Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Was I Saying?

When I first saw the above illustration, I laughed at the truth of it... and then I sighed. Because it's true. When I communicate, I use one of two portions of my brain. One is the 'social auto-pilot' that gets me through most interaction without too much fuss. I can hold a five to ten minute conversation without putting too much forethought into it, thus moving from person to person, saying essentially the same thing (which is really nothing), and neither of us is the wiser for it. In the second communication portion of my brain, I am holding a running conversation with myself & I am analyzing and preparing for the off chance that a deeper conversation might be forthcoming. You see, I hate being unprepared, and having unprepared thoughts is a calamity for me. If I know I am going to see someone that I want to have a meaningful conversation with, I have to mentally rehearse that conversation in my mind beforehand, so that I am prepared for the different avenues it might take. The laughable (yes, I laugh at myself over this) part is that, no matter how many scenarios I can go through, and no matter how many variables I come up with, there is an inevitable law of nature that says that my conversation will never go as rehearsed. 

I used to allow this to frustrate me - I would lose sleep analyzing exactly why my conversations didn't go as planned. I'm not sure what point it changed, but now I simply rehearse conversations out of habit and simply have fun seeing how far from the mark it is from the actual interaction. Was that over explaining? I tend to second guess myself at that... Usually my listener's glazed over look is an indication that I have begun inserting unnecessary details into my dialogue. But I can't see your expression, so bear with me. :)

Being totally inarticulate - I find it interesting that this trait is often found among introverts, but also I believe highly in Rational types. Not that their speech itself is slurred or incomprehensible, but the abrupt way we present information tends to confuse anyone who cannot keep up with our mental process. When you have a conversation with a Rational, if it has some meaning or puzzle to it, that conversation will run in the background of their mind until the next time they have a chance to renew the subject with you. So, days can pass, you move on (and most likely even forget), and then your NT friend will bring that conversation up to you as if it happened seconds ago, even starting in the middle of the context, picking up right where you left off. Point in case: I had a conversation in the car with my Mom about how excited I was because this blog has been read by people from across the globe - five countries, to be exact. I could only remember four of them at the time, so the next day while we were fixing lunch, the name of the fifth country occurred to me & I simply looked at her & said, "Germany. That was the other one." (With any other person I do try to give context before launching forward, but she has figured out my tendency to overlap subjects & fills in the gaps accordingly.)

I'm going to do a post in the future about psychological traits in the types and how it tends to manifest itself in healthy or unhealthy ways, but for now - take this information and try to see it in action in your daily life, while you are at work or with friends. Do you know someone who communicates in this way? Does it frustrate you? Perhaps they are not meaning to confuse you, they simply need to be reminded that you do not live in their brain with them, so you need them to back up to a common point and move forward. Also try to realize that for some people, it takes a lot of guts & mental planning for them to have a conversation, so make sure you listen! Listening is the key to consideration - and it just might be the encouragement someone needs today!


  1. It happens exactly like that for me. I do a mental check-list of points, even among friends (the few that I have left), and people seem to get upset. It's great for winning an argument but it doesn't prove acceptable for social interaction. I believe you're an INTJ, only 2% of population.

    1. I am indeed INTJ! Check out my earlier post, Wheel of Fortune, Personality Style. :) Yes, trying to mentally keep the conversation on track can be an advantage for things like business meetings and the court of law, but on a social level it is a challenge to make people feel like you are being sincere. I try to remember that people want to feel included & by being patient, even if they introduce an irrelevant topic, it makes them more willing to let me steer it back to the "point" of the conversation.

  2. I find that there are three states: "Totally Inarticulate", "Eyes Glossing Over", and "Insufficient Information". You touch on all three, but I'm amused at how true they are. The problem is you loose your audience no matter which way you turn: insufficient information, because you don't give sufficient context, results in nobody getting what you are talking about and thinking you are a loon; eyes glossing over is almost worse, because you give just the bare amount of information for people to get what you are saying, but they get bored well before you deliver the background information.