Say What You Mean

Say What You Mean

I’m trying to make sense of what you say,
But meaning keeps eluding me. I try
To get you to explain, to be precise,
But fail to crack the code; I’m left confused.

“You don’t spend any time with me,” you say,
Although I’m in proximity all night.
I guess you must mean more by these few words
Than superficial reading can discern.

In lieu of reading minds, I query you
To tease out your intent in speaking thus.
My literal approach has let me down:
Unable or unwilling, you decline
Request after request from me to put
Your evident concerns a different way.

You speak a language using words I know,
Combined in cryptic metaphors to bear
A meaning that may seem so clear to you:
It might as well be Mandarin to me.
So once again I offer up my plea,
I wish for once you’d just say what you mean.

Devious Complication

Devious Complication

A simple soul is what I am,
A simple life I lead.
But other people complicate
Their ev’ry thought and deed.

I fail to see the point of this:
Why skirt round what you mean?
By coming to the point head-on
Intent is plainly seen.

Let others play their petty games.
I’ll stay just how I am.
Taking in the words they speak,
Ignoring hidden plans.

Because I’m just a simple soul,
I fail to see beneath
The surface of banality
That hides the claws and teeth.

Agendas hidden from my sight,
Though seen by other eyes,
Ultimately come to light
And take me by surprise.

I find it hard to understand
So devious a mind:
Manipulate for one’s own ends,
So selfish and unkind.

I’m happy as this simple man,
Content to take no part
In playing games with people’s lives
That end with broken hearts.

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused

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.

Only Joking

Only Joking

Humour. Sarcasm. Teasing. What do these all have in common? They all involve somebody saying something that isn’t true. Somehow I’m supposed to be able to recognize that and react appropriately (whatever that means). Okay, it’s not quite as bad as all that. Often there’s context and other indications such as sheer implausibility that pretty much give the game away. NT people appear to pick up the signs much more easily than I do – I don’t know whether there are subtleties of tone or body language that give it away because I’m pretty much oblivious to those.

My normal reaction to anything somebody says is to take it at face value unless I know that what they are saying is incorrect. Teasing and sarcasm give me the most problems because what they say might be true. I have to respond as if they are being straight. It means I get laughed at sometimes but that doesn’t bother me these days – it used to but I’ve got thicker-skinned over the years and more confident in myself. I’ve learned to make a joke of it, laugh it off, sometimes deliberately take things literally to a ridiculous extreme. That had an unexpected bonus: people started to expect me to be literal and seemed to take account of that more often when speaking to me.

What does bother me about teasing is that I find it hurtful because I believe what they are saying. Even if the person turns round later and says “I was only joking. I didn’t mean it.” the damage has been done. I trust that person less. In my mind I feel that I have to be sceptical about anything they may say to me in the future, treating them like the boy who cried “wolf”. Once I start thinking like that, something has been lost in our relationship – it is less close, less trusting. There are people with whom I start from a position of disbelief when they say anything at all to me. I’d take some convincing before I would believe them if they said the sky was blue.