Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Conversational Methods

There's a new Molly Beans strip, called "Mollyworld." What this really is: a discussion of who should pay the spoon for that conversation. Greg finds vocalization easier and more rewarding, while Molly prefers typing.

The same thing happens across the Ask/Hint divide. Ask people find it easy and efficient to ask for what they need, but difficult and ineffective to guess what other people want from them. Hint people find it easy and efficient to read other people's desires, but difficult and ineffective to ask for what they need.

Any kind of fundamental conversational divide like this places an extra burden on communication, compared to when people share the same preference. It's also an opportunity for growth, if people are mutually respectful and share the burden. It basically works like the Prisoner's Dilemma: If both work together, they get more than either would alone. If both refuse, they get almost nothing. Or one person can take advantage of the other.

One example of this appears in socialization preferences. Used to be, people who disliked face-to-face interaction had little if any other means of interacting with each other, so they were often either face-to-face and stressed, or isolated and lonely. Writing and telephones helped facilitate relationships after formation, but didn't help a whole lot with finding new ones. The internet changed everything by making it easy to communicate long-distance, easy to find new friends, especially easy to find new like-minded friends who similarly prefer that mode of interaction, and a terrific interface venue. Suddenly preferrers of electronic communication had a mode of interaction that was as easy, fun, and rewarding as facetalk is for the other side. And it turns out, many of them aren't antisocial at all; they just never before had access to a mode they found comfortable. Put them in the right environment and they become downright gregarious.

However, this is somewhat hampered by other people claiming this mode is "not as good" as facetime. That's an expression of their lived experience -- for them it isn't -- but it contradicts, devalues, and undermines the experience of those who prefer it. For some people, online interaction is better than facetime interaction in general, and for many more it's better than the opportunities they actually have even if they would ideally prefer facetime with a different type of folks than those available to them. One could just as easily say that facetime is less desirable because it requires more transportation and doesn't leave a written record for later reference. Mode is a preference, and criticizing anyone else's preferred mode is harmful, because it doesn't make your favorite mode work any better for them, just makes them feel bad about the one they need.

Much the same is true with Ask/Hint. Each is good at different things. Both work great when the individual matches the surrounding culture, and poorly when they don't match. Most people have a preference; some can't work the opposite mode at all effectively, and some are bifocal. It is certainly an advantage to be fluent in both modes, but nobody should be condemned because they dislike or can't do the opposite one. If someone is stuck constantly fulfilling other people's wishes at the expense of their own, that is miserable and exhausting; it is no surprise that they are prone to withdraw, to escape, or to develop problems due to the parasitic drain.

Actionable steps based on this dynamic:

1) Pay attention to conversational patterns. Watch for mismatches.

2) Don't pick on people for having different interactive needs or preferences than yours. It does absolutely no good. It makes them feel bad, but them feeling bad does not improve their performance at something you want them to do which they find difficult, unpleasant, and/or ineffective. You can make something happen, but you can't necessarily make it work. Discourage other people from picking on each other too.

3) In cases where your favorite mode doesn't match someone else's, it may be workable for you to choose different conversational partners. If so, you may do that if you wish, or you may take the opportunity to practice the opposite mode. If you can't switch to compatible partners, or you choose not to switch, then it is best for both people to share the burden equally. Work on learning each other's modes. Look for a way to divide things so you're both getting about the same amount of time in your preferred mode and the other person's. This helps both of you learn, and avoids taking advantage of anyone. Encourage other people to support each other too.
Tags: art, cyberspace theory, family skills, how to, linguistics, networking, writing
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