Raging narcissism and paralyzing hatred toward the world OR....
October 26, 2017 9:32 PM   Subscribe

 
I really needed to read this today, thank you so much for finding this!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:47 PM on October 26 [3 favorites]


I started asking why people were not going to hire me, after teaching interviews. I said just please consider it an exercise and it will help me improve my interviews. They said, the other person was a better fit. I can tell you that is absolutely true, I do not have enough amoeba like qualities to fit, I just am.
posted by Oyéah at 10:01 PM on October 26 [27 favorites]


Seems too easy.
posted by BYiro at 10:11 PM on October 26


Seems too easy.
posted by BYiro at 10:11 PM on October 26 [+] [!]


Those are the toughest things.
posted by helmutdog at 10:31 PM on October 26 [3 favorites]


I don’t always understand your comments, Oyéah, but I feel your comment today on a spiritual level.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:32 PM on October 26 [12 favorites]


Narcissism is one of those conditions that just gets worse as time passes. If you wake up one morning wondering if you might be a psychopath, seek help. That one person you've latched onto so tightly deserves it.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:32 PM on October 26 [7 favorites]


People who don't fit in aren't narcissists! While I agree the idea that one person should be your support is iffy, the idea that depth in friends is better than width isn't such a bad thing for those of us who have trouble making friends. People who don't fit in aren't psychopaths? What is wrong with you that you would insult so many of us?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:50 PM on October 26 [22 favorites]


Narcissism and hate are not the inevitable conclusion of not following his suggestions.

Some of us just lived in a semi-hermitage with our online pals for support.
posted by Samizdata at 10:56 PM on October 26 [5 favorites]


This was pretty deeply irritating, especially the line of thinking captured in Thought you were entering into a casual little chit chat, well YOU WERE WRONG!. If I'm making small talk with you about the weather, I have 0 interest in 'getting real' with you or whatever (at least at this moment). I'll just think you're a weird poser who thinks they're above normal conversation and avoid you from here on out.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:36 PM on October 26 [48 favorites]


Does it get less horrifying after the first three paragraphs? Asking for a me.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:57 PM on October 26 [41 favorites]


Nope, it gets worse.
posted by Kosmob0t at 12:17 AM on October 27 [6 favorites]


I get by fine with a healthy respect for my paralyzing hatred towards the world and a legitimate assessment of my raging narcissism.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:21 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


The self-congratulatory "I'm too deep for phatic interaction" of point one put me off. No, people chatting to you at the bus stop don't actually care that much about you. That is normal.
posted by thelonius at 1:14 AM on October 27 [9 favorites]


Holy crap I can’t count how many times I’ve been cornered by someone like this at a party or conference. This is basically the attitude you find in those “how to care for your introvert” articles but 100x worse.

It reads like a game faq where the goal is “get what you need out of the people around you” by min maxing your inputs and simulating human outputs. Anything given is solely for the utility of getting something back. Having someone like this in your life is to know what it’s like to be a bioware rpg, dudes just pounding on that affinity score.
posted by danny the boy at 1:29 AM on October 27 [20 favorites]


Does it get less horrifying after the first three paragraphs? Asking for a me.

This might help.
posted by Dean358 at 1:30 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


this person failed at fight club.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:33 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


YMMV but I found this more to my taste as antidote to this dreadful article.
posted by Kosmob0t at 1:40 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


The pitch may be a little... eh... but you really do find out really cool things if you take a genuine interest in people when they make chit chat. Like, I was reading the Muqaddimah in a Lyft, and it turns out my driver was a medieval studies wizard? Who knew?

It is also the case that one of my favorite people in the world is well known for opening conversations with new people with a disarmingly sincere, "What do you do?" He has a way of asking it that makes you say, "I write songs and little essays for my neighborhood newspaper!" instead of, "I'm a programmer."
posted by billjings at 2:35 AM on October 27 [9 favorites]


I think the problem is the way he's saying it and how it's much more about him as a messenger than the message itself. Someone once said to me something like: "If someone says they want to be your teacher, politely refuse; If they say they want to help you, start looking for the exit; If they say they want to save you, run like the wind." There's nothing wrong with teaching, helping and saving per se, but people who put themselves at the centre of the narrative like that - making it about them and their dazzling insights, looking around greedily for people to subject to their largesse - should be given a wide berth.
posted by Grangousier at 3:03 AM on October 27 [51 favorites]


I think that this article probably read a lot better in the original Klingon.
posted by Chitownfats at 3:14 AM on October 27 [30 favorites]


Have you found this article on an alternate medium?
posted by filtergik at 3:41 AM on October 27


"Why are you just OK?"

Because I'm conversing with a person who wants to win at small talk.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:46 AM on October 27 [38 favorites]


The „winning at smalltalk“ line made me think this was satire. I‘m still not quite convinced it isn‘t.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:52 AM on October 27 [6 favorites]


Make it your mission to find out as much as possible about that person in 30 seconds.

Oh good god no.

