A disease is spreading throughout the world, but yet no major headlines are calling attention to it. It infects people, causing the death of relationships of all sorts. Those who have interacted with a disease-infected individual are left dumbfounded, sometimes depressed, and often speechless. This disease is none other than nonsermitis, and unfortunately, no one is safe.
More than likely, you too have encountered someone with nonsermitis, but you just didn’t realize it. More than likely, that is because a good friend and I coined the term last fall after she had the unfortunate situation of being trapped for hours with an infected individual and I had a date with someone inflicted with the same illness.
The pain in her eyes was great as she told me about her situation. For hours, she was trapped at a fair booth with the disease-infected individual. It was a slower evening at the fair, which led, in theory, to plenty of time for conversation. She would ask this other person questions, and he would answer. Then the conversation would stop. It wasn’t as though he was not wanting her to talk to him, and he was just giving her the cold shoulder. That wasn’t it at all, for he would stand there awkwardly, almost seemingly waiting for the next question but somehow incapable of having that next question come from his mouth.
Meanwhile, my situation was somewhat similar with my going on a first and only date with an individual who recited a monologue with the occasional question prompt from myself thrown into the mix. After the first twenty minutes or so, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped the prompts, and sure enough, there was awkward silence until my date would either return to a previously discussed topic or start a new soliloquy. At the end of the evening, I left knowing my date’s full history about pretty much everything while my date never learned about what I even did for a living, where I was from, what I would like to do in my spare time, and possibly what my name was; however, that didn’t stop me from receiving afterward text saying, “That was such a good time! We should definitely do this again.” We didn’t.
Some may simply refer to these people as “self-involved,” “self-centered,” “self-absorbed,” “egocentric,” “narcissistic,” or another word along those lines. However, my friend and I agreed there was something more to it. There have been too many people with whom I have had extremely fascinating and engaging conversations to then encounter once again and unfortunately find their ability to do so gone. Therefore, it has to be a disease. How else can one explain it?
Nonsermitis, though, comes in a variety of forms. Two of these are portrayed in the following Wait-But-Why-inspired-style illustrations.
Full Blown Nonsermitis Sufferer
The Very Thinly Masked Nonsermitis Sufferer
Some may be thinking that perhaps nonsermitis is not as serious as I may be making it out to be, but without a doubt, a wide range of problems can be caused by this disease.
The obvious one would be, of course, the effects they have on others during conversations. The following Fractured Fairy Tale provides a somewhat exaggerated but still pretty accurate portrayal:
Okay, so a person suffering from nonsermitis may not put an entire kingdom to sleep, but you can get the point of this problem. The person will never be seen by others as a great conversationalist despite his/her ability to talk often.
Another factor is nonsermitis prevents learning from taking place on behalf of the sufferer. A point my mother has told me often is everyone, regardless of the person’s background, age, sex, or any other demographic component, has something you can learn; however, you have to take the time to listen. That last word is hard for a nonsermitis sufferer, for the illness blocks the desire to use this facility.
The person becoming a bore is not the worst problem though. In fact, I think one could possibly put the blame of the demise of many relationships on nonsermitis based upon this great, short video from DNews:
As the video mentioned, one of the factors that can easily signal a doomed relationship is when a partner does not acknowledge the emotional bid of the other person. Taking the other person for granted or brushing off asking or asking but not truly listening can all lead to the relationship’s eventual death with the space being filled with a coldness that eventually can snuff out even the brightest of flames.
This is not only about romantic relationships either, for friendships too are put at risk when nonsermitis seeps in and causes a person to be blind to those flickers of wanting to share a story about something that has happened recently. While in the grand scheme, that story may seem about something insignificant, in reality, it can actually be a desire for a meaningful connection, a connection that needs to go both ways rather than one. It only takes the dashing of a few of these emotional bids to start the coldness from icing over the relationship.
So the question remains is if there is a cure. That I don’t really know. I asked one of my best friends who is a physician about one, but that led more into a whole conversation about my friend and my inventing a name for a disease that is yet to be recognized by the medical community. Needless to say, he didn’t think a round of antibiotics could knock it out.
Another problem comes into play that conversations themselves are even in trouble as Turkle pointed out in Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. She noted our society today has led to many people being unable to carry on conversations of any depth or length thanks to the distractions of electronic devices and the such. Even children are not learning the basics because they can’t even steal their parents’ attention away from the screens of cell phones to have a conversation.
Honestly, I didn’t believe Turkle after I read her book and thought it was greatly exaggerated, but then I started seeing examples time and again. Classrooms would be silent with students looking down at their phones rather than at each other. Couples would sit next to each other at restaurants and coffee shops and their phones would serve as their company rather than their potential soul mate sitting across the table. Then one of my colleagues told me all about how he went over the basics of a conversation with his students, and they all seemed enthralled/eager to learn what to many of us would seem like common sense but was something new to them. Turkle’s findings were being verified all over the place.
Don’t get me wrong, for I am no Luddite, and I have no proof there is a correlation between nonsermitis and the digital screen, but it they don’t seem to be helping. Just think about the basics of a most Facebook posts – they are about sharing something that happened in one’s life, and most of these are one-sided. Sure there are likes and comments; however, they rarely lead to a deep conversation on that medium at least, but I digress.
Back, though, to the topic at hand – the possible cure for nonsermitis. The first thing would be to diagnosis oneself. Many people I know with nonsermitis do not realize they suffer from the disease. That, after all, is also one of its tricky side effects. Therefore, after conversations with others, reflect about the experience. How much did you share about your life? How much did you learn about the other person? If upon reflection you realize you are struggling to remember your learning much about or from the person at all, you may be suffering from nonsermitis.
While there is no official medical treatment yet, I think probably one of the best ways to battle a case of nonsermitis was tackled by Dale Carnegie back in 1937. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, he points out time and again the importance of taking a genuine interest in others with his included it as the first rule to get others to like you. He even stated and then repeated in italics Aflred Adler’s quotation: “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.” By taking this advice to heart, one can, in theory, overcome nonsermitis.
Therefore, remember when starting a conversation with another to be genuinely interested in the other. Doing so may be the only way to keep nonsermitis at bay and keep this disease from destroying all of society as we know it.