From Spirit, Southwest Airline’s in-flight magazine (Sept. 2011):

Spirit Lexicon
Entry No. 883

\’nan-ver-sa-shen\ noun [From Middle English non, not; and Latin conversatio, to associate with] 1. A verbal exchange between two or more people that is pointless, one-sided, or without logic. 2. The opposite of productive discourse. USAGE: While many nonversations transpire at locales like elevators and bus stops and are of the awkward, looks-like-it’s-going-to-rain variety, they also occur during business meetings, in which participants do not listen to one another and thus no conclusions are drawn.

EXAMPLE: “We hope to make progress on the Davis account, but the meeting dissolved into one big nonversation and nothing was accomplished.”

I read this on a plane a few months ago, and thought it might be a good topic for a blog, because idle speech is one of the karmic seed correlations I make sure I bring up in my DCI Wisdom for Daily Life groups.

The reason I always cover it is because this karmic seed, as innocuous as it sounds—what’s wrong with wasting a little time gossiping?—can have a powerful effect on your personal and business life.

People don’t respect what you say, people don’t listen to you when you ask them to do something, you find that sometimes you lack self-confidence, and/or you find yourself unable to take a well-deserved rest or enjoy a vacation? Do any of these problems sound familiar? If so, you might want to look at the seeds you are planting by wasting time with meaningless speech.

I have a problem: I went to The Ohio State University, which has an over 100 million dollar sports department. Most of the revenue they earn comes from one source: Ohio State football. It’s a religion there. Seriously. Everyone is involved somehow in the football program—I realized very quickly as a freshman to root for Ohio State in football games, because if we lost everyone would go home for the weekend, but if we won… everyone stayed and the parties were out of control.

Anyway, I digress… the point is I still have an interest in Ohio State football. So I have to be careful—not everyone is as interested in Ohio State football as I am. So what? So, if I bother other people by talking about football, I notice a few things start to happen… the first is that I feel like I have no free time. Now sure, we have a lot to do—Geshe Michael keeps us pretty busy—but he seems relaxed and able to enjoy his free time (what there is of it). Why can’t I?

Maybe it’s the football thing… also, I notice that people aren’t listening to me anymore. I go to a meeting (Geshe Michael has lots of them) and make suggestions—and I can’t get in a word edgewise. Maybe I need to look at the football thing again.

For you, maybe it’s not football—maybe you like to read about movie stars. What is Brad Pitt doing? Oh my God! Did you hear about Angelia Jolie?

Or maybe it’s politics or the news… there’s an easy way to check whether watching the news is helping you or not. After you watch a news program, does it motivate you to do something? Do you go out and help somebody afterwards? If not, then maybe you’re wasting your time. And if you bring up what you saw on the news with your family, friends, and/or co-workers… maybe you’ll feel too busy and pressured to notice that no one’s listening to you.

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4 Responses to Nonversation

  1. sometimes gossip also happens in the mind – worrying and useless self talk and feelings of jealously and grasping – even these have a direct correlation to seeing the world as ineffective and one is enveloped in a feeling of “nothing is working” – it does not have to be about sport or celebrities even useless talk about politics or people around you can cause this feeling of lack of self confidence – but I wonder what should we talking about – it cannot be dharma all the time –

    • ericbrinkman says:

      Dear Ramesh,

      It doesn’t necessarily have to be about Dharma, but it should be something helpful to people. For example, Mercedes gave a big lecture in Prescott about doing a liver cleanse–this can help people to be more healthy. Or Geshe Michael is constantly pitching his projects; these are not always specifically Dharma-related (he’s big on getting solar panels to Mexico right now, for example), but they are aimed at helping people.

      A lot of times I just try to ask people, “Do you need anything?” which is a nice conversation starter. 🙂

      Thanks for the post. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Nyingpo 老師 – Nonversation « 鑽石虎管理顧問有限公司

  3. ericbrinkman says:

    For anyone who’s interested, a friend is also translating my blogs into Mandarin… check it out:

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