Lately I’ve become aware of a verbal bad habit that I’ve allowed to become my conversational default setting. My first response to almost any question or comment directed at me is to say “I dunno.” For the past few says I’ve kept track of how often during the day I utter that short phrase. I was surprised and dismayed to find that I relied on “I dunno” nearly two dozen times a day.
Using an habitual phrase or verbal “tic” is a lazy way of conversing. I’ve been critical of people who rely on “uh”, “you know”, “like” to fill out their verbal responses. Such habitual utterings are usually a way for the speaker to allow his mouth to catch up to his brain when confronted with the necessity of verbal communication. In my case I think using “I dunno” is a way to waylay any further questions and to limit the potential conversation that might result from a more specific and meaningful response. I am not usually an enthusiastic conversationalist unless the conversation involves something I am truly interested in. I don’t do small talk.
I realize that “I dunno” is a deflective shield that I use because I don’t want to have to think of a real answer to the question put to me. Most often I am just being lazy. Sometimes I am lost in my own limited world of personal thought and don’t want to be bothered by an interruption that will sidetrack my thoughts. Yes, I realize that makes me selfish and self centered. My private personal internal conversations are more important to me than anything you can say or ask. I admit that makes me a bad person and someone no one wants to be around because I come across as utterly boring and totally ignorant. You can only claim that you “don’t know” just so often before people start to believe you. Then you become the village idiot who is just taking up space at the conversational table.
So I have decided to make a concentrated effort to overcome my “I dunno” habit. One way I thought of to fight this battle is to pretend not to hear. I can legitimately claim at least partial deafness in my left ear so I figure if I make a concerted effort to always be to the right of whoever is speaking to me and expecting a response, I can honestly point to my left ear as the reason for my unresponsive behavior. That way I can just ignore most of the verbal chaff that is flying around me and pick and choose my conversational spots. Of course by now everyone knows that “I dunno” a damn thing about anything since I have convinced them of such with my history of ignorant answers to their questions. So maybe everyone will simply stop talking to me. I can return to my private reveries uninterrupted by conversational intrusions.
Uh, like, you know, that just might work but I dunno.