24 July 2010

The power of

Conversation

And laughter.

Conversations definitely have rules. People should respond to each other where they can, speak with one another in mind, generally try to be amusing/entertaining/diverting of attentions (that whole laughter thing is contagious and useful signaling for one thing). And most of the time is best spent listening to the other person speak and simply pushing the conversation in directions where you can speak once in a while usefully to demonstrate that you are enjoying their company or conversation. Stories are good, when they are stories that other people can relate to and chime in with their own, such that you will learn something about them. Arguments are less good. Simply because people tend to end up talking past one another rather than demonstrating points of order and logic. They can be functionally done where people are attentive and well-informed. But they're often not.

There are lots of tricks to this. But this one I liked particularly. "As a general rule, the more dangerous or inappropriate the conversation, the more interesting it is." I like it. I use it liberally by trying to post things that I find as "inappropriate" or dangerous thinking in order to get others to think more on the subjects involved. I'm guessing I have crossed the line often enough that people don't generally comment in conversational forms, which defeats the entire premise.

In any case, laughing as a social hierarchy is a fascinating thought experiment. Most people laugh when they are talking, and laugh much more in company than alone. Neither of which is terribly surprising, but the nature of what it achieves is useful to consider. A safe and comforting environment is achieved by people laughing amongst each other. It communicates within the group a level of comfort.

Also not surprising that men/boys are typically the class clowns. Not sure I'd take a woman laughing at something as a sign of "submission", but it does communicate something useful: amusement or at least attentiveness, either of which can be useful for pair bonding, friendships, etc, but can be overestimated with ease. Laughs are clearer than smiles for such estimations. The clearest estimate is simply paying attention back and watching that such smiles and other responses are genuine and well-timed instead of simple "she wants me" reactions. Incidentally, smarter fellows are more likely to leap to the "she wants me" reaction, which is laugh inducing. It's a bias that I even can fall for what with my limited self-impression of my reflection and hence self-awareness of my effects on the opposite sex.

I can see people using laughter as a manipulative tool, despite my ambivalence for its signaling effect in a smaller dynamic (like a conversation or mating prospects). Comics do tend to be projecting a dominating stance by commanding a room to laugh for example. A good joke isn't typically used by a politician in public (because a good joke is a dangerous subject matter usually), but in the right setting, they are powerful.

And yes, it's still good medicine.
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