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Time to Talk about what we Talk about

By Jamie Rodney

My previous article (read it, it's not too bad) about the importance of having friends that you disagree with politically, got me thinking about something. I have quite a lot of friends - mainly in St Andrews, but outside as well - who I literally only speak to about politics, and nothing else. Being an unashamed politics geek, this hadn't struck me as anything out of the ordinary until I properly considered it. Surely, it's a little bit odd that I have relationships in which I know people's views on the French Government, but not their birthday's or favourite colours? That I can have conversations with people that - other than maybe a grunted "How you doing?"- revolve solely around this politician or that government. Can you really have a proper relationship with someone, that only revolves around discussions of one topic?

This obviously isn't something common only to me and my fellow political anoraks. Replace politics with sport, or fashion, or any other interest that you care to name, and everyone reading this article will probably have the same kinds of relationships with people too. Now, I have a tendency to overthink things, but after a little thought, I had managed to convince myself that this was bizzare, even a little unhealthy. Surely to be friends with someone, you have to-you know- know them? Otherwise, you don't have a friendship, you have a minature discussion group- which, sure, can be interesting, and stimulating, and all the rest of it, but it's never going to be as good as the real thing.

So, earlier this week, I randomly messaged one of my political friends, and tried to engage him in a non-political discussion. Despite the fact that this week saw not one, but two cabinet reshuffles (that's a big deal to me. Don't judge.), I tried to keep the conversation away from elections and resignations and breifings-against, and instead on the kind of thing I had assumed normal people spoke about. Small talk. Plans for the summer. Module choices. That kind of thing. Occasionally, we drifted into deeper, more personal stuff, the kind of thing characters in YA Novels tell each other when the author wants the reader to know that they're GETTING CLOSE and A PERSONAL CONNECTION IS BEING FORMED.

And it was fine, I guess. Neither any better, nor any worse than the conversations I usually have with him. But certainly nothing I felt like had been desperately missing from our relationship previously. Maybe you're rolling your eyes at how blindingly obvious the point I'm making to you is, but I was genuinely surprised by this. I thought that being told about someone's life would feel markedly different from chatting about the lives of people we're never going to meet, but I doubt I'll even remember that conversation in a couple of months.

Now, you're probably wondering if there's any takeaway from this other than my ability to string an anecdote out for five hundred words, so I'll try and sum up quickly. Basically, what this short episode taught me, is that trying to make your relationships fit in with some kind of preconceived model of what kind of friendships are and aren't ideal. It doesn't matter if your interactions are based solely around discussions of your feelings or of Dungeons and Dragons. As long as you treat each other with respect , and you enjoy one another's company, there's no issue. I know that when I'm down, chatting about politics can perk me up more than any amount of soul-bareing. So just talk about what you're interested in, and don't worry about what you think an ideal relationship should be.

But that said, I probably should get better at remembering birthdays.

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