NT "Competition"


Someone who had read some of my essays asked me whether I believe NT social communication is inherently competitive. I responded:

I don't know, really, I just wrote about how things look to me. For example: took me a while, but I finally figured out something that was going on when my co-workers and I had our little weekly meetings. The others made sure to mention their own "credentials" (whether in the form of knowledge or experience) whenever the others did. As if trying to maintain parity. That seems to me to be one normal function of NT conversation. NTs probably don't even notice it's going on, ordinarily. It's automatic.

But it's not automatic for me. After I spent that little bit of time in jail, I gave a copy of my writing about it to X. She was very complimentary and started telling me I should submit it somewhere. The way she was talking, you'd think it was the first thing I'd ever written. If I were NT, no doubt she would know all about the things I've written that have been published in the past. I would have mentioned them naturally, automatically, as part of establishing my identify within my relationship with her.

But I don't operate that way. My interactions with most people (including X) don't involve me on an NT social level. It's not that I don't like her (in fact, I do like her) or that I prefer that she not know about my life. It's just that...nothing in me "cues" me to do that NT socializing that consists of building up a picture of one's self for the other person. In many contexts, I suppose, NTs are not engaging in this mutual display as a form of serious competition. They are not trying to "top" one another; they are trying to build a relationship of social equals. But the NT process of doing that looks from the outside (where I am) almost indistinguishable from the competitive kind of status talk.

I tend to expect people to accept me, period, without giving them any "reason" (such as running through a list of my accomplishments). If I were NT, I wouldn't even think of it that way, because creating and maintaining relationships would be rewarding for me in a different way (and much less draining, in most cases). I would see such conversations as opportunities rather than games or contests from which I recoil.



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