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Talking but Not Really There

Hi there! It's been a while since I've last posted, I know. I've been busy traveling. Two weeks ago I was in Koh Samui -- beautiful island by the way -- and this past week I've been in Vietnam (Hanoi first, and now Hoi An). Although countries each have their own unique culture, cuisine, art, architecture, and history, people are more or less the same. We're all human beings. The Vietnamese are just as likely to enjoy a good laugh at a funny joke as the Thai. Singaporeans admire beauty just as much as the Shanghainese. Today I'm going to tell you a story about an interaction my girlfriend, Aileen, had with a tailor in Hoi An. Even if the story seems idiosyncratic, I guarantee it's prevalent in your own life.

We're at a well-regarded tailor in Hoi An, hoping to get some nice custom-made suits, shirts, dresses, and skirts for ourselves. The quality is top notch, and price a steal. When a customer first enters the store, a tailor assistant greets you and invites you to sit down for a consultation. The same was true for us when we walked in, mesmerized by the walls of various fabrics, materials, and colors.

"What type of clothing are you looking for? Any particular style in mind?" the consultant asked us. Aileen proceeds to explain a particular dress she has in mind. Red, fluffy, solid-colored and with a slight sheen, but not too shiny. The consultant nods and forces smiles as Aileen explains the design, but is noticeably distracted. Every 10 seconds or so, her eyes are shifting elsewhere. A few times, she abruptly engages in a Vietnamese conversation with a colleague who appears out of nowhere. We were confused and slightly annoyed, but decided to give her benefit of the doubt. After all, this was a well-reputed tailor -- they must know what they're doing, right?

Ten to twenty minutes go by, and Aileen had finished explaining the 6 pieces she was hoping to get done. The consultant leaves, and we're waiting for...what, we're not quite sure. About 10 minutes after that, another consultant comes to our table, and explains that the first consultant had to tend to another client, and therefore, she instead will be taking over.

"So, miss, what type of clothing are you looking for? Do you have a style in mind?" the second consultant says, familiarly. Aileen had to start over.

Okay, let's come back to the present moment for a second. I don't want you to confuse this post with a Trip Advisor review. I'll do that on Trip Advisor later. The point I was trying to illustrate was that this first consultant, even though was seemingly responding to us, nodding her head, was not really there. She was talking, but she wasn't really there. I'm sure she was just doing her job, trying to serve one too many clients, and I'm sure her manager wouldn't have suggested otherwise, but the end result of this lack of presence was wasted time and breath, and frustration for us. I invite you to think back to the most recent 2-3 conversations you've had with a friend, colleague, classmate, partner, family member, anyone really, and ask yourself if you were really there. More often than not, we think it's not a big deal to check our phones, check out a girl, or do whatever it is we feel impulsed to do mid-conversation. Indeed, it may not be a big deal, in the way that a cardiac surgery is, but it makes the person you're conversing with feel a certain way about their degree of importance to you and also about how you are as a person. 

On that note, I'd like to challenge you to give your full, undivided attention to whoever you're talking to in your next few conversations, regardless of topic, and observe if you notice a difference in the quality of the talk. You may realize that the people around you are, after all, deserving of quality presence.