As one of my bits of self-improvement I’m determined to be more clued-up on current affairs. At the moment, if someone is talking passionately about an important subject I’m very good at nodding along while looking really focussed, even if i have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.
I’ve perfected this look. I can make deep eye contact, time my nodding along so that whoever is speaking thinks I’m listening with real intent. Then, to encourage them, I’ll say things like ‘mmm’ ‘exactly’ and ‘I know’. If they seem to be frustrated with a subject I’ll throw in an exasperated ‘but what can you do?’ or even a ‘it’s just so frustrating!’ when really I’m woefully out of my depth or thinking about how I’d protect the identity of my loved ones if I finally do become a superhero.
Expert fake listeners like myself will recognise the point when the speaker might hang a silence- expecting you to come in with your point on the topic. This is hard if you either a) haven’t been listening too much or b) really don’t have a clue what’s going on or who these people are they’re talking about. Amateurs will panic here but when the point arrives where I’m meant to speak I’ve developed a perfect response.
I take a second to let the emphasis build and create the illusion that I’m really thinking hard, then I’ll take a deep draw in of breath and say slowly but with real measure, ‘it’s tricky, cor it’s so tricky isn’t it?’ Note: tone of voice is crucial here and the ‘cor’ is optional. I’ll nod my head slowly from side to side to look a bit anguished and like the subject weighs on me ever so heavily, at which point I’ll look at the floor or somewhere over their shoulder. They’ll wait thinking I’m going to add more but I don’t have more so I hold this until they feel the need to say ‘it is, it is tricky’ and then they’ll carry on talking.
I’ve used this a thousand times. It covers everything from politics to religious conflicts to the ups and downs of relationships and is near enough a perfect way to give the illusion of participating without ever actually getting involved.
But no longer.
I think it’s important in this day and age to be clued up on the news. The world can seem scary and baffling and the more bad things keep happening, the more people are voicing strong opinions.
Now, I want to be the informed guy. The one who can speak with a bit of passion or hold his own at dinner parties. I’m therefore making a commitment to get my news more often and from more varied and intelligent sources.
As part of this I have recorded ‘Question Time’ and have been watching it every week. Initially I recorded Newsnight but, one Sunday morning, I sat down to get up to speed and nearly choked on my coffee at seeing there were 14 episodes waiting for me, 14! I want to learn some news – I’m not trying to run for Prime Minister. Once a week is a good start.
Love Rick x