A few months back I noticed my father and his younger brother having a conversation about each other’s life. My uncle is a brain surgeon in the US and my father is a first generation immigrant living in a Third World country where he raised a family. They were talking about stuff that I did not find particularly interesting however what struck me was the way the conversation went about.
During the conversation both my father and his brother took long pauses of up to several minutes before speaking about something. They felt no compunction to be funny or to tell a good story or a need to hold the other person’s attention. In short, they did not feel any need for validation or approval from the other person. I first thought that it is because they are brothers and have a level of comfort that enables them to do so, but when a mutual friend came along the pattern repeated—there were long pauses that were not at all awkward, most of the talk was mundane, and no one tried to one up the other or cut the other person in the middle of the conversation. This to me was absolutely striking as I have experienced exactly the opposite.
Whenever I am around with a friend of mine there is an instinctive need among both of us to talk non-stop, we both fear dead air like the radio business. A common result of the anxiety is that we usually run out of things to talk very quickly and rack our brains at 100 miles per hours to come up with something, which usually leads to exaggeration and padding. I have noticed the same with all of my friends and the situation becomes even more hopeless in front of girls where it is almost like an episode of a cookie cutter talent show with one minute to impress the judges.
In a group, the environment becomes even more desperate with everyone trying to out-talk and outshine the other person. This reminds me of one group discussion sessions in colleges or job interviews. The saddest part in the whole story is that there is no judge or a reward to be given for “winning” the conversation
The tendency of people to lapse into an audition mode as soon as there is a conversation through non-stop talking is what I would call the Audition Conversation. And as with so many other things this is an American export which as the Rome of modern world decides the culture in the provinces. The typical two-minute attention span of an average American is now finding its way all across the world, which has led to people approaching any conversation like an audition where they seek to keep the attention of the other person, rather than have a fulfilling, stress relieving conversation of my father’s generation. Conversations nowadays have the exact opposite effect.
The remedies that I suggest for the above mentioned problem are my own and I have only personal experience to vouch for, these are as follows:
1. Do not talk if you don’t want to
This is not as facile as it seems and the key to mastering it is to practice it. I stopped trying to impress or humor the other person and did not talk when I did not have anything to talk about. It was awkward and tough in the beginning, but you will eventually lose the anxiety.
2. Do not fear the other person leaving
This is a common fear that people have in this insane validation seeking society of ours. I no longer try to drag on a conversation when it gets tiring and usually leave when there is nothing to talk about or I derive no further utility from the company of the other person. This again will be difficult at first, but after a few attempts it will come naturally to you. Beware however that you are organic in your withdrawal and the other person does not feel that you used him as a therapist without hearing his side of the story. The best time to leave is when the conversation becomes stale and you will know when it does.
3. Do not ridicule
Now this one is a little more nuanced than a simple ‘thou shalt not’. Genuine light banter is almost always a part of any healthy conversation and there almost always develops a pecking order in any group which has been together for any length of time. However, my problem is with assholes that deride and mock someone in a group as a method of attention whoring. Yes, you may get a few laughs from people you don’t care about but more often than not you will create long-lasting bitterness in the person at receiving end of your mockery. The rule that I follow is simple: only mock people whose mockery you can laugh off. Take special care not to use the mockery method of getting more air time when meeting new people.
4. Do not heckle
Many times there is more than one especially motivated audition contestant. This usually leads to constant heckling, abrupt cuts and an all-out poisonous environment. Let the hecklers sort it out among them and take your leave as soon as the discussion degenerates into a heckling match.
5. Do not exaggerate
This is probably the hardest step to follow. As human being we instinctively crave drama. All of us deep in our hearts want titillation, deeds of valor or anything which would add spice to our mundane life, but the problem is when we make things up to fill that void. This manifests itself most remarkably in our tendency to over-dramatize a mundane event or even a different event that takes place in our lives. You have to stop the urge to exaggerate your deeds and that by itself will take away the validation-seeking mentality which has been bred into us by the pop culture of our times. You also have to let go of the need to cast yourself as the hero or winner of the story or claim a moral victory when the facts suggest clear defeat or surrender. In other words, do not lie to yourself.
These are protocols that I suggest would be useful for the manosphere, especially when the manosphere is taking the leap from internet to the real world and various meet ups are inevitably arranged. In the end I would like to tell all readers that conversations over time will be much less stressful and productive once the audition mentality is gone.