On Communication, or, Why I Suck at Asking Questions
You see that word in the sub title of this blog? Introvert? Are you wondering if I’m ever going to address the subject? Well, here you go. Time for some serious business.
Guess what? My social interactions are often a little odd. Besides being draining. Probably for everyone else, too.
Let’s go down the checklist:
Do you look around the room, and feel like you made eye contact with every single person broadly facing your direction?
Do you wonder if they’re judging you for staring, even though you’re pretty sure you aren’t?
When in the middle of a group of acquaintances or casual friends, do you feel like you’re observing?
When the group you’re talking to moves off, a couple at a time, do you wonder how they knew what to do?
When you approach some of them a few minutes later, do you figure they think you’re hovering or pushing yourself on them?
When someone asks you a question, or hell, you get on a topic you like or just open your mouth, or something someone says triggers a response, do you Infodump?
You might be a heavy introvert.
Ahhh, lovely frustration. How isolated do you feel today? (no, it’s not a contest. I find it difficult not to smirk, however.)
Let’s see where this leads.
Mind the gap.
Apparently, I’m an INTP. Much of the wikipedia INTP entry is pretty accurate, actually. Especially the second paragraph in the Type Description.
Your responses help ground me. When the conversation dies, it’s because I don’t know what to do. And there’s a good chance I don’t even know how to approach, how to ask. Missing context.
Ask me too broad a question, I simply can’t respond. I will stare blankly while figuring out how to tell you how I’m doing. How much to include.
Or I go on for far too long. See this post for reference.
See the Inferior Function, extraverted feeling. I always seem to be the obvious middle ground in an argument. Note the need for a defined role in a group.
Rather frustrating when there’s an obvious middle ground, because these kinds of arguments don’t make much of an impact. Extremes are fun, this is true. Certainly helps explain pundits.
The simple way to put it is that I need context, and often have trouble picking up on it; other people’s experiences help ground my own observations (oh yeah, I tend to speak in terms of observations, which are often mistaken for judgments), which gives me a tendency to immediately speak in an effort to interact with whatever they just said. Which probably seems like I was just waiting for my chance to talk about myself, when it is exactly the opposite.
I’m reaching out to understand what you’re communicating. I interact through words.
Where it says "When under stress, however, INTPs can feel disconnected from the people around them, unable to use their extraverted Feeling to reach out to others." Yeah, all the freaking time, unless I’m in a really good mood.
I use humor to bridge the gap. The third paragraph (of the type function) is my sense of humor. I cultivate the absurd. It allows me to create my own context when none is present. Humor is an art form, and self-transformation is a creative process between intention and externality. And I use language or humor to bridge that gap. Which is usually what’s happening if I seem to be overbearing or dominant in a conversation.
You (the general you, plural) communicate a feeling, grounded in an example. I respond with a joke and an observation. My observations about my own reactions. The observation sounds like I’m giving advice. Or judging you. I’m actually trying to figure out your intention in the situation that you communicated. I get the example; the feeling doesn’t entirely come through.
Yes, that’s how much effort goes into social situations.
None of this helps when getting to know someone brand new. I do try. But there will be an odd flow to the conversation.
You know how a conversation with your friends will just quiet down suddenly? In person, no big deal; when you’re on the phone or online, the time stretches out.
When you don’t yet know someone, in person or not, well, good luck.
Getting to know new people is a slow process for me. It takes lots of small conversations, preferably. The last time I made a close friend was in a college class. As in, brief conversations, three times a week. After a couple weeks, we started hanging out more. Small doses. You see?
When I stress out about having minimal relationship experience, this is why. A close friend has told me, experience doesn’t really matter in relationships. And I’ve heard before, I think it’s a quote from somewhere, that every time is the first time.
I’m certain there is truth to this. And it’s certainly better to not compare relationships, for the most part. For me, however, as you can hopefully see, this is a somewhat more important concern.
When I say that I have no idea what I’m doing, I bloody well mean it.
The Tertiary Cognitive Function
I relive memories easily. Which is to say, memories are simply present a large part of the time. I pull references to what someone said three years ago. But I suck at dates and names.
The part they don’t tell you is that it makes letting go of things rather difficult. When you only see someone once a month for a while, and you feel like you still know them, but it turns out you’re missing the fine details.
There are gaps in your knowledge. Fail to cross those gaps at your own risk.
So you learn to ask questions. You know that you don’t know enough. You get overly inquisitive about private details because you need to learn the texture of the other person’s life.
The Auxiliary Function
The other side of the same question: Do you need to know details, because otherwise you read far too much into everything? Do you inadvertently fill in the gaps with what you already know?
Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions. They come in so many flavors.
I ask. I probe. I need answers, and I need to trust. Does this make me sound obsessive yet?
It’s okay, most of the mind games are on me. You see, I’ve learned to question my thoughts, just in case I’m lying to myself.
…right. Ever used sincerity and honesty to lie to yourself? So I spill the beans early. I’m not just open, I’m open about everything, from the beginning. Who knows what I might be hiding from myself otherwise.
Hopefully, this is of use to you. Maybe you can apply these observations to your own interactions. To find ways to reach out. To prompt the info-sponge you know at work.
Here, you’re seeing some themes that will come up again. Self-transformation. Ritualization. The process of art. Conflict resolution.
Bridging the gaps, taking the risks, honing analysis into intuitive action.
What can I say, I’m all about useful references.
Coming soon, practices and rituals. The process behind the context.