Reading between the lines in interpersonal communication

Reading between the lines can be difficult. People donʻt say what they mean, and they donʻt always mean what they say. I remember in high school my literature/language teacher told in interpersonal communication only about 7 % is given for the actual words used. The rest is everything else: what you look like, the eye contact, the tone of voice, your body language, the other personʻs ability to actually hear what you are saying.

So even in the best scenario – speaking the same language, in a group of people where everyone is fully sighted and so on, so many things will get lost. People interrupt, donʻt wait for turn. They donʻt always understand when something took a lot of balls to say, and ignore it, talk about their own stuff as a co-monologue, and so on. Maybe they just want to rant about their stuff and not care about what you wanted to say. Or maybe they feel the desire to drop an emotional dump on you and …. what are you supposed to do then? Sigh. I am uncomfortable when people drop emotional bombs on me. “someone made me feel [negative emotions..” what? No they didnʻt. Man up, human, take charge of your own emotions, and donʻt let them run over you. Yet yes, Iʻm aware thatʻs the last thing to say. People who dump emotional statuses on you will feel somehow better afterwards, and youʻll feel like shit – at least is you are wired like me. I donʻt know what to do, how to react or wtf Iʻm supposed to do with other peoplesʻ emotional discomforts. Can someone enlighten me? I missed that part of the manual that apparently was supposed to come built-in with a body that is of xx-chromosome type.

Now of course reading between the lines is less fun. How do you read peopleʻs facial expressions when you donʻt see peoplesʻ faces? Oh yea… Letʻs rely on voice. Oh never mind: as itʻs my third language a lot of nuances get lost. And then there is tiny little thing called “Cultural issues”. Americans are very focused in appearing happy. Many seem unable to give negative feedback in person or get trigger happy with political correctness. FFS… if you sound like you speak with Ebonics, you sound like you speak with Ebonics. If you sound like “white”, i.e. speak middle-upper class White American (think of how all the people in TV sound like), then … your skin color or race can be whatever. I canʻt hear that. Donʻt blame me for racism on what people sound like: I treat people nicely, and if someone behaves like an asshole, theyʻll get it back. Whatever they sound like. White, I mean “Standard American” with very deceitfully sweet intonation isnʻt going to help you. Treat people nice. My problem with trying to read people is all in this gray area. Where all people look the same, where I try to use sound to differentiate the people, and when Iʻm struggling with keeping a blank face under all the circumstances.

If there is something unpleasant someone needs to tell me, tell it to me. Tell it face to face, but word it so I can understand.

I donʻt see your facial cues.

I canʻt hear your hinting between the lines.

I canʻt understand what you want to say if you circle around what you want to say and donʻt say it.

Think itʻs always fun? Speaking multiple languages, and not being limited or bound to one countryʻs or cultureʻs ways of thinking? Certainly. But I live in a monolingual culture. Where direct communication is bound by these odd rules that Iʻm missing somehow. And when I try to explain people that sometimes I really am that blind yet I can run fine because I donʻt need to see the ground I run on, it gets to a lot of uncomfortable silences, unasked questions, assumptions, fears and odd reactions. When I tell people how I watch movies… if itʻs face to face, I can expect odd reactions (I can kind of get the uncomfortableness). So I donʻt bother. Walk around like everyone else, do everything else like everyone else. Except I canʻt read that, I donʻt see that, I donʻt see the emails I read or write, the movies that I see. I can read giant things, and I can often easier read with my fingers (like now: typing with a MacBook Air that has braille keys so I can get the letters correct). I can read audiobooks (which a lot of regularly-sighted people enjoy too. No stigma in reading audiobooks). And I try to be open about whatʻs difficult and what I can.

Itʻs too much for some that know me, and they didnʻt want to say it directly to me.

Learning about it from someone else not involved was rather annoying.

Someone or someones have a problem that I canʻt read their nonverbal visual cues. Blame all the audiocues on language issues if you want, and all the what you donʻt say when you want to say it on your culture, or – whatever. I felt hurt when I heard about that. Fine: I will not talk with “you people” unless Iʻm explicitly spoken to, and addressed with name. I can comfortably isolate myself in my own world: my headphones, my music, my audiobooks… whether Iʻm running outdoors in my usual circles, or out there “sticking around”… headphones on: I certainly donʻt see you. Itʻs nothing personal. I donʻt see you in front of my face. I donʻt know that Jacqui or Michelle is 9 monhts pregnant unless you tell it to me. I canʻt tell if someone is Autistic, was born with Down syndrome, is blind (I can hear when someone uses a cane though) or deaf or both. I can hear if someone uses a wheelchair, and itʻs not a big deal. Iʻm comfortable with silence; I donʻt mind it. I can often choose to not say a word when I want to be in my own world for a long time (hours, days). It doesnʻt usually bug me.

But itʻd be nice to find some interpersonal communications guide for B/VI. How do I comfortably comminicate with neurotypical people without scaring them off? Enjoying the silence, making them uncomfortable too easily…

Are there any great books youʻd recommend?


2 thoughts on “Reading between the lines in interpersonal communication”

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