I am a person who likes other people to be comfortable. I dislike tension of any kind. I want everyone to be cheery and happy and glad to be around me. This means I often disguise my true feelings and take them out on my wonderful and long-suffering husband, but that’s a story for another day.
Today’s story is about how my desperate need for others to feel “at home” around me leads me to do some pretty insane things sometimes. Perhaps the most insane thing I do on a fairly regular basis is adopt the speech mannerisms and accents of my fellow conversant. For example: if you and I are in a conversation and you have a
Georgia accent, I will soon begin softening my “r” sounds. If you are from
Boston, I might eliminate the “r” altogether and throw the word “wicked” around a lot more than I do in normal speech.
This all started when I began my slow migration southward from my hometown in suburban
Chicago. My speech was nasal-y and very, very fast. By the time I ended up in southern Indiana (right on the Ohio River, any further and it would have been Kentucky), people looked at me strangely and repeatedly asked me to slow down. I began to adopt the speech patterns of the people around me. I talked slower. I even said (and still say) ya’ll.
I found the technique to be very effective, especially in my job as a newspaper reporter. People like people who are like them, they talk more, they open up, they share to someone they see as “their own.” They don’t talk to 22-year-old Chicagoans who can’t even slow down enough to engage in small talk before asking the spelling of their last name.
When I saw how this made people like me, I started doing it all the time – more often after a few drinks. It all culminated in an embarrassing episode on a bus in
St. Lucia in September 2002. After a long night of drinking, Hubby and I found ourselves seated next to a couple from
Britain. You can guess what came next. I can’t really remember much, except it did involve Hubby giving me the death eye.
Last week, I was talking with the president of
University, who has the most charming accent I’ve ever heard. I enjoyed our conversation very much, even though I was digging my fingernails into the fleshy part of my hand as a friendly reminder to not be an idiot, you are at work and adopting his accent in this situation WOULD BE STUPID.
I know lots of people have little foibles like this. Help me feel like I’m not such a freak!
PS Angel Face is totally fine – she had a little bug, but by the time we got to the doctor she was running around like a crazy kid and happily pointed out the doctor’s eyes, nose, mouth, hair, ear, teeth and toes. And pointed at Mommy’s chest and said “don’t touch.”