our conversation at a deeper level than most. Or at least I will after we talk. That’s because I would study his and my conversations, trying to understand why so many of mine with him felt incredibly unfulfilling. And why they made me so sad.

I think conversation is a skill. An art. So, I think people can improve in their conversation skills. To not have anything to talk about is almost always laziness. It’s not trying. Because there are an infinite number of things to talk about.

With every new day, comes new things to talk about, and we have a wealth of knowledge and memories to also be pulling from. There’s no such thing as nothing to talk about. When you believe that and live that, it’ll change your life.

I always made excuses for him. I’d never want to request in the moment he please initiate a topic of conversation because maybe he was “tired”. Maybe he was “busy”. But then I guess he was always tired or busy.

When someone is speaking about something, you can ask them questions about the topic to encourage more talking, or you can tie what they’re saying to a personal experience of your own and expand on the thought. If you wouldn’t like to stay on a topic, take the initiative to change it. Don’t expect the other person to. If the conversation slows, be the one to pick it up. Don’t wait on them.

Remember, you may not always find the same things interesting as another, but respect that’s what they’re interested in, and make the effort to further conversation in that topic. A person speaking with passion is generally interesting enough to listen to because of the passion alone, no matter the topic. So try your best to ask them follow up questions.

People love to talk about themselves. They love to share their thoughts, their opinions, and their passions. When at a loss for what to say, questions are a great way to keep the conversation going, and the other person will love you for your questions. Not just yes or no questions, but open-ended and thought provoking ones.

Or keep the convo going with your own anecdotes. Just overall, they’d love the floor to continue on about what they love to talk about. They probably have something to teach you too.

Also, someone who wants to hear from you would likely also love to hear your thoughts on the topic. So try your best to not just give them a “cool” or “I see”, but offer your own views. Your own thoughts and experiences. Questions you want to learn the answers to. Contribute something to the conversation because they want to hear you too.

Do not say “okay” or anything of the sort. You break momentum and you’re not trying. You’re making this person carry the conversation. And after a while, they’ll give up.

All of this writing is meant to be directed at conversation when willingly texting or hanging out with people. Being around people not because of your choice, may not have this same obligation of working to think of something to say and furthering conversation, because I think there are caveats to that, and that it’s a different subject. But for willing in-person and text conversations, all of this applies. You’re expected to put in work.

Now, there may be some days you don’t want to talk. You’re too tired, you’re feeling down; I’m not saying people are robots who have an abundance of energy 24/7 to make conversation. But when you’re feeling too tired to talk, just don’t. No conversation is better than a lack of effort on your part.

When it comes to texting, don’t reply yet if all you have to offer is an “okay”. Don’t reply “okay” without energy and expect the other person to come back with double the energy to make up for yours. Wait until you have energy, then come with that better energy.

When in person, either don’t hang out if you don’t have the energy, or make it clear to the person you want to do a less energetic activity (if that needs to be stated in that relationship) or at the very least, don’t expect the other to carry the conversation.

One meaningful and passion-filled conversation in a day is so much better than multiple conversations filled with nothing. Quality over quantity. Don’t speak with fillers that have no substance so that it’s now on the other person to keep the convo afloat. Just don’t talk at all. Wait until you have something to say.

There may be some days when you don’t have the energy to talk, but still want to hear from your partner, your friend, or whomever. I think it’s fine to request they do most of the talking, but make sure you acknowledge and tell them you know that they’re putting in extra effort. Tell them you know you’re not pulling your weight but would appreciate hearing them and thank them.

Another person carrying the conversation should never be an expectation or something taken for granted. Be also open to them not wanting to carry the conversation. Make it known you know they’re putting in all the effort, but that you would love to hear them in the moment if they’re willing. Acknowledge the work they put in.

That relationship was one long year of one big conversation with myself. It was sad to experience the lack of effort and energy I felt when talking to him. I often felt like I was talking to myself, the conversations one-sided, as I put in all the effort. But that relationship taught me valuable lessons about the art of conversation.

One, there are an infinite number of things to talk about. So if you ever think you’ve run out of ideas, you haven’t. Just try harder. Use the strategies.

Two, good conversation is a skill you can develop, it’s not a trait someone’s born with.

Three, entertain a topic someone’s interested in by asking good questions or furthering it by tying it to your own thoughts and experiences. You’re respecting their interests and giving them the floor, just as they’re hopefully doing with you. Think about how much you love to talk about what you love to talk about. The other person does too. Give them that floor.

Four, if conversation slows or if you want to change the subject, take the initiative to ramp it back up or change it yourself. Don’t leave it up to the other person. It’s just as much your job as it is theirs. Think about them for this too. Do you want to work with an “okay”? Or something more interesting? Give them what you’d want to be given.

Five, not talking is better than giving the other person nothing to work with. One meaningful and passion-filled conversation beats multiple conversations with no substance.

And six, when at a loss for what to talk about, look around the room, pick an object, and go.

About Talia Levy

i write about relationships, self-help, & other random reflections i have. new posts every sunday.