The person who sets the tone is the one who wins.

Typically I don’t get excited about new book releases, especially if they aren’t fiction and very particularly if they are published by the MIT Press.  Not saying that the MITP hasn’t published some sell-out rousers in their day, but that my personal interests generally lead me elsewhere.  Coupled with a very basic knowledge of the hard sciences, most of the material they publish is out of my league as well as out of my general purview.  Thankfully, a recent title that caught my interest is in the soft science of psychology, which even I can get my head around.

The name of the book is Honest Signals.  Basically it’s about the way people talk to each other and the amount of gesturing they do as an indication of the outcomes of the conversations and the relationships between the people participating.  I could bore you with the details of how research on this topic was conducted and what the specific statistical results were, but I won’t.  I do have some loyalty to the MITP – you’ll have to buy the book.  But i will tell you some of the more obvious generalizations coming out of this research.

First, there is supposed to be a correlation between the correspondence of speech patterns and the way people relate.  Basically, if you talk with the same sort of rhythm in the same sort of patterns as me, I’m predisposed to like you and favor your ideas.  We’re all aware of this to a certain extent – that person who talks much slower or faster than you is hard to understand, and therefore you don’t communicate as effectively.  You lose something in the relationship.  But the degree to which correspondence of such patterns determines genuine likability is something worth considering.  The thought that a potential boss or love interest could be spoken to at a pace that would seriously positively enhance your chances at what you want is striking.

Second, there is the ‘level of physical activity as people talk’.  This isn’t quite body language, and using the term ‘gestures’ is a little too narrow.  Most of us gesture to a certain extend without looking like a ship with loose and flapping sails.  It’s unclear from the article just what impact moving around while you talk can have, but there’s obviously something there.  After all, actors, singers, and public speakers have been aware of such movement as a tool for quite some time.  In less public places, I’d be eager to see what the study concludes.

Finally, the issue of tone.  The one who dominates the tone, the one who sets and maintains it, is the one who ‘wins’.  This also seems somewhat self-evident, but the mechanism for establishing such a dominant tone remains unclear, whether or not the establishment is intentional.  It can easily be seen in ‘popular’ talk shows or court shows like Jerry Springer or the People’s Court.  The one who carries the tone, carries the crowd.  A tone could be calming as well as enraging however, and either one would work to establish dominance.

The final question, of course, is that of who comes out the victor in a case where both sides of an argument are aware of these three points and are able to use them effectively.  For myself, I think I might just read the book, or at least give further thought and observation to the ideas.  After all, I have  quite a bit of life left where all three might come in handy.

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My new pen pal.

Occasionally ordinary incidents of the day strike enough of a chord in me that I feel the need to record them.  To others, there may be nothing singular or striking about these events, but I still find they have worth.  I don’t pretend to know the meaning behind each, other than to prove the world of Stacey is a strange place.

Of late, I have been doing some online dating.  When I say ‘online dating’, I mean trolling the internet for people I might actually like.  Usually there are some emails exchanged, and some of them even result in live, real-world dates.  At the moment I am on match.com which has been highly rated by two people I trust, Mike and Gina.  However, I’ve had little success with it.  No one has emailed me out of the blue, and those who I’ve emailed have not responded.  I’ve also been looking at postings on Craigslist, which is where all the actual communication and dating has sprung from.

Even online, there’s no gentle way to let a person down.  Whether you’ve actually met them or not, the final ‘let’s be friends’ death-knell is difficult to give.  I myself have occasionally been prone to the ‘chicken’ method – never emailing or speaking to them again, no matter how many times they call/write.  I just hate to be mean to people, even when I don’t really like them.  I guess it’s because, despite the reasons and even a lack of interest in both parties, rejection stings.

I was pleasantly surprised then by a recent return email from a guy I’d told I would be willing to meet, but only as friends.  He said that he’d been talking to this other girl too where he had quite a bit of interest, so this kinda made the decision for him.  I don’t doubt that, but I do doubt his feelings in that regard were, as he said, ‘good’.  He did also say he didn’t really want to meet as friends, since he had trouble being friends with girls he like and wanting more.  Again, understandable and pretty much what I expected.  But then, he wanted to keep emailing anyway.

While I’m not opposed to the idea in principle (hey, I get bored at work – just look at how often I post in a single day), I don’t get it.  Is he trying to keep communication open in case I realize my mistake or things go horribly wrong for him and this other girl?  Is he really an identity thief on my trail?  Is he a Nightwatchman, a la Special Topics in Calamity Physics, looking to recruit?  Does he just really really like writing emails?  I’m not sure, but I think I find it intriguing enough to keep writing.  Why not?  if nothing else, it will shape up my form for the next online dating dive.

My secret? I love my blog.

There are certain standards of polite society regarding what you can tell on a first date, and what you maybe should hold back.  When someone tells you about their mental instability and/or depression on a first date, it’s a dealbreaker, no matter how good the fit.  The same thing goes for certain diseases, physical disorders, family or relationship problems, and emotional outbursts.  Most of us have some of these at one time or another, but for a first date, it’s really too much to handle.

At the same time, there comes a certain point in the dating environment when trust becomes at issue if you don’t tell your questionable secrets.  Eventually, all those not-so-nice parts of our lives that we cope with are going to come out.  The question is when to bring them out.  After a few dates?  Once some sort of compatibility has been established?

My own secret is a little more obvious.  In the world of online dating, networking, and generally hanging out, having a blog is something of a risk.  What if potential (or current) employers stumble upon and see something (gasp!) unprofessional?  What if potential dates stumble upon it, especially if you happen to talk about them?  At the same time, my blog tells a great deal about who I am.  It shows many of those aspects of my personality that are not evident on the first, second, or nth date.  And that’s a plus.  It gives something that just a chat over coffee won’t ever show.

At the same time, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to put myself out there so much.  Sure, I’m already ‘out there’, purging myself to the world wide web, but most of the people who come here are either complete strangers or already know me pretty well.  There’s not much local-area viewing of this blog (at least that I’ve been able to determine thus far).  But do i bare my innermost soul to those I am dating, in the hopes that something good will come of it?  Or do I refrain, at least for a time, from giving that more intimate perspective of me?