That’s Cool, an Obituary

Lately, I’ve been noticing a phrase that takes people’s interactions from genuine to insincere. It restrains people from connecting with others.

When people say it to me, I often feel unappreciated and have a subtle desire to end the interaction. I’ve personally said it many times and scored high on the disingenuous meter each time.

The pernicious phrase is: “That’s cool.”

“I like that” is more genuine, and more daring.

Saying “that’s cool” is complimentary on the surface, but it also conveys some insincerity. At best, it expresses watered-down appreciation; at worst, utter disingenuousness.

To see the effect, suppose that you’re about to tell me the story of your latest jogging adventure through the neighborhood…

You: (Actually say your story right now. Really.)

Me: “That’s cool.”

Notice how that feels to you. Now, what if I responded like…

Me: “I like how vividly you told that story–I felt like I was right there jogging. My legs even feel tired from listening! I could be mad at you for tiring out my legs…but you know what, I like you. What else have you done lately?”

Notice a difference in how that feels?

Also, when I say it the second way, I almost can’t help but continue the interaction. When I have given you my personal, specific interest, I find it natural to continue the interaction–it just flows. I’d feel strange if I didn’t continue after finding out that I genuinely liked you.

Saying “that’s cool” is a placeholder for not making the interaction personal or specific where you could, and should.

“That’s cool”
Generic and impersonal (no one is held accountable to back it up).

“I like that”
Personal (you are backing it up)–a huge improvement; but it’s still generic.

“That was a well-told, vivid story”
More specific–a big improvement; but it’s still impersonal.

“I like how vividly you told that story…”
Both personal and specific. This is the most powerful.

And it’s not just powerful for the effect it has on others, it’s even more powerful in the effect is has on you.

Being impersonal and non-specific makes you not fully involved in the interaction, and you won’t enjoy the interaction as much. Do this, and you won’t be getting as much out of this moment of your life as you could. Being personal and specific makes the interaction more exciting *for you*.

“Cool” is generic. Vivid storytelling, feeling like I was jogging, and tired legs are all specific. Talking about specifics pulls your focus tightly into the interaction; you’ll experience more during the interaction, and you’ll actually be more alive. Your being more alive and present pulls your conversational partner deeper into the interaction, too. Then, together, you can spiral the interaction up to ever more exciting places.

Some other thoughts about the phrase “that’s cool.”:

“That is…” is weak and impersonal. “I like…” is strong, committed, personal. Tone and body language are perhaps even more important in making it personal: smile, lean in, touch her, speak with your whole body, fully commit with your whole being to what you say. But this will all naturally happen if you talk about things you genuinely care about.

“That’s cool” is insincere because you can’t possibly mean it. “That’s cool” is a statement of universal proportions–it implies an objective certainty of coolness. But being cool is a subjective opinion, and while you can meaningfully say “I think that’s cool,” you cannot meaningfully say “That’s cool,” unless you’ve just polled every consciousness in the universe–past, present, and future–and determined that it is cool for everyone, always.

In practice, when you hear yourself say “that’s cool,” just follow it up with what you specifically meant. So you’ll end up with something like: “That’s cool…I really like how you…” Say this sloooowly, and you’ll have plenty of time to figure out your reason by that point in the sentence.

Take accountability for what you think, own it. Don’t tell someone that everyone should consider her cool. Tell her that *you* like her. Don’t hide behind the safety of universal consensus. Risk being the only one who appreciates something special you see in her. That makes you strong, exciting, unique, and genuine.

While you’re at it, monitor everything you say to make sure you’re not issuing statements on behalf of the universe as a whole, but on your authority. “You should come out tonight” becomes “I’d like you to join us.” Only concern yourself with things you care about. If you don’t care, then don’t waste your time talking about it and boring yourself. If you do care, then say so.

“That’s cool” may have been an important first-step in expressing some appreciation for others, but let’s move beyond it to more meaningful and genuine interactions on adultfrienedfinder. There, all manner of exciting things may happen.