We’ve all been there. Someone starts talking, and you realize that what they are saying they have already told you, perhaps many times before. What should you do? Tell them politely you’ve already heard it? Listen without protest, pretending you haven’t? Silently stew, hoping your resentment won’t eventually become an explosion?
No. You should just charge the person a reasonable fee, say $20 for the privilege of making you listen to something you’ve already heard from them. This modest fee of $20 per instance could all but eliminate unwanted conversational repetition from the lives of millions of people within a matter of days, and has the potential to fund major projects around the world.
What we are referring to is best termed an “interaction infraction.” It is a choice in an interaction for which there should be a penalty, because the choice is destructive, or imposes a burden on someone else, or both. There are entire categories of interaction infractions, ranging from minor to severe, and from barely discernible to grotesquely obvious. Yet the solution to the social plague of bad behavior in interactions is universal:
Charge a fee.
Some interaction infractions (I-squared, or I2) are truly pernicious, and no one should have to tolerate them without proper compensation, so rates should correspond to the severity of the infraction. Below is a proposed schedule of rates that is reasonable for the United States, though these rates might have to be adjusted up or down based on local economic conditions. Other countries should set their own rates as appropriate.
Proposed Rate Schedule for Interaction Infractions (US)
1. Repetition of a fact, observation or story: $20 per instance ($50 surcharge for a long story)
2. Insisting on saying something again even when the other person has already told you you’ve said it before: $100 per instance
3. Complaining about something in your life you could have fixed long ago: $250 per instance
4. Increase to the above, per year: +$50 (The second year in a row you do this, the rate per instance would be $300 per instance, the third year would be $350 per instance, etc.)
5. Complaining about something in your life that is actually your fault: $400 per instance
6. Talking about your self or your own life for more than ten minutes without asking the other person about themself or their life: $500 per instance
7. Having a conversation of more than thirty minutes with a person and droning on about yourself and your life, but never asking anything at all about them or their life: $1,000 per instance
8. Being clueless about all of the above for more than ten years: forfeit all assets forever
A Glorious Vision of a New Life for All
Imagine just how much good could be done with such a system, strictly enforced. Not only would most interactions be vastly improved, but any infractions could pay for early childhood nutrition programs, free contraception, solar panels, Trump-supporter deprogramming efforts, assault weapon buyback programs, and maybe even some free pizza once in a while.
Try it out on your friends. Better yet, try it out on yourself:
For every infraction, contribute the corresponding amount to the charity of your choice.