I find myself getting super annoyed by nerd voice.
So – I’ll try to own it, by saying “yeah, I realize these are my own issues,” and “yeah, I’m sure I have nerd voice on a fairly regular basis myself,” and “yeah, someone probably has plenty of good reasons to talk in this way, and it is a culmination of their life experience, and etc. etc.”
But, frankly, nothing ever forces my own personal realization of how un-accepting of other people I am like a big old dose of nerd voice. And, suddenly, instead of really hearing someone, I’m awash in my own narcissism and disappointment in my lack of empathy, while simultaneously analyzing the other person and internally blasting them with my judgement.
So – this is what I hear when I hear nerd voice. I hear someone mimicking the tone of authority, but with a slightly over exaggerated intonation, because I assume deep down they don’t fully trust what they are saying. In fact, when I hear nerd voice, I immediately begin to doubt the authenticity of whatever information is being provided. If at some point I question them, and they double down with their hyper-authoritarian tone instead of softening, I immediately brand them as an insecure idiot, and take everything they say with a dose of skepticism. Also, I think this has gotten worse since I’ve tried to become a more empathetic person.
So, back in the day the exchange would usually go like this:
Nerd Voice: “Clearly, a PC is a superior economic investment to a mac, especially since you can just duel boot the mac OS”
My Internal Monolog: This person is an idiot, must disengage as soon as possible.
Me: “Yeah, I can see that. Hey, thanks for sharing your thoughts with me – I gotta run to the bathroom, but it was really great catching up with you.”
Now, it usually goes like this.
Nerd Voice: “It is impossible to lose weight on a diet of less than 1200 calories a day because you’ll just slow down your metabolism.”
My Internal Monolog: This person is an idiot – wait, no. What is it they’re really trying to coney here? Why do they feel the need to state this? Are they fat? Are they self conscious about their weight, and do they have shame about their inability to cut their calories? How do they square this with the fact that people clearly lose weight on very low calorie diets?
Me: “Oh? Well, what about the Jews in the concentration camps? They got pretty skinny, and I’m pretty sure they ate less than 1200 calories a day. I assume, anyway.”
Nerd Voice: “Well, they probably lost a lot of muscle mass. I mean, it’s impossible to lose fat on a diet of just 1200 calories a day.”
My Internal Monolog: Zomg, don’t care. Not trying to lose fat. Wait – not everything is about me. Is often about them. Ok – what to they care about?
Me: “Ah, so you’re more interested in the process of losing fat than just losing weight, per se.”
Nerd Voice: “Well, yes. Obviously. I mean, why would someone just care about losing weight?”
Me: “Well, I used to wrestle and I’d try to lose weight to make a weight class.”
Nerd Voice: “Ah, but that was a special case. And, was probably quite unhealthy to lose weight in that way.”
My Internal Monolog: Well, I was in the best shape of my life back then, but let’s just let that lie. Ok, how do I change the topic to something less irritating?
Me: “Yeah, it was an unusual case. Although, apparently sometimes it can be good to slow your metabolism – I’ve heard of some people who eat very low calorie diets to slow their metabolism in an effort to live longer.
Nerd Voice: “Ah, well yes – if the intention is to slow the metabolism, then yes, eating low calorie diets could be quite effective for that. I doubt it would help you live longer though, that just seems like pseudoscience to me.”
My Internal Voice: Zomg, can you stop acting like you know everything! I was the one who watched the National Geographic special, not you! Oh my god, I still think you’re an idiot, and now I sort of hate you for having this conversation with me as well. Fuck, I am spiritually void – incapable of seeing the inner beauty in other people. Fuck fuck fuck!
Me: “Well, I’ve never tried it since eating less than 1200 calories would totally blow – ha ha ha. Anyway, it was great catching up with you, I gotta run to the bathroom.”
Later, I’ll usually reflect over why someone may feel the need to take a very firm position on a topic with little interest in the nuance, or subtlety of it. Usually, I’ll conclude that it’s a person who has not received a lot of respect for their opinions in the past (hence, why nerds or the more socially outcast often take this tone of voice) and be able to generate a bit more empathy for them. After all, I’ve had some pretty socially-outcast type moments in my life. A lot, honestly. And I get it, I get that they’re trying to like appear more authoritative so I’ll take them seriously because they’re not used to being taken seriously. But, my god, I find it so annoying.
I guess perhaps a more interesting question would be, why does it bug me so much? I mean, at least part of it is it reminds me of my own insecure moments when I try to overcompensate. But, another part of it is that I stop believing that there’s gong to be any possibility of making any sort of interesting conversation or emotional connection. I start believing, “Ok, this person is mostly interested in impressing me, not about connecting with me.” Which, is possibly wrong – if I were able to convince them that I valued their opinion, they would likely become more open to my own point of view. But, it’s so hard all of my body language is screaming “I want out of this conversation!” Even if after the fact I can understand what happened, in the moment I find myself a lot more stuck.
Practice, I suppose?