Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'd like to say a few words about me

By Dick Hirsch

So there I was at the water cooler the other day and I heard that Gary and Ramona, were, well, to say it discreetly, they were seeing a lot of each other after business hours.

I wasn’t much surprised by that news because it confirmed what I had learned the day before from Tom, who said that he had heard that Penny had seen Ramona at the mall. They had a conversation over coffee and Ramona intimated she was embarking on a serious relationship. She gave no further information about specifics. However, Penny, renowned for her skill at putting two and two together and often getting four, did the necessary math.

She was positive Ramona’s new love was Gary and she passed that information on to Miriam, who mentioned it to Larry who later told Tom who then told me.

By the time I heard, it apparently was old news because when I saw Jessica and Frank later that day and mentioned it to them, they laughed, nodded knowingly, and said they had heard about Gary and Ramona a few days earlier from Arlene. Oh, well, news does travel fast, and not all of it is broadcast on cable.

This imaginary scenario became relevant after I read a report on gossip, published in The New York Times. One thing about newspapers today, including the Times, is that they’re stretching the definition of news, looking far beyond the traditional news menu for items of interest. The story indicated there were certain psychological benefits to participating in the telling, retelling, or else merely tuning in on, some compelling gossip.

The one disclosure that immediately captured my attention dealt with the amount of time spent by people each day in gossiping about others. The report suggested that people devote between 20 percent and 65 percent of all their daily conversation to gossip about others. I think you’ll agree that is an impressive amount of talking. My experience over the years has shown there was a substantial amount of gossiping constantly underway in every venue, but I will admit I was startled by that estimate. The reason for my surprise was this:

I had always believed that the majority of people are at their happiest when they are talking about themselves without restraint. I’m sure you’re familiar with the type. No matter how the conversation starts, it somehow soon turns, with the speaker regaling the listeners with his or her most recent experiences. They just love talking about themselves, no matter how boring and uninteresting the tales may be.

You may have heard the apocryphal old story of the actor who perceived himself as a star. He apparently realized he was dominating the conversation and attempted a change of subject.

“That’s enough about me,” he said. “Let’s talk about you. How did you like my latest picture?”

If that attitude predominates, the individual can be described as a narcissistic personality, one who is self-centered and egotistical. The syndrome is named after Narcissus, a handsome character of Greek mythology who supposedly fell in love with himself after seeing his own reflection in a pool.

That’s an extreme example, but so many people certainly find themselves to be their own favorite subject. But if the reported facts on gossip are correct, even those people would spend a significant portion of each day gossiping about others. Is that possible? Does a narcissist have enough time to gossip? In an effort to find an answer to that question, I recall a conversation I had late last summer with a man well-known in the community for self adoration.

Yes, he said, he had seen our mutual friend, Paul, who was just recuperating from hernia surgery. Paul was doing well, he reported.

“I think we will be playing golf together within a week or two,” he said. “He missed part of the season, but it has been a great year for me. I’ve never played better and I’ve become a more patient player. I’m concentrating more and the results are that I’m hitting the ball further, eliminating mental errors, and putting like a pro.”

He went on to explain he was contemplating a trip to Scotland for a round or two at St. Andrew’s. The status of Paul’s surgery and recovery was quickly forgotten.

You know the type. Their problem is that if they are doing their quota of gossiping---20 percent to 65 percent---they hardly have sufficient time remaining to talk about themselves. Or do any work.


Post a Comment

<< Home