I spent a couple of months living in a shared house with someone who was like this. He worked in sales for Groupon when it was becoming huge in the UK (persuading businesses to offer groupon offers), and had clearly read some book about appearing trustworthy and quickly building rapport, and decided to apply it to his whole life. Every interaction became a rapid string of increasingly personal and "insightful" questions, trying to get you to open up so he could find a toehold subject to start empathising with you about. Between that, a constant smile that only touched his eyes when making a "we're all lads together" misogynist joke, and addressing people by name in almost every sentence, he was one of the creepiest fuckers I've ever had to spend time with.

In contrast, possibly my favourite interaction I've ever had with a stranger was my seatmate on a transatlantic flight a few years ago. I'd steeled myself to the idea that lots of people apparently want to become friends with the person a computer has plopped them next to, and as I sat down made some innocuous piece of small talk. In response, she turned on me such a perfect expression of dismay that I immediately understood we'd be good completely ignoring each other for the next eight hours. Heaven.

More seriously, I do get that there's a wide swath of healthy middle ground, and not all instances of getting to know people are terrible. The article's message that everyone feels like they don't fit in and are too deep for small talk is probably mostly true, and worth being reminded of. But interactions that leave you feeling like someone is running an algorithm on you can get really creepy really fast, and this sort of advice does seem to tend to end up there.
posted by metaBugs at 4:13 AM on October 27 [13 favorites]


People who don't fit in aren't psychopaths? What is wrong with you that you would insult so many of us?

I love that I initially (mis)read this as an expression of dismay at the insult of not being correctly labeled a psychopath.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:21 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


I feel like the only person who kind of likes small talk. It‘s nice getting to know people in a low stakes way. I mean, the weather is just the beginning. Afterwards you can talk about food or gripe about public transport or any other topics you share. The best thing is when you find something you both have a laugh about.
And sure, some people are assholes, but how would leading into a deep, meaningful conversation with them improve things??
posted by Omnomnom at 4:31 AM on October 27 [17 favorites]


Yes, if I initiated a round of small-talk that resulted in someone actually crying, I think I might discover some previously unknown ability to transform, chameleon-like, into the same pattern as the wallpaper out of sheer mortification.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:40 AM on October 27 [10 favorites]


We need to be able to flag comments (e.g. this one) as not fitting in.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:47 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


Oh, and (while I'm still feeling the snark):

I’m Todd, and I motivate creative people.

That's not in doubt, Todd. The question is: what exactly do you motivate them to do? My guess would involve a heady cocktail of panic, nausea and fleeing, but there's a lot of leeway for a range of responses, I suppose.

(This sort of thing makes me quite angry, beyond my capacity to reasonably explain my anger. So it comes out as snark.)
posted by Grangousier at 5:03 AM on October 27 [18 favorites]


Nobody cares that much what you think of the weather either, dude. That's why they call it small talk. It's not that you and you alone have developed some kind of refined taste that soars above our heads.

But, you know. Even if people did care about the weather, even if they asked you because they were hugely interested in it. If what you want is to learn as much about them as you can in thirty seconds, isn't that a thing you could learn? And not just "rain, good/bad?". You can learn how they get to work in the morning, how much of the journey they spend outside, how engaged they feel with the outside world, or how much attention they're paying to it at 6.45am. You can learn a lot about people by finding out what they think about rain or dark winter nights and mornings. You can learn what their plans are for the weekend. You can learn how they're feeling. You can learn what they care about. You can learn their sense of humour. You could learn so much, if you wanted to.
posted by Catseye at 5:17 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


I'm also on Team Ick. This piece struck me as advice undergirded by anger. Small talk isn't my strong point, but I'm pretty OK at making strangers feel like they matter enough to be noticed and seen as fellow human beings, and it sure feels a lot better than being a smiling Inquisition.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:18 AM on October 27 [11 favorites]


Focusing on asking people about themselves is not an antidote to “being bad at small talk” — it is an antidote to “making everything about me all the time.”

The author may have made some baby steps away from all eclipsing soliloquy, but the gamification of chit-chat is a poor way to simulate social competence. People can smell gamification, and it can make something as hollow as small talk seem even hollower.

There’s nothing wrong with the weather as a topic.
posted by Construction Concern at 5:26 AM on October 27 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the author ends by saying you should work to help others feel like they fit in, and I do, indeed, feel like I fit in... to the group of people who dislike this article and believe that it would be hard to find a more perfect example of “smarmy.” So, good work, Todd Brison! Now please, stop communicating with people forever.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:32 AM on October 27 [6 favorites]


I just woke up, and I had a pretty elaborate dream where I was warned to keep an eye on Todd because something is up with him. I know two people named Todd, and both are kind and trustworthy, so I was sure it wasn't either of them, and I started trying to remember any other Todds and all I could think of was that I think there was a guy on Breaking Bad named Todd, but he's not real.

Then, I got up, got some coffee, and read this first thing just because it looked short and easy and I'm still discombobulated.

I was a little on the fence about the small talk thing, like maybe he's eliding the part where he only really grills people if they are into it. Maybe he leaves you alone if you're uncomfortable with that, as I would be. Maybe he's OK.

