Friday, January 29, 2016

Communication Analysis: What's Going Wrong?

First, please read this story:

I started to include it in a Link Log, then decided to comment at length and make this a separate post, mainly because of the nature of the distraction that came up while I was writing.

I've said, and received hatespews for saying, and therefore feel obliged to say again: Real introverts do not want uncongenial people to try to "draw us out" and "be friendly."  During the twentieth century many of us were miseducated to believe that we ought to be more gregarious, but we simply are not. Deep down, we'd prefer that people not clutter our lives with idle chatter, but do things they really enjoy, with people they really like, and allow us to do the same. If you share our interests you're likely to become a close friend. If not, the friendliest thing to do is to accept that you're a familiar stranger, be cordial when talk is necessary and helpful or appreciative when help is necessary, and not waste more of our time than you can help in any other situation.

We're introverts because we have more completely developed, better-functioning brains than extroverts have, but that alone does not automatically make us perfect. If we've not been blessed with opportunities to bond with fellow introverts, in our own way, introverts can actually become as antisocial as extroverts want to believe we are.

How can you tell? this story Louise goes from making it clear that she doesn't want to be "befriended" to making it clear that she actively dislikes and wants to punish the people who've insisted on trying to "act friendly." Although she limits her "punishment" to verbal/social displays, an introvert whose social personality had been less damaged wouldn't have bothered with those either. If Louise hadn't become antisocial and hostile, she might still be a bad listener and an awkward talker, but she wouldn't continue hanging around the group after she'd rejected Sharon's invitation; they'd see her looking out the window or bringing a book or newspaper to the table at lunch time, taking her lunch out into the park when the weather permitted, chatting with other people (probably men) if she went to luncheons or parties, moving away from their group altogether as she found other uses for her time.

Louise needs help--I wish more introverts organized and attended communication skills study groups, the way Ozarque did while living. People like Louise don't need to be distracted with garbage about something being wrong with them. They do need to know that they can improve their communication skills, just as they've probably spent time improving their math or computer or car-driving skills.

The other young people in this story also need some guidance. They need to be especially aware that, even though they've seen Louise (shudder! gasp!) eating lunch alone, that does not mean she feels any "need" to drown out those terrifying inner voices with constant chitchat. She may not be hearing those inner voices, or that inner roaring silence, or whatever else it is of which extroverts seem to live in such horror. She may be relaxing and meditating; she may be listening to her own, rational, confident, task-focussed inner voice, and enjoying it, thinking intelligently about her job or her creative pursuits or her family. That might be why the group should want her--they may need her talent, know it, and have something to say that she'd be interested in hearing. In this story, however, the group obviously don't want Louise's help to do anything Louise is interested in doing, so Louise's indulging them in that first invitation is indeed a matter of her doing them a favor. If they're not abjectly grateful for the honor of her indulgence, they shouldn't demand it.

At the very moment that I began typing this post, in the computer center, a little child wandered up and started nattering to me about a movie. Whoa! Say whaaat? Who is this child and why is he approaching me? He wasn't even born when I was interviewing children about children's toys for Associated Content. Where are his parents--it's dangerous for an adult to be seen talking to some random child without parental supervision these days! Fortunately the parents were wandering around in the computer center, talking out loud, eating all over the place, leaving little trails of crumbs, and reclaimed their offspring before I got up to look for them.

They didn't even warn the kid. What happened to "Never talk to strangers!"? What about "Don't bother people who are working!"? I'd settle for "That's your second cousin twice removed, Priscilla King, and as you can see she's busy." The fond parents didn't say anything like that. We are still a culture that coddles extroverts, that encourages them to believe that the brain damage that prevented that poor, cute little boy from realizing he was annoying a stranger is normal, or healthy, or at least "more fun" than having a healthy sense of respect for other people.

We need to become a culture where everyone understands that most people have their own lives to live, their own work to do, and that normal, healthy, happy people do not want to be interrupted without a very good reason. We need to teach children that, even if I have been known to talk to children about Disney movies, I did that while I was selling toys, tutoring, or baby-sitting, not while I was writing.

(Obligatory warble: Even though I'm not that one unknown adult in a million who would ever consider kidnapping or molesting or even slapping a chatty child, that little boy had no way of knowing this. For all he knew I might have been Ms. Stranger-Danger, with a stick of candy, a rope, and a roll of duct tape stowed under the back seat of my car! In some ways that's a separate issue from teaching children to be polite and not pester people who are busy...and then again, maybe it's not completely separate. People like Louise are a minority already, and maybe one in a million even of them would consider punishing a pushy pest with anything worse than a verbal slap--but do parents want to take that chance with little children?)

We need to become a culture where everyone looks at that little boy with the mix of horror and pity I am feeling for him, now, and asks, "What went wrong? No, he didn't just nearsightedly approach someone who looks a bit like his mother from behind--even after making eye contact with a stranger who'd been working on something else, he went right on blathering! Something's not right...that child should be in a special school if he ever goes to school."

We need to become a culture where, if Sharon feels a need to "reach out" to Louise and try to "break the ice," she can at least be honest with herself about what she's feeling, and why.

"I wish I had the courage to sit alone in a cafeteria. When I see you sitting alone and think about sitting alone, I remember things that used to happen when I was in primary school and worry that somebody's going to start throwing things at you. I went to a horrible primary school."

"I wish I weren't so afraid of being alone or being quiet. When I tried meditating, I seemed to hear voices in my head that seemed to come from dead people calling me to join them."

"Are you by any chance unattached? My friends are starting to pair off, and I'm looking for another (male/female) buddy to hang out with until I find someone to date."

We need to become a culture that teaches extroverts, from early childhood, to recognize the signs that people are busy, or are just not interested in them; to accept that most people aren't interested in them, most of the time. I have, and I suspect that many introverts have, experienced most extroverts primarily as obnoxious manipulative jerks. I suspect that most extroverts could have been trained not to be obnoxious manipulative jerks; they can even be trained to think through that urge to approach a new acquaintance, ask themselves whether they really want to talk to this person and why, and then, if they have a reasonable reason to want to approach the person, actually make themselves interesting to that person.

If we as a culture stopped indulging extroverts in the belief that they're the center of the universe and everybody wants to hear from them at every minute, we could actually train them to make themselves useful to humankind. What happens when a child is born intelligent and brought up well, yet still likes being the center of attention, wants to be a leader, even feels an interest in people-as-such? possibility is that, if that child doesn't waste his energy being a pushy pest, he might go into politics and be a really good representative of his constituents. (I really ought to be following a few examples of that pattern in the state legislature today. I am being lazy and self-indulgent.) Or she might go into business and become rich. There's no reason why extroverts have to remain clueless, practically autistic, about what probably could and should become real talents.