Tweaking The Talk
There’s a well-known distinction between those that do and those that talk about doing – walking the walk compared to just talking the talk.
You don’t often hear about tweaking the talk. But tweaking the talk – modifying the content of your talking over time – is a very common feature of our interaction with others. ‘Talking the talk’ is tweaked all the time such that your talking becomes more impressive and more remote from any and all instances of actually ‘walking the walk’. It is likely that when you talk the (particular) talk today, it will deviate substantially from the first time you talked that particular talk. Embellishment is an inextricable component of expression.
Thinking we know, often without either knowing or thinking, can create all sorts of problems. One example is in the false memories we have of our performance and behaviour. To fill in the short-term gaps, we ‘remember’ things that never happened, we assume or infer rather than recall. How often have you heard people explain their mistakes by saying “I thought that ….” when this thinking is at odds with the situation?
And our recollection of past events is not a process of neutral recall:
Using past experiences as building blocks for present performance is not necessarily a neutral process. Injecting the past into the present can and does assist in meeting current task demands but this can and does change your memories of the past. You effect their retrieval and they are affected by this retrieval. The past is fenced off in time but the fence is not impervious to the present. Over time, facts can soften, fiction can harden and the lines between them can become less visible.
Some recent evidence emphasises the social nature of this embellishment process. We embellish for others and because of others, not just by and for ourselves. Conformity is a frequent characteristic of group performance – don’t stand up, don’t stand out, just stand in line as that makes it easiest to toe that line. These studies demonstrated that conformity can affect memories in an enduring way. Socially-imposed illusion, even ones that are known to be wrong by individuals, can supplant individual memories; these will often remain in place even when the original illusion is shown to be false. It’s seems true that two (or more) wrongs can make an individual’s right (memory) turn into the same wrong.
Do you often talk to be typical, of your friends, of your generation, of your experiences? Conversation is often typified by a desire to conform rather than communicate. Conversation is often the outcome of memory and emotion. Conversation is not just about facts and passive discourse; it can also be about fictions and ‘theatre’:
Fact may be stranger than fiction but fiction is more frequent than fact. How do you find your own way through this quagmire? Do you do it by tweaking your talk?