三寸不烂之舌 & Administered Dopamine

Allow me to paint a picture — Friday night at the usual haunt, few vodka sodas down, participating in a fascinating conversation with a local about the many facets of online dating.

As the hours flew by and the drinks watered down, we debated passionately on the most optimal way to crack the veritable beast: a Dijkstra algorithm for romantic entanglements.

As usual, I proceeded to fire on all cylinders — presenting my argument (favorable) to the best of my inebriated ability, providing solid references (sprinkling in some of my curated bookmarked tweets), and in a drunken stupor, ending with the Chinese proverb 各花入各眼, which loosely translates to ‘different flowers match different eyes’.

Now, the conversation isn’t as important as the comment she made when she inevitably left, which is the title of this post. I paused for a brief moment, wondering if I had offended her, and flagged her down to apologize, but she laughed it off, picked up her Neverfull, and jettisoned out the nearest exit. I hastily opened my overflowing Notes app and attempted to retype the phrase she had muttered under her breath into Pinyin for later analysis.

Come morning, Pleco came to save the day.

As I continued to read, I came to a sobering realization: neither the parenthesized word (glib) nor the example had a positive tone. I’ve asked people at my office where this falls on the customer feedback scale, and they said I shouldn’t be too hopeful. Oh well.

She doesn’t need to know that I’d only just restarted my Cantonese tutoring (almost a year from this publish date), that I’d come across the relevant articles while surfing Hacker News at work, and that I’d diligently read through the comments.

The negative connotation aside, what does owning a silver tongue really mean? Connecting dots when others can’t (or find it particularly challenging to do so)? Reading between the lines? On the contrary, these qualities define who I am on a cellular level. I am proud of the fact that I am quick on my feet (while also unsuccessfully trying to achieve the more literal translation in my free time).

My “silver tongue” has helped me in a ton of hairy situations, whether that be roping in clients, gaining employment while being severely under-qualified, kicking (not knocking) on opportunity’s door, or giving advice to friends and family when I technically should be on house arrest based on the number of tales I’ve twisted. Surface-level knowledge on a lot of topics. A generalist if you will.

They’ve also been my downfall. Diplomacy is not nearly as well defined in my dictionary as some other choice words are, and that bitten my hand on more than one occasion. Sparse knowledge on many topics also means you’re full of shit when you’re talking to someone with domain expertise. I’ve also misread the room and made comments when I really should have kept my mouth shut.

Oak's words echoed... There's a time and place for everything, but not now.

I’ve realized way too early that making someone laugh is the easiest form of validation, and honestly, it doesn’t even matter if they’re laughing at you, they’ve already released (see: injected) the dopamine straight into your system, with your flashing neurons inadvertently crossing the photopollution limit, drawing disturbing comparisons to The Symphony of Lights.

It wasn’t always like this. I’ve had to battle bouts of Imposter Syndrome, and still find it hard to chat up women at bars. I’m comfortable only talking to a handful of people and I talk to them frequently. I still face these demons every single day.

I’m not trying to defend my personality, more providing context to the uninitiated. I didn’t take offense in the slightest. I just want an engaging conversation, a drink, and a laugh to drown out the pain of not being the absolute best at something :)

In hindsight, in all the confusion, I didn’t realize I was the one footing the bill. I guess my silver tongue was bested by her iron boot. I truly hope she doesn’t read my newsletter.