Good for you!

Bill-newby L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Quite by accident I have learned there is a remarkably simple way to be dismissive without being contemptuous or scornful (assuming of course one applauds that talent in one’s conversational arsenal).  It is the mark of a skilled socialite that he or she is capable of lathering the subject with sufficient balm to obfuscate the true intention. No one likes a complainer and it defeats the purpose of idle chatter to engage in protracted and potentially disapproving analysis.  While most people are reluctant to admit it, they are by and large uninterested in the trivialities of another’s existence.  I suspect that apart from a mother’s love of her child there are few instances when human beings feel driven to comprehend another’s affairs especially when couched in mere street jabbering.

To call this interactional discovery of mine an epiphany would be to attribute to it an unintended blessing. It was far more insidious than a sudden revelation or insight.  Awakening would be nearer the mark, at least with the addition of an abrupt and uncomfortable feature.  You see, the sword was turned on me and I took it in the neck.  What is extraordinary however is that so deft was the inflicted wound that I hadn’t a clue of the injury until afterwards. I would be giving myself far more credit than I deserve to suggest that it was any power of reasoning which ultimately enlightened me.  It was only when I unintentionally practiced the identical deceit that I fully appreciated the import of the device.  I caught myself echoing the very vapid words which had been previously directed to me.

People with whom one casually discusses their health and the weather are entitled to common courtesy.  It would for example be the height of presumption to openly challenge them on the propriety of what they say or do unless of course invited to do so and even then I would likely be both cautious and disinclined. Yet this isn’t to suggest that one should compromise for the sake of suavity.  Token civility tarnishes an otherwise polished advocate.  The trick is to convey a sense of interest while virtually saying nothing at all or at least without overtly diluting your real thoughts.

It is a small compliment to humanity that each of us tends to put the most desirable spin possible on anything said to us approaching flattery.  Not only are we gullible to do so but more importantly we are proof of the adage that flattery is a net before another man’s feet.  Even the more sharp-witted among us are susceptible to the honeyed words of fawning.  Indeed I have found that the more one is entitled to approbation the more one seeks it though you’d think it were otherwise.  The weakness is understandable in that one assumes there is already a degree of conviction about what one is doing.  Hearing a bit of encouragement about the project can however cause one to hurtle forward rather more quickly than merited.  If the act of approval is repeated by others, even along the same lines of tentative or insipid commentary, the affair gathers steam and may quickly become out of control.  So this is just a reminder that the next time you share with someone the details of your life’s agenda, be wary of the retort, “Good for you!”  It may not mean what you first think.