“But she is a really nice person”

That is the reply I usually get when I tell someone that someone else is dumb, or is an imbecile or is boring. And now I think I have some insight into why people who are otherwise idiots or irritating or boring are also extremely nice people, with “big hearts”.

Basically I’ve found that whenever I’m low on confidence or self esteem I end up being more sensitive, both with respect to myself and others. I display greater empathy, I care more about how people would feel and react to things I would do, and my usual buffalo skin disappears and I get affected by any adverse comments or remarks or incidents. Actually, I’ve seen a two-way implication here, but again you need to remember that I’m extrapolating from one data point here. Back in 2001, I had received extensive feedback (from various parties) that I had become too arrogant and self-centered, and that I needed to make an effort to be nicer and more sensitive towards people. I did make that effort, too successfully I think, for though I consequently became more popular, I entered into a prolonged period of low self esteem. Anyway, I digress.

So, based on the one strong data point that I have, which is myself, I hypothesize that low self esteem leads to greater empathy. People who you are likely to normally consider to be “boring” or “stupid” are likely to know that people think of them as that, and are consequently more likely to have low self esteem. And going by my hypothesis, that means they are more sensitive, have greater empathy, and “have big hearts”. And so, the remark “but she is a really nice person” in the context I mentioned largely holds true.

Charades of obscurity

Having “played” dumb-charades (DC for short) competitively at a school and college level, I don’t particularly enjoy playing it casually. I’m prone to getting annoyed when people around me (either on a picnic, or a party) exclaim with great enthusiasm that we should play DC. Till recently I used to think it was like chess – where my enthusiasm for the game has been killed purely because I played it competitively, but now I realize there are more reasons.

The challenge with “competitive” DC is that it is a timed game. You are judged based on how fast you can act out a certain name/place/animal/thing/. Because of this the clues need not be too hard, and there is a fair degree of challenge in acting out even simple things. Apart from this, the clues are set by a neutral third party which means they can all be trusted to be of approximately similar standard, so there is some sort of a level playing field there. Then, you have teams that have practiced well together, and have clues for all the trivial stuff, and you have a game!

With casual DC, there are several problems. Firstly, the games are not timed. Secondly, the teams haven’t practiced together at all, so it takes ages to communicate even straightforward stuff (which is why the games aren’t timed). And then the clues are usually given to you by your competitor. And for some reason, casual DC always has to be movies. No books, no places, no animals, no personalities, nothing.

The f act that the games are not timed, combined with the fact that the clues are given by the competitor, means that the game usually gets into a downward spiral of obscurity. You don’t want your competitor to guess the movie easily, so you give a vague movie. And they reply with something vaguer. And so forth, until teams have to check IMDB to find out if the movies actually exist. By which time all the enthusiasm for the game is lost.

On a recent trip (with colleagues, as part of our CSR initiative. more on that in another post) we played casual DC, and after some 10 clues it had gotten so obscure that nothing was guessable. I’d lost interest when someone suggested we do Kannada movies! Now, that’s something few people would’ve played – DC with Kannada movies as clues, because of which we could give clues while not keeping them too obscure (but it was hard. I completely bulbed trying to act out “Kalasipalya”).

Still, my hatred for casual DC remains, and I try as much as possible to not play it. Maybe next time I’ll impose conditions (like timing, choice of subjects, etc.), and refuse to play if they want to do English movies with infinite time.