Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Tell me more."

This morning I read an NPR interview with Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent, the TV series she based on one of her own parents coming out as trans late in life. (I haven't seen it yet.)

She said when her parent came out to her, she was relieved because it filled in so many missing pieces: "Ohh, this is what I have not known." 

Right away she let her parent know these four things:
"I love you unconditionally," and, "I'm so proud of you," and, "This is so brave of you," and "Tell me more."
Isn't that a good list of things parents could tell their kids too?  
And in dealing with other people, while the first three might not fit, Tell me more almost always fits.

It's huge in scope, and yet it's short to say.  :)
What's not to like?
And yet, we don't always feel free to say it. Or maybe that's just the case here in the Midwest USA? where asking any questions can seem terribly rude...

When I was twenty-five years old, living in Chicago, and asking people far more ––and far more probing–– questions than I do now,* a friend said, "You are the Bill Moyers of Chicago", which pleased me a lot.

But Moyers's secret isn't that he asks probing questions. I listened closely and realized mostly he says, "tell me more", over and over. And then he listens. (Or looks like he's listening. These aren't extemporaneous interviews, they're researched and crafted ahead of time. Still.)

I must have shown real interest, but I wasn't a good interviewer. When I saw a video of me doing an interview, I was shocked at how much I interrupted.  *cringes*
(Oprah does that, and it drives me nuts--her interviews are more about her than her subject.)

Interruptions are fine for free-wheeling conversations with friends, but bad for interviews where you want to give the person space (or, to put it in the negative, you want to give them rope...), 
and interruptions are terrible for conversing with people whose thoughts are easily derailed. 
Like people who live with dementia. 

Making art weekly with Tim, I try very hard not to interrupt him. He's a very funny and verbal guy, but Mr. Alzheimer has sunk holes in his conversational abilities, and he doesn't need more holes from my interruptions.
I find myself saying, "tell me more" a lot.

Our art-partnership went well again yesterday. 
I love putting words on/in pictures (like those of Maira Kalman --links to And the Pursuit of Happiness), and Tim is quoteable. 
We were drawing a breadboard with a piece of toast on it when he got a phone call. 
My toast here looks like a meat chop, but I love what he said to the caller, 
which I wrote on my watercolor:

* I ask less probing questions now, not because I've learned not to interrupt but because at midlife I'm not as confused by (or even curious about) random individuals. 
I start to feel at midlife that "I have met the type before."

That's a line I always loved in Room with a View, or anyway, I love how Maggie Smith as Cousin Charlotte delivers her judgement, 
"Unfortunately, I have met the type before." 

Of course the problem is not only can that be icky and dismissive, but you can be quite wrong about people! 
Charlotte's talking about George, whom she fears will brag about having kissed her ward, Lucy, and damage Lucy's reputation. But he doesn't; it's Charlotte herself who can't resist spreading the news...


The Crow said...

I would eat that piece of toast, based on your drawing. It looks tasty!

Fresca said...

Bless you, Crow.
It *was* quite a meaty piece of toast, come to think of it, full of nuts and seeds---from a loaf of bread from a local bakery.
I didn't get to eat it though--just draw it.
Next time!

bink said...

Bread is so often deformed. Or should I say, so easily deformed. So pork chop shaped bread still looks like bread.

Zhoen said...

What a funny and wonderful statement, busy, drawing a piece of toast.

I hate being intrusive, so while I will gladly listen, I tend not to ask questions. Especially medical ones, because people tend to tell me more than they realize - as I reflexively diagnose.

The more types I've seen, the less apt I am to consign anyone to a box. But I am less curious about people, too.

Fresca said...

BINK: *smiles* But there's the trouble with texture too--my image is too smooth. I like the tip you gave me--to use a sponge.

ZHOEN: Now I'm older, I put people in boxes more than I used to.
It's like sorting donations at the thrift store:
"This thing goes with the other things like it".

Every person is their own thing, but people don't surprise me so much anymore.
I leave the lid off the box, just in case!

Frex said...

Frex = Fresca
P.S. It occurs to me "tell me more" isn't a question, it's an invitation
(not an order). That's one of the things I like so much about it.