Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Speaking in tongues

Sometimes I wonder if I'm actually speaking English.

But it's weird, because it's not like the people I'm talking to don't actually hear anything I say, it's like they only hear a few key words and the rest are something different.

So maybe I'm speaking English but I'm not actually using the words I hear myself using? I have no idea how that would work, but I'm not sure what other conclusion to draw some days.

For example, I spent a good five minutes explaining a particular issue I've been having with sleeping. I thought that I was being very exact about the problem, which was basically sleep paralysis and vivid dreams.

He seemed to understand, made a few notes, and then a few minutes later made an offhand comment that made me suspect that he actually thinks I'm sleep walking. What I was describing as dreams, where I thought I was very clear that these things weren't real I just thought they were, he took as me saying they were actually happening.

In a general context, this would be kind of funny. But half the time it happens to me when I'm dealing with medical issues, and the other half it's usually a problem at work. So while I normally would laugh it off if it happened with a friend, it's starting to really bug me.

Some days, like today, I think it's an issue that we're not really teaching communication skills in school anymore. Because nobody is being taught a set of rules or a certain way to behave in a professional context, everybody is just kind of making it up as they go along and then nobody understands each other perfectly.

Other days, I think it's that nobody wants to listen because they're too self absorbed anyway. Or maybe that they don't know what they're doing, so they ignore any indication that a problem is something outside their expertise so that they can fit it into what they know and deal with it, even if that means they're not actually dealing with the problem at all.

Personally, I've always been a big fan of trying to use the exact right word at the exact right time. I once spent twenty minutes arguing the difference between "can" and "may." So when I try so hard to carefully choose my words and then somebody doesn't really read or hear what I say, I don't really know what to do. I've already considered what I was going to say and sifted through my vocabulary for the best set of words, so how can I rephrase it?

Most of the time, if somebody is upset or offended and it was because they didn't really comprehend what I meant, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and try to figure out how we can communicate. But it's started to happen so often lately that I'm back to the original thought: am I not speaking English or something?

Because if I'm not and I think I am, I think it's a sign of something serious and I should probably tell somebody about that.

You know, if I could figure out how.