Now and forever

.. this is what happens when you mix whiskey with spritz. Long story short, just don’t do it.

               Look in the mirror. What do you see? The answer – the logical answer which is also the expected answer – is yourself. Were you expecting something else? I’m not giving you hints, I’m asking a simple question so why then are you so confused? All right, get the whiskey, we’re going to need it.

               The problem with written words is they’re written. You can’t infer anything else from that. If I’d have used CAPS LOCK, you’d have assumed there was a certain tone in there, too. Even if there wasn’t. Information is neutral but there are accepted ways of transmitting non-verbal messages – note I said accepted and not something else. Not everything can be said through grammar alone. An emphasis, an emotion, an innuendo – all of those and many more are part of communication. Hidden meaning. We can’t say we communicate unless we incorporate it into the message. That’s what gets writers on the bestseller list. It’s not the whole message, it’s not about what’s being read – it’s simply a stimulus, something to fire up additional neurons. It’s what makes software fail the Turing test. You can target and pre-program individual reactions and shortcuts but unless you’re actually making simulations that incorporate non-verbal / para-verbal messages you won’t make much progress. The same program might work well for one person but the other will quickly identify it as non-human. It’s also part of the current hierarchy of human behavior. It’s also why British comedy sometimes fails to please those living outside UK. I mean, who else bloody loves “The life of Brian”?

               No, pour me a double. Whiskey. Hey, did you bring the bottle? What the hell am I supposed to do with just a glass? Dude, read my lips – whiskey, bottle, full. Hell, bring all you got, I see this is going to be one of those days.

               We are idiots, all of us. We embrace form but not substance. Including yours truly. Communication is about getting the message from one point to another with minimal interference and minimal loss of content. That means less jamming and more structural integrity. If you need non-verbal elements to decipher the message content, simple grammar won’t suffice. The time factor – how fast I’m talking – gives you the urgency. The way I look at you, my posture, my tone of voice – gives you the importance, the relevance of the message. How I say something tells you how I feel about it. Think emoticons, font style, font effects, that’s their function, to complement the series of letters. To give the message meaning. They’re related, you know, the message and its meaning. And we wonder why we’re confused when we receive our orders via phone or email.

               I’ve mentioned above that there are accepted ways of message delivery, it’s actually a big thing. You can’t put abbreviations or emoticons inside a message if the person receiving it has no idea what they stand for. It’s a recipe for disaster, like when the Mars Climate Orbiter went poof! because people confused metric units with US non-metric units. What we mean and what the other side of the conversation understands can be two different things. This is in every textbook that deals with communication. It’s easy to fix too – we use emoticons and the likes. Problem solved. Or is it?

What isn’t in most of those textbooks is the short-circuit that appears between the brain and the mouth. We’re constantly learning new things and it seems we’re getting better at sending a message and its meaning over technological gizmos. It’s our new default way of thinking – “I think she’s < bold > hot < / bold >! emoticon”. We’re thinking like we’re writing. What we don’t know is how to translate the bold font style and the emoticon into body language. We’re better at texting or emailing than we are at flirting in person. Ever think “yes” and say “no”? That’s the malfunction right there – for most people, but not women (in my experience though, I admit I could be wrong) and/or diplomats. It’s something very annoying, like when you’re saying “Stop!” to a bully but you’re using a submissive body language. What you’re actually saying is not delivered by the sounds leaving your mouth. Making noise is not singing.

There is another downside of this, it’s called dissonance. It’s when you do things you know you shouldn’t have. The brain says “it’s not a good deal” but you end up doing it anyway. It’s why whiskey sort of cures heartache, thank god for single malt. Or homeopathy. You can’t cure healthy people who think they’re sick with modern medicine, if they’re not sick – the same way stupidity is not (yet) a disability. They feel pain but don’t know where to point, like anxiety being mistaken for stomach pain. Science won’t help, unless you give them psychiatric care, they are feeling pain and you’re telling them it’s all in their heads. Yeah. So what now? You give them colon cleansing, aloe vera enriched honey-sprinkled rejuvenating detox crap and gluten-free soy meat replacements that look nothing like the meat they’re supposed to be replacing and then you tell them it’s good for them. Because it sure is good for you, as the authority figure. Those needing attention will think they have it and those needing placebos will get them. Problem solved. Next bottle.

Post scriptum:

               The bottle is empty and so is my bag of tricks. Think about it next time you have to look somebody in the eyes and tell them something, anything. Learn to fake it. Practice in the mirror. It helps, you got my word on that. Unless you’re a mime. I’d rather be drinking then sleeping. No, no, read it again, it’s exactly what I ment. Doh!

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