Sibongile Mafu

Dinner Party Debate

2013-03-20 09:55

Sibongile Mafu

The constant need to always be right and always be "heard" takes away the opportunity and the excitement of learning something new from others, and also forging new connections with people, which would have been shut off by an unwillingness to budge and a reluctance to just listen.

I was at a dinner party last week with energetic young people like myself. The conversation flowed over various bottles of wine and hearty servings of fried chicken and lasagne.  I met new people, which are often not as exciting a practice as we often make it out to be, and various topics were touched on and debated.  You begin to see how these personalities that have been thrown together, some familiar with each other, some not, trying to mesh and negotiate this new space.

We talked about many things from Tiger Woods and Cristiano Ronaldo's legacies to how men approach women, and it was interesting to note how individuals tackle certain issues.

In a dinner party, there are always the hosts who've kindly offered up their home to entertain their friends. They are more often than not the peacekeeper whilst these debates are going on, and also provide much-needed breaks between conversation when they bring out a new tray of deliciousness. They try their hardest to make sure everyone is comfortable, and at the very least everyone gets their turn to speak.

Then there are the quiet ones who don't speak up nearly as often as they should, but when they do their points are powerful, and are able to silence the table for a few beats. They're the thinkers who you feel hold back, because they listen, they digest and then they engage. Every dinner party needs this kind of personality as it grounds everyone around them and reminds people that at the end of the day it may possibly not be all about you.

Then there are the debating champions who want nothing more than for you to hear their points, and for them to hear their own points. The argument’s strength lies in mostly being able to interrupt like a pro, forever throwing in a "hold that point", when someone else is speaking. I'm afraid you'll be holding that point forever. They like the sound their point makes and for the most part aren't there to hear anything you have to say. And these are the ones, as mentioned earlier, who find it an unfathomable notion to be wrong.

I have always been one to fall between these two kinds of dinner party personalities. Drifting in and out of the conversation as I watch the debating champion take over. You do however get the feeling that by the end of the night, the only person whose points you remember was the person who was the loudest. Their points may have neither been good nor bad, just heard.

Maybe that needs to change. If we take a dinner party analogy and brought into the current landscape we find ourselves in, maybe it's time to start shifting the importance of the loudest voice and start focusing on the gems that are imparted by those who are given very little opportunity to speak, but when they do it's often measured, sober, and perhaps different to what we've thought is the norm for all of us this time.

How refreshing would it be to not always be hearing the same voices around the same issues all the time? So speak up. Interrupt the interrupter. Be memorable.

I look forward to that dinner party.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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