I learnt discretion early in life. My old man didn’t like impertinence. His actions described how asking pointed questions was frowned upon, though his words said otherwise. Unfortunately I didn’t put what I had learnt into practice.
My school days were filled with faux pas. I fucked up so many times, got so many people in trouble, tried to be funny and failed. You know that cool guy at school who says the giggly-girl one liner? That was exactly what I wasn’t. I was the loser that even the losers didn’t hang out with.
I had a real issue with getting other people in the shit by saying stuff I shouldn’t have. That’s not a good way to make friends. I would just talk too much and blab on without realising I was giving stuff away.
I got so little positive attention as a youngster that making people people laugh became my go-to. If people weren’t laughing they weren’t paying attention. Problem was, as I found out midway through primary school, I just wasn’t funny.
Now, if you ain’t funny, you should really shut the fuck up. Not me. I didn’t learn. At one point some classmates wrote a joke book, with all the stupid shit I’d said in it. It was a horrendous blow to my already fragile self-esteem. I had no-one else to blame for my inability to shut up, which was a cry for attention and ultimately friendship.
By the time I left school I was learning, but hideously slowly. In my first job I pissed off my boss with my incessant talking. Trying to be funny I would say whatever came into my head, and it earned me a dressing-down or two.
It wasn’t til my early twenties when I woke up to the fact that my social life was at the bottom of the barrel. I had no idea how to make friends, and when I did find someone cool, I would fuck it up by saying too much. Quality male friendships were completely beyond me because I would game the guy like a girl. I honestly thought that that was how you made friends, by playing a chess game of who can be the coolest, which I thought meant talking a dude’s ear off. Authenticity is difficult when you are nothing but a shell of other people’s ideas.
That’s when discretion came to the fore. I founded one of my principles:
It’s better to say too little than too much.
If what I have to say doesn’t add to the conversation, that is, if there is no information (that is, doesn’t educate the listener with something they didn’t know), or no real humour, then I’d rather not say it.
There is a corollary to the above. If you don’t NEED to say it, don’t say it. There are plenty of tossbags out there letting everybody know that they know it all. There are lots of dickheads who think that they are funny.
The goal of discretion is to keep information where you want it, and use information for social advantage. Being discrete means being a good listener, taking data in, being someone people can trust. It means keeping people on a need-to-know basis.
Discretion ties into charisma. Part of charisma is a sense of mystery. Leaving your mouth open like a hooker’s vagwa leaves no mystery for your poor innocent listeners. Don’t explain jokes, or say “here’s a funny story…” Don’t explain how you did something cool.
I caught a wild rabbit once with my bare hands, and took it to show my classmates. The first question I got?
“How did you do that?”
Think I told them? Of course not! I just smirked and shrugged my shoulders. Let them fill in the blanks! It became one more building block in my reputation, the guy who’s so good he can run down a rabbit.
If your social life is failing in someway, it’s important to examine your sub-conscious goals for conversation. Why do you need to talk all the time? Is being seen as funny an external keystone to your character? Does your self-esteem revolve around proving other people wrong or having people laugh at your jokes? Do you require such constant re-affirmation of your status that you need to be the centre of attention at all times?
Remember that people are thinking more of what they say than of what you say. Ninety percent of what you say will be forgotten within a few seconds. Is it worth wasting your breath to be right? Or to be sort of funny? Or to prove some insignificant point?
If you have the self-awareness, you will find that these conversational moments are nothing but petty ego reinforcements that people use to maintain hierarchy and self-image. If you can step away from that and see that real class comes from what you do rather than what you say, and thus say less and do more, you will be many steps ahead.
Be a strong man with a strong voice. You conversation is like water into whiskey; too much talk dilutes what you say.