I have often found myself regarded with scepticism by male friends and colleagues as I explain my distaste for the current trendiness of yoga tights as everyday wear. Besides being an upstanding, moral and principled gentleman, I say to them, “I believe curves that are hinted at often appear more pleasant than those that are blatantly revealed,” not that I look at either. This is a metaphor for what I am going to say about communication, as you have probably guessed.
Communication is overrated. That is to say, the kind of communication that we regularly hear saves marriages and families is overrated. Certainly it is preferable to deception, but the sharing of intimate details is not the relationship fix-all that it is often presented as.
It is the subject of emotions, in particular, which is discussed to excess. When I was a teenager, I was the sort of dunce who believed that if I sobbed heartfelt clichés at a woman I had spent a few hours with, she would recognize my sincerity and fall weeping with joy and love into my arms.
A romantic, you could call me, but not a very good one. I now realize that this sort of behaviour is at best hackneyed and at worst somewhat disturbing. It wasn’t ideal for me either. Not only did it fail to reduce my targets to fawning, it often left me in the rather awkward position of having declared my affection for some misguided girl who didn’t feel the same. Long after my feelings had faded — thankfully this was often quite quickly — the evidence of my vulnerability — gifts, instant messages, emails, texts, even conversations — remained.
It is not only within romantic relationships that the importance of communication is exaggerated. In friendships, too, many things are better left unsaid.
Good friendships are built around trust. To many, this means that good friendships are built around the constant sharing of intimate secrets. This, however, is not all that trust is. Just as one trusts a friend with information, one ought to trust a friend to accept ignorance in some matters.
After all, any friend who insists on knowing every detail of your life, first, is weird, and second, does not really trust you.
But what will fill the gap that intimate communication leaves in our social interactions? Frivolity, that’s what. Meaning and gravity are too highly prized in our society. We all read Austen in high school, but how many read Wodehouse? Too few.
Social interactions, I believe, should be at least as entertaining as they are enlightening or informative. We may never understand one another, so let’s stop trying and just enjoy the company.