I didn't see his name until I got to the end.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:52 AM on October 27 [8 favorites]


As a lifelong Minnesotan, I view the weather as a very serious topic of conversation, although perhaps not as serious as the TV weatherpeople think. What bothers me most about this article is the thought of poor Kate, carrying all this guy's emotional eggs in her basket. Talk about emotional labor!
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 5:54 AM on October 27 [18 favorites]


Asking people a lot of questions about themselves is a classic piece of interpersonal gamesmanship -- so classic that I now consider it rather crude to do or have it done to me: the sound and vibration of the gears grinding can be quite palpable.

While TFA seems to focus on buttering up peers, strangers or superiors, the technique actually works by far the best when carried out by the social or hierarchical superior of the interacting pair. Nothing instills affection and loyalty than feeling one's contextual superior has an authentic and serious interest in one.
posted by MattD at 5:56 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


Nothing instills affection and loyalty than feeling one's contextual superior has an authentic and serious interest in one.

Pretty sure my reaction to this has always been "gah no, I'm here to work/play this gig/whatever, I don't want to tell you anything about what I'm like after I've clocked off/gone home".

The only way you're going to learn anything meaningful about me is by spending a lot of time with me, until I eventually get to trust you and open up (or decide that you're a wanker and not worth trusting). Or hang out in an online space where you'll be showered with my inane bullshit if you want it or not (like here!)
posted by Dysk at 6:13 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


Don't tell me what to do, TODD.

I am super SUPER over these totally self-assured 20-somethings imparting their "wisdom" on the rest of us. They never have any real cred. What have you done? TODD? Other than write an airheaded book full of psych 101 concepts and Pinterest memes. Or skimming a bunch of pop psych books and regurgitating them on Medium.
posted by Stonkle at 6:15 AM on October 27 [32 favorites]


Eat shit, TODD
posted by Stonkle at 6:19 AM on October 27 [11 favorites]


Focusing on asking people about themselves is not an antidote to “being bad at small talk” — it is an antidote to “making everything about me all the time.”
Yeah, this. When I first encountered the advice to ask people about themselves, I was still in the stage of not-very-good-at-personing where I would go off on extended, excited monologues about whatever thing was fascinating me at the time, not realizing that their eyes were glazing over. Now that I'm a little better at speaking person as a second language, I realize that there should be a degree of reciprocity in small-talk conversations: they give you something; you give them something; everyone feels listened-to; nobody feels interrogated. But baby steps: people don't learn to person in a day, and maybe this guy is doing really remedial personhood.

I do think the thing with only having one close relationship is both unwise and really unfair to Kate. He basically admits that if Kate dies before him, it's game-over for him. But Kate actually could die before him. Kate could break up with him. It's really not smart to put yourself in a situation where you're 100% dependent on any one person. And I can't imagine that it's very fun for Kate.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:19 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


> I am super SUPER over these totally self-assured 20-somethings imparting their "wisdom" on the rest of us.

But that's what you *do* during your '20s! Lord knows I and my equally-insufferable friends did. If you're lucky you gain enough wisdom as you get older to realize what a clueless bozo you actually were.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:37 AM on October 27 [11 favorites]


Every interaction became a rapid string of increasingly personal and "insightful" questions, trying to get you to open up so he could find a toehold subject to start empathising with you about.

UGH. We had a sales guy like that where I work. I dreaded having to ride in elevators with him.

I’m good at not fitting in. I do it all the time. But humans need to belong...

We don't need to belong everywhere and in every situation. I'm totally okay with being alone and unconnected in some places, such as public restrooms or when I am TRYING to read my book and eat my lunch in peace or just have a nice walk. Let me belong when and where I like, and kindly fuck off otherwise, thanks.
posted by Foosnark at 6:59 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


For some reason, I couldn't help hearing this in the voice of Dr. Niles Crane.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:01 AM on October 27


wash your mouth out with soap. Niles would eat this guy for breakfast.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:26 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


I think Todd is actually a Landmark Forum Markov chain generator.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:33 AM on October 27 [6 favorites]


Oh man, it's The Ultimate Survival Guide to Amplifying All of My Least Favorite Parts of My Personality! Yo dawg, I heard you liked being interrupted every two minutes, well how do you like BEING INTERRUPTED WITH A BUNCH OF PERSONAL QUESTIONS EVERY THIRTY SECONDS? You like me turning every conversation to be about me? How about ME TALKING ABOUT MY SELF-ACTUALIZATION JOURNEY! You enjoy oversharing? Upgrade to INAPPROPRIATE LEVELS OF EMOTIONAL INTIMACY! Seriously, I'm trying to do less of this stuff...
posted by capricorn at 7:38 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


ironically, I feel like a lot of these weird lifehacks and expectations to MAKE EVERY INTERACTION COUNT and MILK THE EVER-LIVING SHIT OUT OF LIFE can make socially anxious people really fucking anxious.

The most welcoming social situations I've been in were created by people who had zero expectations to be entertained/informed/impressed by me, and who didn't expect me to feel entertained/informed/impressed by them.

I'm saying these feelings may happen, but forcing makes everything so ridiculous and fake.

For example I tend to be quiet but I am 100% not shy. I just don't feel like fucking talking if I have nothing to say. But fuck me the number of times people have come to "rescue" me because they thought I was a lost introvert who needed fixing. I have more than a few friends who are actually socially anxious and they do not enjoy the martyrdom of people who go out of their way to MAKE IT COUNT!!1 either.

