Friday, May 9, 2014

On Communication and Directness

I was on the bus today, and my friend called me on the phone. I am not very adept at handling phone calls as they happen as I find it hard to switch my attention and multi-task. But I took the call nevertheless. My can't-multi-task mind forgot to be aware of the loudness of having a loud phone conversation on a crowded bus, and someone across the way to me said, very calmly and simply to me near the end of the conversation "Can you get off the phone?"  I said "Sure," told my friend I had to go and hung up. No drama, no big deal, just a simple statement of need and fulfillment of need. Why can't all human interactions be like this? So easy, when people just say what they mean, and mean what they say.

I realize that it very well could have not gone that way. I could have misinterpreted his message, he mine. He could have been more aggressive or hostile while giving the message, I could have been defensive while receiving it. But none of that happened. It was the easiest, most simple form of communication ever.

Later that day, I'm sitting in a doctor's office, listening to him tell me "I'm going to be as direct as I can. You need to..." Note to self, if you have to preface something with "I'm going to be as direct as possible" then you're probably not used to being very direct. Finally, this time I was able to hear the message he was trying to give me, but it clearly took several tries (5 by his admission, but five spectacularly unclear attempts) for him to figure out how to be direct enough to just say what he meant so I could understand it .

Let's review here. One has an advanced medical degree and a lot of education. The other, one assumes but doesn't know, has probably received quite a bit less education. (This being Maine, and education levels often correlate to income levels, and rich or well-off people usually do not ride buses in Maine.) But which of those people was able to communicate in a way that took 30 seconds to understand, and which took by his own admission 5 tries before he could get the message across?

Our culture has messed up priorities. All of that money, spent educating people on how to obscure the truth and not say what they mean. *Shakes head* Messed up priorities, if you ask me.


  1. I hear what you're saying, but (in the doc's defense) I'll bet the doc was trying to convey something more complicated than "please get off your phone."

  2. Hmm well you do have a point here. (In other news someone actually left a comment here? This is the first comment I've gotten in ages. Maybe I should try to have more shorter posts like this lol. )

    You do have a point there, of course. But I will say that what he was trying to express wasn't MUCH more complicated than get off your phone, or he probably wouldn't have gotten irritated at me for having to repeat it 5 times. It was a similar dynamic I face elsewhere in my life. He was telling me a factual statement about a factual course of treatment he wanted me to have. I was trying to ask him for the reasons of WHY behind the treatment and HOW it would feel and how long it would feel that way and when he asked me if I would do it, I said that depends on whether I can get (these other needs related to the treatment) met. He kept feeling I wasn't understanding him because I kept asking more questions, and I kept feeling he wasn't understanding me because he wasn't answering the questions. Simply finally saying in the end, something along the lines of, "We're not equipped to deal with your psychosocial needs here, we can only tell you to do (X)" was all I needed and wanted to hear. Was that really so hard? Then again I think on a very deep level of analysis unconsciously, and people tell me I can't expect others to be able to always follow me there. But a doctor who spends most of his days telling people to do this treatment? I thought he could follow me there.

    That may not make sense without more specifics, and it still might not make sense to anyone without an Aspie brain, but it comes down to this .If you have a thought, SAY IT. Don't beat around the bus 10 million ways from Sunday and then get frustrated that I can't understand you. If he couldn't meet my needs he should have told me I can't meet your needs instead of ignoring my expression of my needs and telling me this is what you need to do. Maybe NTs can read each other's minds, but Aspies can't. Thanks for the comment, it was thought provoking.