BPB on Faking it

This is BPB’s 25th post! Which means I’ve been pretending I know things about things for 6 months. Happy half-a-year to me and my musings.

And the perfect topic for this special week:

BPB — on Faking it.

Have you ever found yourself stuck in one of those conversations with no idea what anyone else is talking about? Don’t worry. The others don’t know what they’re talking about either.

It is necessary for our continued existence as highly sociable animals that we are able to ‘fake it’ — and fake it well. We’re well practiced at phrases like “Oh lovely! Just what I needed!” when someone gives us an ugly or useless gift. We violently disagree when a friend says “I look fat today, don’t I.” We smile and look to our partner on the other side of the bed…“It was great for me too!”

We’re also very guilty of pretending to know things that we don’t actually know. Especially now, in the golden age of Google, where everyone has all the facts and theories in the palm of their hand. We feel like we know things — but we don’t actually. A great example of the way technology has revolutionised ‘knowledge’ is the Uber versus Black Cab debate. Uber drivers have not taken the time to learn the street maps of London as Black Cab drivers have — but, of course, that’s fine. Your phone does it for you. You can feel confident you ‘know’ what you’re doing without actually doing any of the learning. And GPS is even more convenient because it tells you how to avoid traffic jams and all sorts. Win.

I spend much of my time at my University in London. My teachers & tutors are all truly super smart academic types (who probably don’t frantically Google things all the time) and I’m terrified of talking to them in case I am not able to ‘fake’ my way through an intellectual conversation. I take comfort in imagining that they all used to be exactly like me — only having taken a few small steps on the long and winding path to genius. One day I’ll be equipped with witty comebacks and smart perspectives and I’ll boldly make my approach.

What is so terrible about being deemed ‘unknowledgeable’ that we regularly produce BS like: “Yes, I think the themes explored in [this smart book] are so relevant today”, “Definitely [some famous artist], I love his work” and “I know, aren’t all the happenings in [insert country here] terrible at the moment”? We’re all so scared of being ‘stupid’ — but mostly, we’re not.

I am a well-functioning human being with fairly competent cognitive abilities — and so are you. What is it that makes a person smart? It seems most people are capable of reading some information, remembering it and then presenting it back to someone else. Are the smart ones just people who have done this an awful lot? So they’re really good at it? Or is there some elusive ‘smart quality’ that you just have or you don’t?

No. I don’t think there’s some special quality. We can all be smart, we just have to jump over the following hurdles as gracefully as possible:

1. Language. Of course, it is very useful to have specific jargon & ‘technical terms’ — like synergy; my personal favourite (no idea what it actually means)— that are used within a specific context. People invented these words to mean very specific things so that communication would actually be easier, but just as jargon might be useful within some particular domain, its usefulness goes out of the window when you’re speaking to people outside of that domain. Ask your fellow jargon user to explain their terms. It’s good to learn new words & if they can’t, they’re fakers. Fakers gonna fake.

2. Popular topics. Doesn’t everyone just love to pretend they know what they’re talking about when it comes to politics/economics/current affairs? In fact, the relentless chatter about these topics is often the cause of the confusion. Let’s take things back to basics: when people are talking about ‘politics’, they are talking about people. People in some kind of social order — and they’re probably discussing whether or not the social order is working well or working terribly. ‘The Economy’ — That’s just numbers. How much we’re spending versus how much we are earning and/or how poor the country is generally. Numbers. That’s all. Not scary. ‘Current affairs’ — mostly people read something in the Guardian’s opinion section and pretend it’s their own…*guilty face*.

3. Listen with open ears and open minds. This accounts for one half of all the real communicating in the world.

4. Ask your fellow conversationalist to make their thoughts accessible to you. Making information accessible to your listener is the other half of real communication. Mostly, when people sound smart & use long jargonny words, they’re hiding the fact that they don’t actually get whatever it is they’re trying to discuss. It’s always smartest to ask questions.

So, next time you find yourself conversing with your peers, try to break through the one-upmanship of fakery with some kick ass thing you learned….or googled….

Thanks for reading! Here’s to another six months!

Originally published at bedpostblonde.tumblr.com. (20/11/2015)