It's all self-congratulatory bs.
posted by Tarumba at 7:54 AM on October 27 [16 favorites]


I’m Todd, and I motivate creative people.
Call me when Todd's established his cult of Toddness and is gnawing on the bones of his disciples.

Along the same lines, I give you "10 Surprisingly Inspirational Quotes from Evil People."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:07 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


Todd is dead. Todd remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become Todds simply to appear worthy of it?
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:14 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


"Forget weed or LSD or opium..."

OK now this is just crazy talk.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:23 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


Hm. I never noticed this at the bottom of Medium pieces before:
Show your support

[clapping button]

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Todd Brison’s story.
Please clap.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:27 AM on October 27 [14 favorites]


Clapping shows how much you appreciated Todd Brison’s story.

Clap if you believe in website monetization!
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:34 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


When parenting, folks like to emerge from the woodwork to be like 'use this technique to get your kid to do X' and I'm like, technique? My kid can smell technique a million miles off and lets me know with her actions, fuck you and your technique. So I just have to deal with her as, like, a person and individual and figure out what her actual issue is and how it would be best to deal with her.

It's clearly genetic because nothing makes me angrier than some salesperson making eye contact and fake smiling and acting like we were placed here together to make friends and really just connect, you know? Not all of the people who do this are salespeople, but they might as well be.
posted by palindromic at 8:40 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


People who like to talk about themselves think everyone likes to talk about themselves, because people who like to talk about themselves make up the majority of people talking about themselves.

I don't like talking about myself to strangers, including that I don't even like having to tell people THAT. So it always seems weird and inappropriate to me when people start grilling me about personal things. It's like they're trying to force a casual acquaintance to the personal disclosures stage of friendship, which is what people do when they're trying to sell you something or otherwise manipulate you.

It's not a sign of unhealthy social anxiety if you don't like that.

Anyway, I have long had this idea to respond to prying questions with an 'elevator pitch' that hits on as many uncomfortable and inappropriate red flags as possible. So it would include religion, multilevel marketing, gross body stuff and other TMI, and it should raise the specter that I'm about to start performing some inspirational raps I wrote about it.

But realistically, I'm never going to do that, so I'll put it out there for anyone who might. I'll even help you write the script if you want.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:43 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


Look out! I was right! He's preparing the Ritual of Tüd!

Here's Todd's slide show on "how to go viral on a little known platform." It's a BIG secret to gain MASSIVE attention!
posted by octobersurprise at 8:51 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


Small talk is fine and necessary but there’s nothing unhealthy or narcissistic or psycopathic about not wanting to only have shallow casual relationships and/or getting more and deeper satisfaction out of having some real relationships and deeper friendships, too.

That said, my small talk skills are decent, but I still prefer and trust deeper relationships with more healthy intimacy in them and that’s not a pathology.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:55 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


And none of this is even remotely related to actual diagnosable narcissism or psychopathology. This is just petty normal range of difference in human temperament and relationship style shit blown all out of proportion to Manichean levels of apocalyptic good vs. evil catastrophe. Chill, people. We don’t all have to be the same to get along and still respect each other’s humanity, ffs.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:59 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


That slide show is Todd's rather sad description of how to "hack" Quora for upvotes. And for an email address he'll reveal even more secrets. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe Todd is actually a Nigerian Prince?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:02 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


Carlin got it right with Guys Named Todd
posted by perrouno at 9:13 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


There are times, when one is forced by circumstance into sharing some close space with another that small talk is fine and desirable as an acknowledgement of your shared moment of unintended acquaintance. In some of those circumstances talk about self and deeper interests can grow naturally through shared perspective or attitude and become quite enjoyable and memorable. In other circumstances, however, imposition of an attitude that isn't shared can make an encounter a small visit to Hell. Todd's approach fits that latter category.

One thing I have learned over the course of my life in dealing with who express great immediate interest in your life, interests, or beliefs is that they almost invariably want something from you. The attempt to win quick favor is almost alone purpose enough to deny them that boon as the interest is fit to their needs not yours.

For most of my life I used to suffer through meeting people like Todd by minimally acquiescing to their demands by allowing their directing of the encounter to fit their preferred form of control and comfort. Fortunately though in recent years, for reasons unknown, I found I had no further time for humoring those who needed reassurance of their own charm and importance and I took to saying "No thank you." or just "No" if more forcefully pressed. That sometimes is followed by a "Sorry, not interested in conversation." when politeness seems appropriate, but it is as often followed by a simple "Go away." if importuned aggressively, interrupting me from my own pursuits.

It is a remarkably freeing thing to deny this sort of imposition, to avoid one's history being collected as a lepidopterist might some new species of moth. That one may be thought rude for refusing to yield to the twisting of social niceties to fit selfish aims causes me no worry at all.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:09 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


I don't like talking about myself to strangers, including that I don't even like having to tell people THAT.
...
Anyway, I have long had this idea to respond to prying questions with...


So, I was reading the great responses and when I got to this one and my brain completed the sentence with:

...a series of more and more outrageous lies. When my attempted-dominator/ix finally calls them out as lies, I can say "Well, you started it by faking interest in my answers to your domineering/prying questions."
posted by CheapB at 10:21 AM on October 27 [4 favorites]


Disclosures are a normal, healthy thing for people to do, but it is a process and it should almost always be mutual.

