Today was a relatively painless day of work. Rather than going to the unnamed high school where we’ve had nothing but trainings and meetings, I instead went to a conference geared toward improving the overall quality of our local charter schools. It was pretty informative, and there was way less complaining than there was at CARS+ earlier this year. But during the keynote speech I was subjected to something much worse than your run-of-the-mill complainer. I was sat right in front of an “Mmm” Person.
Don’t know what an “Mmm” Person is? Well you came to the right place. Have you ever been in a lecture or a Q&A or any event where one person is talking to a large group? At said event, was there one or more persons nodding enthusiastically in agreement with everything the speaker said. That’s not too bad – no harm, no foul. But an “Mmm” Person goes the extra step, verbalizing their intense agreement with the speaker, often in the form of the sound “mmm.” An “Mmm” Person (or MP) could also present in the form of snaps or full words like “yes” or “exactly,” but most often it is simply that “mmm” sound.
“Mmm” is so loaded. It is closely related to the more inquisitive “hmm,” but the gap between them represents the difference between acceptable and murder-worthy. “Hmm” implies that what the speaker just said provoked a thought within you. A new perspective. Some sort of legitimate reaction. It’s still crazy annoying, because you’re not having a personal conversation with the speaker, but at least you might be learning something.
“Mmm,” on the other hand, is disrespectful to everyone involved. First of all, it is distracting to the people around you (me), especially those who are neurotic enough to get easily upset over your attention-seeking noises (definitely me). But even worse is the fact that “mmm” is an absolutely self-serving sound. “Mmm” gives the impression that you not only agree wholeheartedly with what the speaker is saying, but also that none of this information is new to you and you’ve thought it all before. “Mmm” is the equivalent of saying “yeah, good point, but I was saying that a year ago.” And more than that, you need everyone around you to know that this idea isn’t as original as the speaker thinks.
Look, I can’t sit here and deny that I’ve never let out an “mmm” during a particularly engrossing speaking engagement. Sometimes they really do just slip out. But you can’t possibly be so un-self-aware that you don’t even recognize noises are being emitted from your mouth in a situation where you are expressly not the person who should be making mouth-noises. You recognize your slip up, and you readjust your behavior. Otherwise you’re just a jerk, and you deserve to be called out on some random person’s blog. You hear that Lady-In-A-Poncho-On-A-Hot-Day-In-Downtown-Los-Angeles? You deserve this.