I was at a local grocery store at the beginning of fall. The produce section housed the last tomatoes of the summer and the first apples of the fall – that’s my favorite time of the year, where things are blending. I was drawn to the large display of locally grown apples. There was a small crowd of grocery enthusiasts ready to purchase the first taste of Virginia fall.

As I filled my flimsy plastic bag with a couple of apples I noticed two women loading apples into a grocery cart. No bags. No one peck baskets. They loaded them straight into the grocery cart. They had filled the entire cart with one layer of apples and they were steadily loading more.

I’ve inherited the “she could talk to a wall gene” from my father. So I did what any small-talker would do. I started asking questions.

Me: “Wow, that’s a lot of apples. What are you guys going to do with them all?”

Them: *Three second stare followed by loading more apples into their cart.*

Maybe they didn’t hear me?

Me (increased voice volume): “THAT’S A LOT OF APPLES. WHAT ARE YOU GUYS MAKING?”

Them: *Three second stare followed by continued apple loading.*

Maybe we’re having a communication breakdown. I support people who sometimes have a hard time expressing themselves, so let me whip out my professional toolbox to repair this conversation.

Me: “Wow! You guys must love apples! Are you making pies, cobblers, applesauce or something different?”

Oldest of the two women: “Why are you so nosey?”

BOOM! I was so shocked. There were no communication barriers, the women had perfect hearing. They just weren’t interested in having a conversation with me. This was a shock – I come from a long line of small talkers. My father never met a stranger. I spent a good majority of my childhood waiting for him to finish in-depth and long-winded conversations with people he was meeting for the first time. Many of these conversations started with a simple question like, “What are you going to do with all those apples?”

Conversation, an exchange of information and ideas. We have hundreds of conversations everyday with friends, relatives, children or even a stranger in the grocery store. Conversations can be tough, funny, thought provoking, upsetting or scary. Conversations can take a lot of forms and meander down windy paths of topics but all conversations share one major trait. They cannot happen without asking questions. Go ahead. Try it. Try to have a conversations without asking one question.

It’s tough, right?

One of the things our Customized Employment department offers is Discovery, not the space shuttle or the channel. It’s an empowering process that asks questions that leads to conversations about a job-seeker’s skills, experiences, interests, employment conditions and good ways to support them. We believe that having conversations with the entire support team can help us learn about the job-seeker and lead to an individual and customized job match that will lead to meaningful employment.

Gift of Gab
Gift of Gab