So you start with small talk topics like weather or something, then one person might express some non-standard opinion or personal detail, then the other person reciprocates, and they take it slowly, taking turns to ensure that they're both comfortable and compatible. People who just dive in and start asking probing questions are just trampling over a lot of socially accepted boundaries that are there for really good reasons. You could almost think of personal disclosures as being a kind of currency or trust. It's not really socially appropriate to ask people to give you that unless they've clearly signaled that they're comfortable with it. and usually, unless you've been reciprocating.

That's why those danged "hopes and dreams" style icebreakers are so gross. Because they're coming from people who have not reciprocated or been invited to disclosures like that. It's invasive and uncomfortable.

So I was trying to think of analogies to things like, "Would you just roll up and ask a stranger about their bowel movements or their genitals?" but then I wasn't even sure most people would realize that was inappropriate either.

They do, right?

Do they?

(I don't have either, BTW. Bowel movements or genitals. In case anyone was getting ideas.)
posted by ernielundquist at 10:36 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


Clapping shows how much you appreciated Todd Brison’s story.

Clap if you believe in website monetization!


Congratulations! 374 people have given your story the clap!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:41 AM on October 27 [9 favorites]


Thinking about this, possibly a little more than it deserves, but ...

He's trying to say something original, and he's trying to say it in an original way, and he's sort of tripping over his big clown feet. I'll help:

1.) Phatic communication can be weaponized.
2.) There's money and power at the end.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:06 AM on October 27 [2 favorites]


Man, I HATE those "Some Common Thing YOU ARE DOING WRONG" articles.
posted by Samizdata at 11:33 AM on October 27 [2 favorites]


Also, talking about raging narcissism, that Quora deck was all about it.
posted by Samizdata at 11:37 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


For some reason, I couldn't help hearing this in the voice of Dr. Niles Crane.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:01 AM on October 27
[+] [!]

wash your mouth out with soap. Niles would eat this guy for breakfast.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:26 AM on October 27
[4 favorites +] [!]


Just the voice!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:54 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


The author seems to have found One Weird (set of) Trick(s) with which to perform empathy while easing their own feelings of inadequacy about not being able to perform empathy as effortlessly as they believe everybody else does.

The real trick here isn't a trick at all, it's a process. It's the ongoing process of caring about others for their sake, rather than for yours. No one is an island, but neither is everyone tethered to you by invisible cords on which only you pull so that your needs may be met. If you pay attention, you'll notice that they are pulling back. Maybe they're trying to pull you toward them. Maybe they're trying to pull themselves away from you. But you are not the only person with needs. That's important.

The author would do well to read the legendary emotional labor thread, and this thread about compiling a self-assessment checklist.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:04 PM on October 27 [3 favorites]


I can’t get on an airplane without discovering the life story of the person next to me.

i would return my tray to the upright position, remove my seatbelt, and throw myself from the aft door
posted by poffin boffin at 12:20 PM on October 27 [9 favorites]


One Weird (set of) Trick(s) with which to perform empathy

OMG yes, this is what I fucking hate and what I was trying to get at with my previous comment. I would rather have hours' worth of polite small talk and awkward silences than fake (and nosy!) interest in my very personal life, and with an ulterior motive, to boot.
posted by Tarumba at 12:33 PM on October 27


Am I the only person who answers small talk questions with straight up lies? I lie about my job to the hairdresser, I lie about my weekend plans to coworkers, and I lie about how I heard the weather is going to be super nice tomorrow. I just don't like talking about myself, although I realize now that the same hairdresser might consider me a shiftless oddity who can't hold down an office/dog walker/library job, but always manages to get her hair trimmed every 6 weeks exactly.
posted by book 'em dano at 2:15 PM on October 27 [6 favorites]


In my mind there is a graph representing time spent small-talking with Todd vs the growing suspicion that Todd is going to try to get me to sell Amway and/or try to convince me I should let him cook and eat me.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:53 PM on October 27 [10 favorites]


Every once in a while, I read a Metafilter pile-on and think, "Wow, I'm glad I'm not that person and don't know that person." How can people who are so kind to one another assume the worst of total strangers?

Last night, before bed, I read this and got really excited that someone was talking about this post, because I know the author a little in real life, and he's a genuine, ridiculously sweet, would-bend-over-backward-and-drive-three-hours-to-help-a-stranger, and pretty goofy, guy. I have no doubt that he meant to communicate exactly the way I read it before I saw the post here -- how to deal with the discomfort of not feeling like you fit in by providing some hyperbolic versions of strategies that you can use in a way that doesn't feel soul-sucking. And I laughed at the first part, because I ask total strangers tons of questions, deep ones, without ever having been told to do so (or not to do so), and most strangers on planes and whatnot who chat with me end up staying in touch with me for years. (Then again, I'm an extrovert, and I want strangers to talk to me.)

I can see how not everything here would be read in the goofy way he (obviously, to me) intended, but now I'm really glad I didn't send him the link last night as I'd planned, before there were any replies, to give him an emotional boost. This is a guy who approaches everything like a six-year-old trying to make the world a better place, enthusiastically and without guile, and man, most of these comments made me disappointed that so many of you could only see this in such a mean way. If his enthusiasm seems like fake Amway sales to you, you'd hate me.

