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October 10, 2012

Lifemanship: Some Notes Concerning The Current State of the Science

As I mentioned previously, I have become a devotee of Stephen Potter's "Gamesmanship" theory of games and social interactions -- a theory that says, in short, why should the game go to the skilled? Or the admiration to the virtuous? Or the respect to the expert?

What about the rest of us? Why shouldn't we have that social credit, just because we lack skill, virtue, or experitise?

I don't play many games, so the principles of gamemsanship, while providing a solid foundation, are not directly useful in my life. But the principles of Gamesmanship -- winning without technically cheating -- can be applied profitably to social situations of all sorts. This is the sub-field of "Lifemanship."

I have little social interaction with humanity because I'm frankly not a fan. But I was compelled recently to enter a social setting, and I decided that I would use the principles of Lifemanship to undermine social rivals and steal social credit for myself.

One of the central principles of Lifemanship is to rely upon -- or "abuse," if you like -- the natural tendency of people to be polite and consider that in any case of offense, they might be the ones primarily to blame. To, as Dr. Potter so eloquently put it, "convince one's rivals that something, however slightly, has gone wrong, and it's likely their fault."

Theory is all well and good, but practice -- deployment in the field of play, as it were -- is something else again. And thus I sallied forth to put what I have learned into good use.

The scenario: A casual introduction leads to a brief, collegial conversation.

The mark: Someone who is more successful than I am. Which is most people, frankly, but I don't talk to people very often, so usually I am spared the pangs of inadequacy.

The strategem: The simplest of ploys, really. At this point in my education I don't feel comfortable using more advanced gambits and tactics. In this case, I simply went with the crude, brute-force method of suggesting my mark had committed an offensive faux pas.

ME: Well I'm surprised to be meeting you here. How did you get into [your field of expertise] in the first place?

THE MARK: Well I never really planned on it, I just sort of--

ME (deadpan, with bite): No, no, do keep talking about yourself.

The result: A complete flummoxing, as Dr. Potter predicted. Accusing him of monopolizing the conversation, not ten words into an answer to a question I had in fact asked of him, left him speechless, and wondering what he might have done to warrant such an aggressively rude response.

The aftermath: Given that this was merely a Test Run -- I am not yet a Lifeman and certified to attempt these ploys in actual social combat -- I explained to The Mark I had run a ploy on him, as part of a Laboratory of Lifemanship experiment. He seemed reassured to know that he was not, in fact, guilty of any faux pas, and I was not, at least not demonstrably, a lunatic.

I have forwarded this data to the Lifemanship Institute in England for further analysis. It is entirely possible that these ploys, having been left to fallow for so long, are now effectively novel again, and may be of usefulness to the practicing modern Lifeman. Perhaps a Renaissance in the Art of Being a Dick may yet come.

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posted by Ace at 05:42 PM

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