People Watching. What we can learn.

31 Aug 2016

I was eating outside at a restaurant in Spain the other evening and in my direct line of sight was a table of 7 people eating their dinner too.

I was fascinated watching them.

There were two young married couples, one with a small child in a highchair plus the grandparents, so 7 in all.

What I noticed, and this was a revelation to me, was that they hardly spoke to each other, they laughed occasionally but seemed totally at ease with one another.

I know they were an extended family, not a group of friends. However what struck me so forcefully was the contrast between how I would behave in such circumstances.

They didn't need to constantly talk as a way of reassuring each other, everyone was happy.

Cue me, I would not let a silence go on too long before saying something probably banal to make sure no-one was unhappy and everyone was enjoying themselves. One of the husbands occasionally looked at his phone and would show the others a photo. The child would cause the mothers to comment from time to time and the grandparents sat there, the grandfather talking every now and again to the son in law who was sitting opposite him.

It seemed to me to be just a content family meal taken at a restaurant.

I said to my OH that from now on I would not cajole people, family into talking if they didn't want to. From now on, I would allow silence! From now on, it wouldn't be up to me to keep the "party" going!

All those years when I've tried to be cheerful, feeling anything but cheerful (both with friends and family), I needn't have. I could have been myself (maybe?) but at any rate, not try to jolly everyone along. What an effort for nothing all these years! I laughed at the thought actually. I remonstrated with my OH to understand the comparison between this family (which he couldn't see as his back was facing them) and me and our family extended or not, over the years. He said that I shouldn't have bothered, that it was okay to be silent and that he was glad I was going to think about this for the future.

As we were walking back to our hotel, I said but you know, I know nothing about that family. They could have just had a massive argument or had a death in the family... I mean that's what it would have taken for me not to speak! We just didn't know what had gone on before the meal, but actually I did know. They did smile and laughed genuinely; they communicated but in an easy way. The child yawned and the parents laughed and talked kindly to him.

Well, I intend to put this into practice for the next 20 or 30 years and then maybe when I do actually say something, it will be a genuine comment and one I want to make.


A Moodscope member.

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