Go out of your way to make people feel wanted. Make yourself uncomfortable for the comfort of others. Give when you don’t have to. Compliment when you don’t want to. Love when you don’t have to. Forgive when it’s not expected of you.

Yeah, boy, howdy, I see why you think this guy sucks.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:07 PM on October 27 [5 favorites]


just as clowns are delightful at birthday parties but terrifying when they're lurking in storm drains, so too does the context of Medium turn enthusiastic people with positive life advice into hideous monsters
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:13 PM on October 27 [2 favorites]


I know the author a little in real life

I want to apologize for my remarks. Please ask Todd to devour me last.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:31 PM on October 27 [3 favorites]


Yeah, boy, howdy, I see why you think this guy sucks.

for me personally the vast majority of the things he suggests in the article would make me feel intensely uncomfortable, cornered, and interrogated. the thought of being someone's sole point of emotional support is also deeply alarming. the reason most people are "afraid of that kind of relationship" is because it is extremely unhealthy for both the dependent and the dependee, and legitimately unsafe for people in, for example, addiction recovery situations.

further, if a male total stranger is excessively complimenting me and interrogating me about my life in a situation where i cannot easily leave, like on an airplane, in the world we all live in right now today it is vastly more likely that he will behave in an aggressive and threatening manner if i ask him to stop, and not that he is simply a genuinely kind person who selflessly wants to make my day better.

i don't think that this makes the author a bad person. just a somewhat blinkered person, i guess? naive? idk

In a world where all our predators have been neutralized

no woman has ever felt this way, todd.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:34 PM on October 27 [24 favorites]


Interrogating total strangers about the details of their private lives isn't sweet, or goofy, or social. It's creepy, and stalker-y and (in a situation where one is not free to leave any time) intimidating and terrifying.

My immediate response to Todds isn't "hey a new friend" or "wow I can grind some Maslow's heirarchy points off this guy". On a good day, it's "crap, now I have to spend some of my dwindling supply of spoons pretending to be friendly to some rando until I can escape". On a less good day, it's "Why does he want to know that? How is he planning to use that information to hurt me?"

If I were female, or a member of an obvious minority group, I suspect I'd find this sort of behavior even less endearing than I do now.
posted by sourcequench at 3:46 PM on October 27 [6 favorites]


People should read the whole thing. I shared everyone's distaste/skepticism at first but I think the ending is strong and very good advice to people who might read this agreeing with the tone at the beginning.

Eventually I realized the secret. The last survival element to not fitting in:

It’s one of the big secrets in life:
Nobody feels normal.
Nobody feels like an adult.
Nobody fits in.

Do you want to know, then, what the real solution is to fitting in?

Make other people feel like they fit in.

posted by Emily's Fist at 3:55 PM on October 27 [3 favorites]


idk why people keep insisting that the last few lines somehow wholly invalidate others' discomfort with the rest of the article. his good intentions don't magically make it okay for strange men to demand immediate intense emotional experiences from random women.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:45 PM on October 27 [4 favorites]


I dislike, mistrust, and resent people who try to smash through small talk to get to what they consider to be more important topics. I don't know you. I have no idea whether you are trustworthy. Engaging in small talk, and gradually going into more personal matters, is how I decide whether I should let my barriers down to let you in at all.

If you, the person on the next barstool over, ask me about my dreams and desires I'm going to be shooting the bartender alarmed "this person is creeping me out and you might need to intervene" looks. If you ask me what I'm reading, then follow up with asking how and why I like it, you'll learn about what's important to me without me wondering if things are going to get awkward and I'm about to get harassed.

People should read the whole thing.

Gosh, thanks, what a helpful suggestion. I did, in fact, all the way down to the cringeworthy "I inspire people" thing, as did others or they wouldn't be able to quote from it. It's possible to read this, get what he's trying to say, and still think he's spouting annoying nonsense.
posted by Lexica at 4:55 PM on October 27 [9 favorites]


idk why people keep insisting that the last few lines somehow wholly invalidate others' discomfort with the rest of the article.

Where did someone insist that?
posted by Emily's Fist at 6:03 PM on October 27


so, ok, guy, the weather, THE WEATHER, you know, hurricanes and typhoons and rainstorms and Boreas blowing his icy breath at you from the northerly pole and the Sun slowly pulling all your youth and health out of you through holes in your skin, that's boring -- bracing physical contact with the elements, the movement of the air and earth and water, the turning of the planets and the menacing procession of the seasons, which threaten to vanish right out of our lives in a few more years, that's boring, that's talk that is "small"

but some woman deleted all the apps off her phone and told you this in an attempt to bore you out of questioning her about her personal life, and that's so exciting and interesting it merited a bullet point in your list of outlandish personal narratives you ferreted out of people by asking persistent questions

well, you get the airplane seat partners you deserve I guess. me I mostly get people who leave me alone, that is the reward of virtue. and one time a small boy who wanted to show me pictures of rabbits on his phone for a while. that was ok, I am interested in rabbits. but Guy, there is no small talk, only small talkers. you yourself are a Medium talker and that is the smallest kind.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:04 PM on October 27 [3 favorites]


I think some here are being kinda hard on Todd. He seems to me like an awkward introspective guy trying to figure out a system to interact with strangers, and his system comes across as awkward and imperfect. Worth critiquing, but not worth hating-on. It reminds me a little of the scripts used in Autism therapy for navigating social situations. Navigating social situations well requires some sensitivity and subtlety, and not everyone is naturally good at it.

