People often confuse me. Not intentionally, I’m sure. Just when I think I’m getting the hang of understanding NTs they come out with some seemingly simple comment where all the individual words make perfect sense but the meaning when combined into a sentence eludes me.
It usually involves metaphor or analogy, or else overgeneralization: something that is broadly accurate but where exceptions exist that I am unfortunately aware of. I say “unfortunately” because if I know that some statement is not true in all cases then I get hung up on that fact and go off on a mental tangent cataloging all the exceptions I can think of. Needless to say I then lose track of the conversation. I get an urge to correct the speaker, “helpfully” pointing out to them that what they have said is not strictly true, and offering examples to demonstrate this to them. In most instances I manage to suppress this urge these days – it isn’t usually well-received (to put it mildly!).
I’ve mentioned before how my literal interpretation can interfere with understanding even familiar figures of speech, but when they are unfamiliar it can be a serious impediment: I can get such a strong literal image of the phrase that it precludes consideration of alternative interpretations. I’ve become quite used to the expression of disbelief when I ask them what they mean – they might respond that it’s obvious. Not to me it isn’t. That’s why I asked.
All this assumes that I’m paying attention to whatever conversation is going on – I’ve got a habit of drifting off into my own thoughts if I lose interest in the subject at hand. I gaze into space and become very still, lost in thought until somebody deliberately attracts my attention, usually because they have just asked me something and I’ve not responded.So I have to ask them to repeat what they just said, and explain what they’ve been talking about for the last five minutes. A lot of the time they don’t bother and resume whatever topic was under discussion while I tune out again.
One thing I notice again and again about NT conversations is the amount of detail that is either omitted or assumed as common knowledge. They might be talking about something that was reported on the news, or some recent event, and I find it incredible how far they can take a line of reasoning without any solid foundation of fact, or even stating their underlying assumptions for the benefit of the other participants. I wonder if that’s because they don’t consciously analyze their subjective views, their unconscious prejudices. Indeed they appear resistant to any attempt to expound or elucidate these unspoken assumptions: I know that I rapidly lose the ears of my listeners when I attempt to build up an argument from basic principles. But unless I articulate the foundations on which I am basing my opinions, how can they understand my position? Perhaps they just don’t have the patience to appreciate a pedantic, pedagogical approach and dismiss it as grandiloquence.