Feigning Interest

Feigning Interest

At times and in circumstances too numerous to catalog, it will be useful for the modern lover to appear interested when he or she is in fact not. The superficial presentation of curiosity is often all that is required to navigate a tiresome conversation; for instance, one beginning with “At work today…” or “I had the craziest dream last night.” Other times the kabuki dance must be assembled to endure commentaries on the lifestyles of non-mutual friends or the unending debate over why Quizno’s is better than Subway: is it the sandwich conveyor belt or Broccoli Cheese cistern? Who can ever know?

When meeting such junctures, it is imperative to produce credible attentiveness and hide your swelling contempt. Insofar as possible, maintain eye contact. Let your mind peregrinate, perhaps to Words of the Day on your desk calendar like “peregrinate”, but keep outwardly focused on the speaker. To fill the time it is often useful to imagine the logic through which the Star Wars films can be squared together to form a consistent narrative; because they cannot, your interior deliberation will be manifested as exterior consideration. No matter your musings, however, stay vigilant to recognize when a response is expected.

When one is, give it. Although this seems straightforward, it is here that most deceptions fall apart. In times past a person would have been required only to repeat the last few words of the interlocutor to prove interest; this trick was fine until research into short-term memory revealed it could be done without actually listening (see, e.g., Atkinson & Shiffrin’s “Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes” or Sandler’s 50 First Dates). Something more, or at least something different, is necessary today.

Once your partner pauses for an answer, shift your weight back as if in contemplative repose and look up. This is normally sufficient to drive either a restatement of the original prompt or the continuation of their rambling. If the emptiness expands uncomfortably, move your weight back toward them and shake your head from side to side while nodding slightly. Again, their individual momentum should be restored and you can return to wondering why the Jedi would choose to hide Luke Skywalker, the only son of Darth Vader (nee Anakin Skywalker), on the villian’s childhood planet of Tatooine and with his last surviving relatives.

Should both of these measures fail, state the following: “I’m sorry, I lost what you were saying. I’ve been tired all day. But I did have the craziest dream last night…” Advantage, you.

EXCEPTION: Do not feign interest if the conversation is about you; take careful notes on this most interesting of subjects.

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