SOME MINIMALIST DRAMATISTIC PATHOLOGIES OF EVERYDAY LIFE
—from Erving Goffman's 'Behavior in Public Places'. I.e. in The Great Theatre of the World:
"Where civil inattention is physically difficult to manage, the scene is set for a special kind of dominance. In an elevator, for example, those in one of the engagements may continue fully engaged, forcing the others present to accept the role of non-persons. Similarly, when two unacquainted couples are required to share the same booth in a restaurant, and they elect to forego trying to maintain an inclusive face engagement, one couple may tacitly give way to the louder interaction of the other. In these situations, the submissive couple may attempt to show independence and civil inattention by beginning a talk of their own. But while it may appear convincing to the other couple, this weaker talk is not likely to convince its own participants, who, in carrying it on, will be admitting to each other not only that they have been upstaged but that they are willing to try to pretend that they have not. It may be added that strength in these cases derives not from muscle but, typically, from social class. [Or beauty... or mere talkativeness and involvement, I should add.]
"Given the fact that participants and bystanders are required to help maintain the integrity of the encounter, and given the complicating fact that bystanders of this encounter may well be participants of another, we may expect some tacit cooperation in maintaining conventional closure. First, if bystanders are to desist in some way from exploiting their communication opportunities, then it will fall upon the participants to limit their actions and words to ones that will not be too hard to disattend. And this keeping down of the excitement level is, in fact, what is generally found. Interestingly enough, this tendency is matched by another that moves in the opposite direction, namely, acting in such a way as to show confidence in the willingness of the bystanders not to exploit their situation. Thus, as already suggested, whispering or obvious use of code terms will then be thought to be impolite, in part because it casts a doubt on bystanders' willingness to be inattentive."
The game is, keep close to your cards! And be an 'eiron': appear to know less than you know, in order to gain topsight. But it's no use—Goffman is watching you.