The most awesomely non-verbal hour

picture of two hand typing on a laptop with a picture of a lake and sunrise on the screen, smartphone and coffee cup are are on the table to the right of the laptop
Sometimes, this is much easier.

I had a great conversation yesterday with a friend of mine. She’s also a big talker. And I mean, BIG talker. She sometimes goes a mile a minute, and it’s hard for me to keep up. English is not her first language, and I think she’s also got some anxiety going on, so she talks really-really-fast in a thick Russian accent. And when we go our separate ways, I often feel like that dude in the old Maxell tape commercial, sitting in his chair in front of a speaker, with his hair blown back.

Yesterday, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do the talking. I’d been extremely social — and talkative — for the past 48 hours, and I was maxed out. I mean, I just couldn’t… As I was driving to where we were meeting, I’m thinking, “Oh, my god, I just can’t do this talking thing. It’s too much for me. I’m way too non-verbal right now. Please god, help me….”

Then I thought, What if I get my computer to do text-to-speech to narrate what I type? She prefers to talk and listen, so that could be a mid-way meeting point for us.  I type, the computer talks, she listens, and then answers back. I take communication very seriously, because it’s one of my main sticking points, and I always strive to “meet the other person where they are”. It’s easier for me to do it, than it is for them, since nobody seems to be able to read my mind quite the way I expect them to. And I’ve been studying allistic behavior my entire life, so I have a better grasp on what they need from me, than they have about me.

Anyway, I tried to set up text-to-speech on my computer, but I couldn’t manage it. I was missing something apparently.  It just wouldn’t do anything other than read all the menu options on the screen.

So, I made a deal with my friend. She would talk as much as she liked, and I would respond by typing on my computer. We sat side-by-side, and she talked to me, then I paused to figure out what I wanted to say, then I typed it on the screen. She read what I wrote, then answered me back.

At first, she was a little put off. But I told her that it was nothing personal towards her, and it didn’t mean I was broken or anything like that. I was just very much in non-verbal mode, very visual-spatial, very, very tired of running my mouth, and typing worked better for me.

We had a lovely, lovely conversation. And it was so relaxing! I mean, really. Truly. And she started to feel more comfortable, by the end of the time we had together. I had to get going, and so did she, but she was able to tell me about some family stuff that was going on, that was very hard, as well as unavoidable. And in the end, we parted ways with me feeling SO MUCH BETTER than I’d probably ever felt after interacting with her.

I may do this again in the future. Maybe not be completely non-verbal / mute, but being able to rely on visual-spatial and written word approaches, rather than just spoken word. When it’s all spoken word, it feels very one-sided, and I can’t use my strongest abilities. Sure, it’s good to practice speaking, but there’s really no lack of opportunity to do that in the course of each day. That’s the default mode for the rest of the world, and it gets a little old, after a while.

I’ve also been doing it a lot more than usual, lately. And the more integrated I am with my team at work, the more talking there is.

So, this is a nice break. A wonderful break. Sweet. Really, really sweet.

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