Saturday, July 16, 2005

I have to teach you a lesson, again and again

Often after I have a conversation with someone, once I'm alone I find myself repeating something I said, to myself, over and over, maybe changing the words, the tone, or the level of accompanying smile. It's like I'm trying to memorise and rehearse it and then make it better. Once I get it 'right' I feel oddly relieved, like now I'll remember that that's actually the way it happened. Of course I'm aware that this doesn't change anything, and so I wonder why I am doing it. My conscious brain likes to assume that this practice will improve my 'performance' in the next similar situation. For example, maybe I thought I sounded too grouchy or unwelcoming (meeting a friend-of-a-friend, or someone who's new to my floor at work) or I didn't get across the point that I intended to (work-related phone call). But I suspect at a basic level I'm just trying to make myself feel better after an unsatisfactory encounter.

It generally happens with aquaintances, or people I've just met. I don't think I do this with close friends. I can only occasionally remember really dwelling on something I'd said to a good friend which left the distinctive 'foot' taste lingering in my mouth. But that's a different thing.

I'm also not talking about the phenomenon of coming up with the perfect witty comeback a little (or a lot) too late to use it. Esprit d'escalier: "spirit of the staircase" or "wit of the staircase".

Does anyone else do this?

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