• T. W. Emory

Most Everybody’s Favorite Topic

All oral and written communication boils down to making some kind of statement or asking a question. I was surprised when I first realized this. I suppose I’d assumed that the mechanics or functional details of communication (and not just its content), was a far more finely-drawn and nuanced business than it actually is. But no. You’re either making a statement, or you’re asking a question. Now statements vary, of course, as do questions; but still, it’s either one or the other. Period.

With all these statements and questions going on, it would suggest that conversation is a regular give-and-take, tit-for-tat, or back-and-forth affair, or perhaps even a combative and adversarial proposition, not unlike fencing. Sometimes. However, a question doesn’t always get a reply, and a statement doesn’t always give rise to a query. Some people answer questions with questions, while others respond to statements with statements. In fact, a study seems to indicate that most people get by just fine in life by mainly making statements, and asking very few questions.

Back in July of 2016, the Scientific American featured an article titled “The Neuroscience of Everybody’s Favorite Topic—Why do people spend so much time talking about themselves?” Evidence indicates on average that people spend 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves—and that this figure rises to 80 percent on social media platforms. Why so? Apparently, because it simply feels good. Experimental research reveals that such “self-disclosure” activates areas of the brain or neural regions associated with motivation and reward, and that the rewarding feeling comes even if no one is listening. But this isn’t solely a matter of being self-centered as one might be quick to assume, because apparently there can be positive benefits to oneself as well as to others through self-disclosure. Sharing private information about ourselves to others can increase interpersonal liking, help form new social bonds, promote teamwork, as well as lead to personal growth by getting helpful feedback.  

So, if people spend 60% of their communication in self-disclosure, and this goes up to as high as 80% on social media platforms, then one take-away from this experimental research seems to be that most of us probably use far more statements than we do questions. It also seems to give a fresh shade of meaning to that classic line from the movie Beaches, which oddly enough, combines a statement with a question: ”But enough about me, let’s talk about you… what do you think of me?”

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