Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Game of Talking

My late big realization, of once-in-ten-years scale, is that there is a Game of Talking going on all the time when people meet. You always participate in it even if you don't register it consciously. I believe that in the last 10 years most of the unexplained shit I've received as well as almost total failure in human relationships were caused by too frequent losing in the Game of Talking.

The Game of Talking requires 2 - 4 players. The basic rules are simple:
1) You win if you talk more than anyone else.
2) You lose if you talk less than 20% of the utterances.
3) Your result is decent if you neither win nor lose.

In addition there are extra rules which make the game complex. The first extra rules ensure that conversation keeps flowing:
1) You get minus points if you shout, insult or say inappropriate things.
2) You get minus points if your comments are neither relevant nor funny.
3) You get plus points if you remove an obstacle which distracts someone else from playing well.

Too many minus points lose the game. Plus points can change a decent outcome into a victory,
but usually they are an extra game for someone who is already winning.

In addition, there are context-dependent rules, especially the balance between
sheer amount and relevancy varies wildly in different situations.

Losing too often spells serious trouble.

Signs that you are losing

There are two main punishments, which are usually meted out by the most extroverted person
in the group.
1) Insults.
2) Being treated as a child or otherwise helpless. This is more common among adults, where direct insults are often considered too game-breaking.

Earlier, I used to get punished for losing the game. I could analyze people's despise far too well, but couldn't figure out why I was being despised. After all, I didn't do much anything! I didn't realize I was participating in a game and losing hands down, every time.

Need for speed

Unlike in go, in the Game of Talking you don't have time to think. Quite the contrary, the aggressive players are all the time talking on each others, switching topic and even distracting with stuff that leaves you speechless if it catches you by surprise.

Earlier, I couldn't have played the Game of Talking because I wasn't quick enough in generating talk. It would have helped to know the factoid that to avoid despise, the amount of talk beats quality any day. However, the Game of Talking is not a factoid but a much deeper attitude.

Nowadays, if my talk percentage goes too low enough, I get a physical emotion of disgust, anticipating all the bad things that may happen if I don't open my mouth very soon. Since my natural instincts don't give much help, having the Game of Talking in the physical/emotional level is the only way to react quickly enough in deteriorating speech position, when I have nothing to say.


Tiedemies said...

I understand this point of view to social situations, however, there are some fundamental flaws in applying it "as is".

1) You do not win if you talk more than anyone else, unless this is somehow corrected for relevance. Talking is only taken into consideration if some nondisclosed rules of discourse are obeyed. This part can be partly "cracked" by analyzing the particular discourse, but it happens too fast in a particular setting and anyway, next time the rules have probably changed.

2) You do not lose if you talk less. You lose if someone "shuts you up" in accordance to the rules, i.e., provides a "legal" shut-up-argument. If you remain silent through the game, you get a decent outcome unless someone "calls" your game. In case someone calls your game, you can still get a decent outcome by giving a proper retort, again, according to rules of discourse.

3) Insults are a very restricted weapon and almost invariably never used against a silent player.

4) Punishment is issued only when someone loses their temper or otherwise breaks the rules of discourse.

The abstraction is also quite restricted. Extraverted people outsource their thinking process, i.e., they think outloud and in unfinished thoughts that do not completely pass through the conscious mind, or are filtered only very very lightly (i.e. no profanities, no awkward personal revelations etc.) For us it is not a game involving some thoughts, it is an integral part of the thought process.

This is what is almost impossible for introverted people to understand and vice versa. To me, on the level of experience, the idea that thoughts could be somehow "finished" inside one's mind is profoundly alien and I can understand the concept only very vaguely.

Similarly, I think, for the introverted person, the idea that thoughts do not "occur" inside one's mind but rather, between people, is equally incomprehensible.

Simo said...

Point 1) is valid, talk must be above some threshold of relevance to qualify.

About your other points, it seems that you are talking about the "game of argumentation", which is an advanced form of Game of Talking.

Argumentation to discover the truth and who is right is generally recognized to be competitive sport.

This writing is about the shit you get if you don't talk much at all, and why. The "novel" thing is that everyday conversation is a competitive game where you can lose even if it's not generally recognized so.

Game of talking is more widely played among general population. Often, people only claim subjective things ("Oh, my legs hurt after from yesterday's floorball!" "I bought something yesterday!") or don't claim anything. In the rare moments when the game of talking borders on argumentation, relevancy is still less important. Also, the shut-ups are much more crude and for that reason a bit frowned upon. Most people haven't practised argumentation where "asiat kiistelee eiv├Ąt ihmiset". When they do argument, they treat it as an act of politics where the winning truth and political interests are tightly coupled.

Tiedemies said...

In a conversation like that, a "shut up" goes like this:
Person 1: "I went jogging last night and my legs hurt like hell"
Shut-up: "You should get better shoes"

"calling a game" would be like this:
Simo: .... [says nothing]
X: Well, what did you do last night?
Simo: "Nothing." [lose/win, depending on discourse]
Simo: ... [says nothing; mostly a losing move]
Simo: "I really showed that bitch some good time." [Win]


Simo said...

You probably just described the mechanism which makes silent players lose! They get eventually called and can't give proper retort.