No Trust in Trash Talk

No Trust in Trash Talk

Your aunt is coming to town and you’d like to take her to dinner. You have 2 restaurants in mind so you ask a friend what he knows about them. He prefaces his positive statements about one restaurant with strongly negative statements about the other, expressed in absolutes that tip you off to exaggeration, since few things are “always” or “never”, and he includes statements about the intent of the other restaurant’s management (“they just want to take your money; they don’t care about food”), and he makes assertions that sound just weirdly unlikely (“they try to hire incompetent people because they’re cheaper; they have no respect for their customers”).

Or a co-worker wants you to support his plan instead of Alphonse’s by saying “I care about the success of this project, and this company; he doesn’t. He just wants everyone to do more work than he does. There’s nothing in his plan that will work, and it’s all stupid, and he knows it”.

If you were hoping for some facts about which you could make a judgment, these comments probably aren’t going to help you.

I think we all do this at various times. Through exaggeration we express our displeasure, and we have ourselves a little giggle as we imagine The Other One being not only different, and not as good, but just wrong. However, when we do it, don’t we know that the listener understands that we’re exaggerating for effect- that we don’t actually believe that Alphonse thinks his project is stupid? Or that the restaurant management doesn’t care about food?

When we do this, we aren’t presenting information so that others can use it to consider different ways of approaching a situation, or to weigh the merits of one position or another; we’re just entertaining ourselves by being ridiculous.

I’ve been listening to a lot of politicians lately. What do you think they’re doing?