Back when I was an existential adolescent, "small talk" was disdainful evidence of the petty superficiality of our society. I've learned since then that small talk is actually a system or mode of communication required for mutual co-existence in a common culture. I'm not great at it, I'm better than I used to be, and I wish I was better at it.

I do not think that there is any co-relation between Narcissism and introversion/extroversion. Some Narcissists are genius at small talk, and some shy people are just stuck-up.
posted by ovvl at 6:22 PM on October 27 [3 favorites]


I think the thing that brought on the Blue Rage was that Todd makes some grand sweeping assumptions and declares them as fact, with ZERO proof for said assumptions. Said assumptions also can be quite easily construed as insults.

Perhaps this article needs an edit?
posted by Samizdata at 9:31 PM on October 27


The Wrong Kind of Cheese: I did get a little heavy, I apologize. You are perfectly right to call me, at least, out on it. Re-reading the comments, I noticed that a lot of people really did try to bend and twist themselves into seeing something positive in the article before committing to a negative response, so, not all bad, right? I think that the politics of 2016 and beyond has seeped into and soured almost all public discourse about even the most remote and innocent of topics. People are in pain, and people in pain tend not to be nice.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:54 PM on October 27 [1 favorite]


He seems to me like an awkward introspective guy trying to figure out a system to interact with strangers, and his system comes across as awkward and imperfect.

Here's a totally fool-proof system for interacting with strangers: don't. Get on your airplane, sit down in the seat, and pull out your book or go to sleep. Leave the poor sods sitting either side of you alone.
posted by Dysk at 1:42 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Queenofbithynia, anytime you want to talk about the weather, just memail me.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 7:11 AM on October 28


I don't think Todd is a bad guy or anything, and he's not even suggesting something uniquely bad. But he's suggesting that people ignore a pretty common social convention without really thinking through why it's there in the first place. A lot of social conventions exist for really bad reasons and should be questioned, ignored, or wholly eliminated. But this isn't one of those.

And this sort of thing is actually common enough that I have a bunch of different scripts and tactics for evading it. I was just on the danged phone with danged Comcast the other day sidestepping some salesperson's nosy questions about what I use the internet for, and I have to steel myself when I go into a home improvement store because if you ask someone where to find something, they'll ask what you're "trying to do," I guess so they can second guess, upsell, and/or profile you. (Answer.)

And people do it socially too. I have a friend who used to be so persistent about asking me questions that I had a multi-step deescalation script to deflect her questions. And of course, my refusal to be interrogated about variously personal and boring things makes me look and feel like a sketchy crank.

He's not a bad guy for doing that, and I will assume that he personally has some awareness about whether someone is trying to avoid his questions, but I really just don't like seeing that sort of behavior spread. There are reasons for social boundaries and conventions like this, but they've been seriously eroded, so when someone starts recommending others do it, I'm going to say something.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:44 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


"He seems to me like an awkward introspective guy"

"This is a guy who approaches everything like a six-year-old trying to make the world a better place... "

And just like that this whole thing became an appeal for us to eat our discomfort and take care of this dude's feelings because he means well.

How about Todd controls his desire to engage with random people despite not knowing their comfort level? Aw too much to ask I guess.
posted by Tarumba at 7:45 AM on October 28 [3 favorites]


Small talk is a huge part of society and social interaction. This is clearly stated to be about how people who struggle with social anxiety can deal in social situations or when other people engage them in small talk, not about accosting random people on the street and demanding their life stories. It's about the effectiveness of taking an interest in the person you're talking to, as opposed to shutting down or dismissing them.

Personally, as a woman who struggled a lot with social anxiety growing up, I think that though I disagree strongly with a few points, this is mostly decent advice that doesn't deserve the level of snark it's getting. If people feel otherwise, maybe you could share what guidelines you would recommend to socially awkward young women who'd like to get better at small talk conversations with strangers?
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:27 AM on October 28


His section about small talk wasn’t tips about how to do it. It was about how to hijack the conversation and turn it into something else, because he’s not good at the original thing. The people who “connect” with him are rolling with it, and that’s a credit to their social adeptness, not his.

Seriously, find someone else to learn from.
posted by danny the boy at 10:35 AM on October 28 [3 favorites]


Like consider your response to all the negative reactions here. You can either assume that we’re all crazy and that everyone else in the world is in actuality super receptive to the Todd ideology, or you can accept that following his advice is, at best, going to alienate a significant portion of the people you meet.
posted by danny the boy at 10:40 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Gosh, thanks, what a helpful suggestion.

Seriously, find someone else to learn from.

Like consider your response to all the negative reactions here. You can either assume that we’re all crazy and that everyone else in the world is in actuality super receptive to the Todd ideology, or you can accept that following his advice is, at best, going to alienate a significant portion of the people you meet.

