Friday, 15 November 2013

Talking yourself up

Wow, I can see I explained myself really badly in my last post. That's why so many of you claim you never try to impress anybody, which I very much doubt!

My mistake was to focus on the crudest and most blatant  ways of trying to impress - name dropping, place dropping, clever references and all that. But of course there are much subtler ways of "putting on the style", ways we usually take for granted.

By trying to impress, all I mean is that instead of simply being ourselves, we emphasise things, we flag things up, we steer people towards aspects of our personality we think they'll appreciate, in the hope they'll warm to us and like us more.

We don't have to name drop. All we need do is make a point of how sensitive, sympathetic and generous we are. Or how open-minded, tolerant and non-judgmental we are. Or how practical, efficient and well-organised we are. And of course we're hoping those listening will think "Oh, just my sort of person. I must get to know her better. I might have a great new friend here."

How many people choose to chatter pointlessly about the weather or their faulty vacuum cleaner, when they could be angling the conversation towards something that makes them look good, something that flatters them, something that paints them as a desirable human being? Not many, I would say.

Certainly not me, and I don't mind admitting it. I like people to like me, and I make a conscious attempt to bring that about. Apart from anything else, pointless small talk is an insult to the other person's intelligence. It says "Why waste any effort on this person? They'll listen to anything, however banal."

So I hope that makes my point of view a bit clearer. Obviously I made a real dog's dinner of it the first time round. As George Bernard Shaw once said. Or was it Gertrude Stein?

PS: Of course women "dress to impress" all the time. Is that so wrong?


  1. Hmmmm....well, I will admit to hating to make small talk, but it's more because I don't see a purpose in talking to strangers I'll never see again. OTOH, my husband thinks it's being friendly. It's funny, because I think THAT is more of a trying-to-impress people thing. I just don't care if a stranger or casual acquaintance finds me friendly or interesting.

    If you are talking about close friends, I guess talking about your kids could be seen as bragging, but I talk about their faults just as much. Maybe because I don't have a career any longer, I do not experience the same feelings that you do.

    As far as dressing, I do like to look nice and I always use makeup and fix my hair. But I've always thought of it as more of an 'I like to feel good about myself' thing than trying to impress. Because I do it whether I'm leaving the house or not.

  2. I enjoy meeting people and prefer to listen to what they have to say. If I want to listen to my own voice, I can stay at home! When meeting others, I like to look tidy with my face on and hair combed, I may not see the effect but others have to look at me. I do it out of respect for them.

  3. Bijoux: Okay, so you don't try to impress. Ever. At all. I won't argue with that. Interesting idea, though, that small talk is in itself an attempt to impress.

    I think bragging about your kids or listing their dreadful faults can both be attempts to impress. Then again you might just be making conversation....

  4. Grannymar: I like listening to others, but I also like explaining a bit of myself. In the most flattering way of course. Unless there's a general "running yourself down" mood, in which case I find myself joining in the masochistic frenzy....

  5. I don't know, Nick! Maybe I just don't think I'm that impressive? Haha. I'm 50 years old, so I guess I just don't feel the need to impress. I'm happy with who I am.

    Maybe the real question should be, 'Am I impressed by other people and if so, does that make me feel inadequate?' I tend to think those who are talking the most about how great they are are the ones with the lowest self esteem.

  6. It's also possible that by telling you I don't make a conscious effort to impress, I am actually trying to Impress you.......

    Seriously though, my life is just not that exciting! Maybe I could impress someone with my good taste in almonds!

  7. Bijoux: Well, that's good that you don't feel the need to impress. Just carry on being whatever you want!

    Re being impressed by others, what often makes me feel inadequate is someone who seems far more intelligent than me. I immediately feel totally clueless.

    Hmmm yes, not trying to impress, most impressive!

    Still trying to track down those marcona almonds....

  8. Hmm. For me, it depends on the situation. In a new dating situation, of course I;m trying to impress. If I'm interested that is. Although I'm still not sure "impress" is the right word. I guess more that I'm trying to make a connection with someone, trying to find common ground, and yes, trying to be seen in a favorable light. Ditto with new friends. And if I get dressed up, it's clearly aimed in part at what other people think. Let's face it - if you truly didn't care what anyone else thought of you, you'd wear pjs all the time and go for full-on comfort. But when I'm in a drop-dead gorgeous dress, I WANT to be seen. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

  9. Agent: Yes, I guess trying to make a connection is different, because trying to impress usually means in a positive way while connecting doesn't have to be positive. You can connect with someone because you've both been through the same sort of distressing experience, for example.

    No, I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to impress, unless you're doing it out of pure narcissism. Why show someone your worst aspects rather than your best ones?

  10. Strange that this seems to be the topic of the season as it were.

    There have been more like that in other publications.

  11. Ramana: I'm of two minds about small talk. Yes, it's an easy way of engaging someone you don't know. On the other hand, as the frequent recipient of such banalities, I wish people would engage in a more imaginative way. Even asking me if I dye my hair would be more interesting. But people are too afraid of being rude.

  12. I don't think I am crazy on either pointless small talk or people trying to make me like them, really, but I suppose the latter is nicer! We all have an egotistic element in us, don't we!

  13. I am bad at small talk and I really don't try to impress people. I am what I am and life is too short.If people like me...great, if not, that's ok too.

  14. Nick, why not go and impress a peacock with your question? You may come away with a feather.


  15. Jenny: Yes, we all have an egotistical streak, however mild, so why not admit it?

    Bonsaimum: Fair enough, I believe you! *makes mental note not to try to impress bonsaimum*

    Ursula: I suspect I'd need a dazzling set of feathers to impress your average peacock. And something even more dazzling to impress the human variety.