Malcolm Gladwell is a dirty liar but I don’t want to argue about it because I’m terrible at arguing. He’s the author who came up with the idea that “10,000 hours of deliberate practice,” are needed to become an expert or world-class, in any field. To break that down, 10,000 hours is approximately 417 days. If you devote 3 hours per day it would be approximately 3333 days or a little over 9 years.
I am 38, I have definitely dedicated more than 9 years of my life at this point to arguing. I grew up with four older siblings, I had 10,000 hours of arguing before I hit puberty. If we’re just counting the hours I’ve spent creating arguments and hashing them out in my head, or replaying arguments from years past before my brain lets me sleep, then I and all of the voices in my head are also experts at arguing.
Yet, I am far from a world-class arguer. I am world-class argumentative, but that doesn’t quite translate into successfully expressing my point-of-view in a persuasive manner. It just means I lack a filter adequate enough to halt the alchemy-like conversion of thoughts into vocalized idiocy.
I know what NOT to say, I just don’t know how to stop myself from saying those things.
“Calm down,” I’ll say, despite knowing full well that throughout the history of the English language, even back before Beowulf was committed to dried out sheepskin using sap and owl feces (or whatever they used to write back then), no one has ever actually calmed down when being told to calm down.
There are times when I have actually heard myself say, “I didn’t say you ARE an asshole. I said, don’t BE an asshole.” For some reason, during an argument, making the distinction between an accusation and cautionary concern is never appreciated.
It’s like I’m having an out-of-body experience. My astral projection is hovering over me, seeing my lips form phrases like, “Well, that’s a logical fallacy..” trying desperately to swim back to my body and stop myself from speaking any further.
I’ve worked on this. I’ve even tried to learn that circular breathing technique that Kenny G used to set the record for playing one note for 45 minutes, just so I could learn to apologize while I’m saying colossally stupid nonsense, “You’re acting just like–I’m so sorry–your mother–oh god.”
I want to change. I want to not succumb to my impulses, but those impulses are strong, and much faster than those synapses associated with rationality and empathy. You know how there are some dinosaurs they think had a second brain in their tail? Maybe I have that but I have a small lizard brain in my tongue, attached to my speech centers, that is only capable of making matters worse? Oh, or maybe I have one of those parasites that fishes have that replaces the tongue and then lives out the rest of its life pretending to be a tongue. Yeah, I’ll try that excuse next round of apologies.