Dec 10, 2008
Talk is cheap, but talk takes time, time being money is not cheap, so why do we talk at all? Communication is important to life as social animals. Humans are bound to their society by needs, wants, and so forth and communication is needed to properly satisfy those tasks. From communicating for work, to community, and friendship, communication connects people in a way that no other medium can. Television, blogs, essays, and speeches fail to solve this because they are one-way monologue communication. If a person is properly coherent, people can glean meaning from a monologue form of communication. For example, a person who knows me well or who doesn't know me can read this and understand what I'm saying because I'm a straightforward speaker and I speak my mind in the same way I write a one sentence blog.
E-mail, IM, blog/forum comments, and telephone (a certainly dialogue form of communication) are notorious for their lack of appropriate guides for meaning. Face to face communication solves this issue by adding very quick responses, control over who gets to talk when, and facial expressions which help a lot for context and meaning. The obvious problem with face to face communication is that it takes time and energy to get to the same place at the same time. Since face to face communication is so important, people put a lot of work into making sure it occurs.
I recently made a foray into multimedia (video+audio) communication for a technical story I did. I made the video (a screen capture of a web browser session) the main feature with audio voiceover to explain easily to the viewer what they should know. There's a serious problem with video communication: text often works better. People who have to spend 10 minutes watching your video just to learn what you could have showed them in links are not going to be very happy with you. But some things really need video. Telling people that you got over 1,000,000 points playing RockBand is not nearly as interesting as showing them on YouTube. Thus the time for text and the time for video both exist. The question becomes when.
I have trouble communicating properly in face to face communication. Most of that is shyness that is natural for a person who doesn't have confidence in social settings. Usually lack of confidence is caused by lack of success in the circumstances. Some people may have a specific disorder while others may just be poor enough that they can't afford to spend money on going out that they don't have. Other people have no problem communicating in person but have serious problems thinking about appropriate subjects or sometimes they can't think of the right words to say. Each person has a style of talk. Those that have no deficit in their communication are either doing very well or not using their skills to their potential.
There's no rush though, let's all just chill out a bit and take a deep breath. Think about your strengths for a moment: you're smart, you're charming (or at least a bit cute), and people naturally like you. Don't take it from me, just ask them, or not. If you have a weakness in one area of communication, the best way to go about fixing it is practice, the very thing that you have trouble with. The best way to practice is to find someone who is very accepting and yet very interesting to you. There's a problem with that because these people are few and they usually do not want to go on a date with you. That's quite alright because being friends with this person is better than you deserve, right? Low self-esteem is one of the horrific issues that shy or ill confident people have so I bring it up to remind readers that these thoughts are common and natural. The solution is to improve slowly. Everyone starts out with different skills, so it makes perfect sense to grow and create a better situation for yourself.
Talking to a person who helps you is a comforting thing. It may cause you distress if you spend too much energy trying to work on it, but that's blaming symptoms and not the cause. Often the subject matter has to be simple because most people who are willing to help you aren't going to help you unless they benefit a bit from it: satisfy their interest. How do you know their interests? Ask them. It may be evident, it might be incredibly obscure, but you're smart, do your thing, think. So the most likely avenues of discussion are: work, recreation, nature, exercise, music, food, alcohol, sports, television, games, hobbies, education, local news, politics, religion, family, and dating. You find different people who want to discuss different things but it's pretty rare if it strays from these topics. If you know me and you look closely at my list you may have taken offense because I've talked to you probably following this exact the pattern. I'll tell you why we talk about these things. Small talk is cheap, easy, well-known, non-threatening, and usually non-argumentative. For some people politics is a no go while others religion is a no go and certain people who have jobs with 3 letter acronym companies, work is a no go. If you find yourself outside these areas, you're on uncommon ground. The funny thing is that people who are shy actually do better in uncommon ground than in small talk because when the other person is off-balance, the shy person is empowered to use their creativity for the discussion. But sadly, most people don't like the idea of not being in control, so this is usually a losing discussion. Meta-discussions are better left for blogs (like this one) or wikis.