Can y'all please check your tones? The sarcasm is super out-of-hand. We're on the internet but you're interacting with human beings and fellow members of this community.

I said folks should read the whole article because a few people posted that they stopped after a few sentences, and while I shared those feelings, I felt it got better as it went on. I said that my younger self would have found these tips helpful even though some were problematic, but that I understood if people disagreed and I would like to know what tips they would recommend instead because I think that would be interesting to hear. I'm not assuming you're crazy or that people are receptive to his advice, I'm sharing my own reaction to it, which is just as valid as yours.
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:45 AM on October 28 [4 favorites]


One kind of "not fitting in" is feeling uncomfortable when expected to participate in small talk. That's the kind of n. f. i. Todd is addressing here, though he doesn't fit in in other ways as well, as becomes apparent by what has been referred to as his grand sweeping assumptions. Those of you who enjoy, or at least understand the function of small talk are not the target audience for this piece.

Todd innocently reveals what he does with his discomfort in the situation--and , though I think it's safe to assume it's not his conscious intention, his solution potentially makes the other person uncomfortable instead.

From the responses in this thread, those imagining themselves facing an unprovoked attack of forced intimacy are enraged and, finding themselves safely ensconced in a metafilter thread with like-minded others, use the space to savage Todd.

Todd is unaware that the conversational gambit he suggests has already become the domain of Amway sales people and Landmark Forum recruiters. (Though, lately, I find myself being marketed to by more sophisticated techniques. "Beautiful day today! Nice jacket! Where'd you get it?" followed, after I answered, by a request to support a political cause.)

Todd's discomfort with small talk is now considered a symptom. We, if we're feeling kindly that is, want to send him to a social skills group, or suggest anti-anxiety meds. There's a good reason why psychotherapy has been criticized as adjusting people to the dominant culture. Todd has at least reached the point where he doesn't equate his not fitting in with mental illness.

I'd like to believe that Todd would be sensitive to when his personal inquiry made the other person uncomfortable and would back off. But why should Todd have to be the only one in the conversation to feel awkward?
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:06 AM on October 28 [1 favorite]


For me, it was more like, "What makes you think you know something about how to live?" and then when he ends it with, "This is really all about giving to others," like the way people tell you a treatment for depression is "volunteer work."

no.
posted by DMelanogaster at 11:23 AM on October 28 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who answers small talk questions with straight up lies?

My mother is like this, and has always been open about how she believes that everyone else around her is lying about having a life. I bought into that as a kid - mostly because we were isolated from adults who were capable of having reciprocal social relationships. Being friendly at work or school was okay, but don't invite people over (god forbid they see your apartment), don't accept invitations (because it's embarrassing to go anywhere if you don't drive), don't be honest about your life not being perfect, don't do the things that everyone else around you does to engender intimacy. And, don't act like you're not experiencing anything different from anyone else. Cutting yourself and your children off from the world like this is reasonable and simply a matter of being discreet.

Then I became an adult and realized some...perhaps many or most other people have small talk fodder because they actually have lives. It's neither normal nor healthy to be void-like the way she and a lot of my family members are. Dealing with the consequences of that has been a very difficult process - most people practice How To Relationship throughout their lives rather than really only picking it up once they leave home for university.
posted by blerghamot at 11:33 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


I also disliked this article, in part because the author's smugness totally swamped his mock-humility, but mainly because he goes out of his way from the start to dismiss small talk as stupid and mindless (and proposes replacing it with a form of interaction that's way more aggressively tone-deaf and offputting).

So instead here's a far more nuanced take on how complex these routine little social interactions are, and why they have a positive social role:
the primary function of those speech acts is social, not to say something but to do something, i.e., make contact, reaffirm shared membership in a common tribe (whatever it may be), express positive feelings (and thus lack of threat), show concern, and so forth. These are not unimportant things, not "small" at all, really, but they are different from communicating semantic content.
There is more good stuff there as well (e.g., "feminist sociolinguistics in particular noted that a dismissive attitude toward speech that establishes and maintains relationships — as opposed to task-oriented or informational speech — was of a piece with patriarchal disrespect for traditionally female roles").

The target article is trying to shortcut these implicit, subtle social signals by turning the whole exchange into a massive communications dump. But the way you put people at ease, Todd, is not by trying to drill down into their white-hot burning essence of personhood within seconds of meeting them, but by slowly nurturing an atmosphere of ease and trust where moments of connection can emerge organically. No one "wins" at mutual growth.
posted by informavore at 4:52 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


But why should Todd have to be the only one in the conversation to feel awkward?

He doesn't. Choosing not to force yourself yourself on others conversationally, is not something that should leave you feeling awkward, unless you have some sort of need to somehow dominate any social interaction to feel at ease. In which case, just avoiding those conversations altogether is the better option for everyone. Because why should not-Todd be the only one feeling awkward?
posted by Dysk at 5:55 AM on October 29


I agree that Todd's solution, or how we're reading it, isn't ideal, but if you've never felt awkward making small talk, don't judge those who do.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:17 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


It's precisely because small talk makes me feel awkward that I don't want to be subjected to this kind of weaponized version of it.
posted by Dysk at 6:47 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


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