I had an interesting conversation with a seagull this morning. I’m not exactly sure what we discussed because I’m not particularly fluent in seagull. He made a lot of noises. I mimicked what he had said. Then he made more noises, and I responded to them. He had more to say than I did, probably because my vocabulary was limited. Yet we remained engaged far longer than I would have expected. The other gulls seemed surprised, too.
I guessed that he was the kingpin of his flock. He didn’t actually say this in so many words, but it became evident in several ways. At the beginning of our conversation, he moved from the eave to the peak of the roof. Other gulls moved over to make room. Then he squawked a few more times and flew to the top of the chimney. The gull sitting there flew down to the roof without retort. During all this squawking and shuffling of positions, none of the other gulls made a sound or challenged my friend in any way.
So there he sat, on the top of the chimney; and there I stood, on the ground below. He was clearly in a position of superiority to me. He also had the advantage of being a native speaker of the language in which we were conversing. Fortunately, nothing I said seemed to upset him or his compatriots. In retrospect, a gaffe on my part could have resulted in a scene reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock film. I was, after all, clearly outnumbered.
Before long, I tired of standing on the ground looking up at the gull. I also ran out of things to say. So I decided to just say goodbye in English and move on. The gull must have been ready for the conversation to end as well. He did not protest my departure in any way, and suddenly became as silent as the other gulls around us.
Gulls, like most people, just need someone to listen – even if they don’t speak the same language or approach life the way we do.
- How do you approach conversations with someone you don’t understand?
- Do you attempt to get them to see things your way?
- Are you willing to just listen even when you don’t relate?
- What are you looking to get from conversation with others?
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