Why am I advocating small talk when shy people are better at uncommon topics? It's the old catching flies with honey rather than vinegar. In my previous relationship, an hour of reasonable small talk was enough to convince my
victim new friend to consider me sane enough to spend part of a spring with. But given this hope of a truthful, intelligent romance I had to destroy it with enough philosophy, technology talk, and ultimatums to choke a yak. I'm actually surprised that it lasted that long. Why would I do such a thing? Relationships are all about mutual benefit. If a person derives benefit from something, they want to benefit more from it. Here, let me draw you a flow diagram.
Where does talking too much factor in? Oh, it's right there, the loop goes:
good? yes → more? yes → do it. → good? until about five trillion times later, you get to the path where it all goes wrong:
good? yes → more? no → stop it. no → do it. → good? no. → fix it? no. → stop it. OK. → good. Owch, it kinda stings to see how wrong I am by nature. I can't solve it, can I?
But then you say: this diagram is far too simple! Where's pain? Where's abandonment? Where's addiction? Where's never having to say "I love you"? Where's cheating on your girlfriend of five years because you think she's cheating with someone she's not? Where's not talking to the girl you love because you think she's too good for you? Oh trust me, it's all in there. You just have to think of it in the right terms. Pain is very easy to find in the block
"stop it". When you lack something that you love, it is easy to see. Many people have built their lives around hiding their pain and they are the easiest to tell that they are suffering. More complex phenomena such as addiction, jealousy, and low self esteem can be gleaned from the various loops. For example, normal love is the loop:
good? yes → more? yes → do it. → good?. Jealously enters in when a person asks whether it is good and says no. Whether the other person's love is not enough or the other person loves another, it is no longer good. True, it is much more complex than simply "not good" but the emotion is often a feeling of loss, which is expressed by the loop:
good? no → fix it? no → stop it. no → do it. → good?. Addiction is similar to love when you consider that addiction jumps past the question
good? because it's an assumption that whether it's good or not, we want more. A common loop that an addicted person finds him/herself in is the same as the above jealousy trap. Though these are similar on the flow chart, they are fairly different in real life because of the reasons, the decisions, and the complexity.
So the question of love and communication go hand in hand and yet the entire flow diagram of love lacks communication. How do I improve this flow diagram to include communication? Communication involves a second person. It's a two way process. It makes more sense to write a protocol and then try to analyze it into a flow diagram. I don't have enough time tonight to do that, so I'll leave it for another time.
Today's talk about talk has discussed love, shyness, an idea of how to find a friend to help you grow to be a better communicator. But let me put something here in the executive summary so that the reader feels a bit happier for reading the whole thing through (or skipping to the conclusion, you crafty skimmer / speed-reader). Talking is about sharing intellectual property (IP) for the mutual cost of time and energy and benefit of whatever IP the other person is willing to share. It can be a hobby, a recreation, therapy, work, friendship or cooperation. A good way to exercise rhetoric is to write a philosophy blog like the above discussion of communication. Most shy people really do well at writing incredibly boring intellectual essays, so to instead exercise small talk, it's often necessary to practice with a kind, interesting person. Good luck finding them, don't despair since you aren't exactly dying just being shy.
I'm going to Virginia between Dec 15 and Jan 5. I'm spending Christmas with my Grandma who I haven't seen for over 10 years. Has anything changed? I've become a lot more involved with the internet, she married and her husband passed away. I went to community college, university, got my degree, worked for 4 years, visited two continents, and learned a lot. I've talked with her a handful of times in those 10 years. How many times did I visit the east coast and not visit her? Once, I think. How many lunches have I had with my other grandma who lives in Spokane? Too many to count. Talking with your grandma is nice, but there's definitely a bit of a barrier not spending time with someone. The less you communicate with someone, the less you know someone giving you less reason to talk with them. Flow diagram? Some other time.
My plans for January:
- Color flyers for a Neg9 206 PR blitz.
- Snowboarding in Spokane.
- Visit Grandma in Spokane.
- Neg9 206 Meeting.
- AltSci Philosophy Journal Issue release
- AltSci software vulnerability search.
- Play drums at an Open Mic.
- Buy or build an audio receiver that supports optical 5.1 that uses less watts than any competitors.
- Get GNU Radio to work.
- New version of AltSci based on Atom, semantic-web, and Del.icio.us.