Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

11 Nov 2021, 11:54 a.m.

The Narrow Trash Talk Window

Sometimes I am playing a game in a competitive manner with friends. Our shared cultures sometimes include "trash talk," playful insults offered among players that are meant to express comfort and camaraderie and creativity while firing up the competitive spirit. I think.

I came very late to the level of security necessary to really understand and enjoy teasing directed at me. I remember a specific moment in 2007 when a friend jokingly called me the b-word, and I understood: Oh! He doesn't really mean it! And him calling me that is an expression of and deepening of our friendship, because he counts on me to trust and understand him enough to know he doesn't mean it! And I generally don't insult people (at least, not on purpose!) so that skill isn't one I have well-honed.

So, when I do try to imagine trash talk, my insults either go way too florid and comedic ("Are you waiting for the pyramids to crumble? Did someone dip your fingers in concrete before this game?") or too cutting and possibly hurtful ("Hey, it's really unlikely you would win this anyway, because you're starting from a poor socioeconomic foundation and you went to a bad school!"). Or it just ends up being genuine feedback ("You're slow because you keep looking for the perfect move instead of a good-enough one!").

This is not a particularly dire problem nor one I really need to solve.