August 30th, 2010

Whale fluke

Fear not the "What?"

I make many people go "What?"

This has been true for a long time. I talk too fast, I think both too fast and sometimes too confusedly, and I leave people's minds in my wake, trying to catch up. I've noticed this, I've figured this out, and when I first did so, I tried to help family, friends, and co-workers catch up by saying more. Explaining. Usually over-explaining. If an attempted joke was involved, that joke got eviscerated like a high school science lab's frog. I was a less profane version of Shane Black's can't-tell-a-joke-to-save-his-life soldier in Predator.

I had such a problem with being misunderstood. It was a problem I let grow out of proportion to what it should be. People, except for bullies, rarely were actively trying to hear me wrong. But there I was, being stand-off-ish, and probably generating an air of "You just can't understand me." Which didn't help.

Much of my life's been an attempt to calm down. Slow down. I got the impression when I heard him speak in 2006 that Stephen King thinks really fast, but that he slows down his presentation of those thoughts when speaking, in his drawl. Maybe that's what he's doing, maybe it's not, but that's my impression. And maybe I heeded that as a lesson.

Now -- I wait. And usually after a couple of seconds, what I said clicks in the other person's mind -- you can see it in their faces -- and they have something to which they can react. If they still look confused, then I can explain.

Maybe I manage to trust people more. Trust that, most of the time, they'll catch up with the crazy train of my mind. It's helped with in-office interaction: what I say almost always clicks in their heads, even if it takes a couple of seconds. And I'm not jumping onto their thought process and short-circuiting anything by adding, "Because, you know, turnips. And antifreeze."+

I like to think I make sense. I like to think I can be understood. Maybe I've yet to really get the sense of humor in my last few offices, but I can still communicate effectively. I just have to let myself.

I am grateful I have managed to become far less annoyed than I once was at the word "What?"



+Note: I haven't actually said that. And a very few of you may be saying "That's not the quote! The quote is 'TURNIPS! TURNIPS AND ANTIFREEZE!' And then someone says 'Not with Donny Osmond he won't!'" Thank you, Berkeley Breathed, for writing that. I love that little blast of nonsense.