More on communication

When I was a boy, out working the fields alone on my grandparents’ farm, I heard voices wafting in from the distance. Two men were standing next to a tractor, its engine running, and so they were shouting at each other to be heard over the engine noise. Two to three hundred yards away, I could hear nearly every word they were saying.

“Ah Hah! Unlike addition and multiplication, communication over a noise source can be asymetrical, or one way.” YOU may be able to hear ME just fine, but it may be utterly impossible for me you hear you, or vice versa. I knew that there was no possible way I could ever shout loud enough for those two men near the tractor to hear me, though I could hear them pretty well.

I’ve used this as an example on several occasions, trying to explain this as the reason why the frustrated fool on the other end of the conversation cannot get through to me. My wife, for example, has never understood this, and she will get angry when I tell her I can’t understand her as I’m washing my hands at the sink. SHE thinks I’M the dumb one, see.

Same goes for radio communication, when someone hears you booming in on a 100 watt repeater, but can’t understand why he isn’t being heard from his 3 watt handy-talkie (then he shouts into the microphone, which makes it worse, because his over modulation [FM} spreads out his three watts over more bandwidth, out toward the edges of the receive passband).

Then there are those who, when wearing ear muffs or headphones and you’re not, and you’re standing right next to them, will shout at you.

And we won’t even get in to the subject of those “low talkers” – those who will talk under their breath apparently as a means of irritating you or for some bizzare reason they want to use it as a means of feeling superior to you, because you’re struggling to hear them while they can hear you perfectly well, and so what’s wrong with you, Chump?

14 thoughts on “More on communication

  1. I have a hearing problem; it’s not so much that I can’t hear things (I can hear just fine, I’ve had hearing tests done multiple times and one time the guy giving me the test made me take it again because he didn’t believe that I had actually heard every single sound), it’s more that I can’t filter out background sound. So my girlfriend talks really quietly, and if there’s a TV on, dishwasher running, driving in the car, etc., I can’t hear her. So I ask her to repeat herself, and she says it again, slower but not louder. And I say “What?” again, and she repeats it even slower but still won’t say it louder. We’ve even had fights about it. She gets mad and says “Nevermind,” and then I feel left out.

    • Have you thought about saying “LOUDER, please?” I’m pretty sure MOST couples run into this, with a localized noise source near one party (sink, dishwasher, hair dryer, power-tool, kid talking, whatever). I know the other half and I do. We have gotten better (almost up to the sort-a-pretty- good level sometimes) at trying to specify WHY we didn’t understand the other by the second time asking for a repeat. “Louder, please” or “different words, please” or “context, please” or just “wait until I’m done here, please.” Simple, hard to remember to do, but surprisingly effective when you DO remember to include more information than something that just means “I don’t understand.”

      With the quiet talkers that appear bent on forcing you to strain to hear them, I’ve had to resort to a literal comment of “just being passive-aggressive, or a medical condition?” to get them to raise their voice to a reasonable volume. Usually if it’s a medical thing, though, like a lost voice because of a cold, they have already apologized for it and it’s clear they are doing their best. Haven’t gone too far wrong yet. Not been accused of being overly subtle in a while, either.

      • We’ve (I’ve) actually tried giving context to why I can’t hear but for some reason it causes problems. The hearing tests have actually been because I was convinced that I had a hearing problem. Other people have commented on how often I have to get people to repeat themselves. According to the specialist I saw, it’s not that I can’t hear, but I can’t filter out the background noise like I should be able too. My gf still thinks I just don’t listen…

  2. I can’t stand low-talkers. I have one at work. So tired of saying “What?” that I now just ignore her until she comes to my desk to talk to me. I can hear noise coming from her, but I pay no attention to it. The worst part was when she told me her niece called her a low talker, yet she does nothing to change.

  3. Yeah, Mrs.Alien loves saying something when I’ve got water running as I’m doing dishes after dinner, then gets frustrated when I don’t hear what she says. Thing is, she gets mad at me when I say something and she’s got a noise source going nearby, tells me to “speak up, can’t you see there’s _____ going on nearby and I can’t hear you?” *sigh*

    What I REALLY dislike are the folks who insist on talking TO someone, but not FACING that person. Sure, sometimes you can’t (driving, etc), but during those times you just raise your voice so they can hear you. My boss has a REALLY bad habit of not even stopping his typing on the computer to give instructions, so he talks low, has his keyboard going, and is facing away from me. Another coworker loves to say something while walking away. Seriously, folks! Sound does radiate, but not THAT much! And besides, looking at the person you’re speaking to is just common courtesy.

  4. My soon to be ex-wife drove me nearly insane with this sort of thing. It was a extremely significant component of why I am divorcing her. She would even go into another room, shut the door, then start talking to me. I could ask her to repeat herself because I couldn’t hear the last word or two of a sentence. She would repeat the first few words louder then fade off to nothing at the end again. I would try to tell her I couldn’t hear the last few words and she would yell the first words louder and fade off again. Or interrupt me before I could tell her why I didn’t understand what she said. Or she would completely change what she was saying. The first few words would change so I knew she was saying something completely different.

    She couldn’t understand what my problem was. I would try to explain and she would interrupt me. I frequently considered creating a blog just for all the communication sabotaged instances and techniques she came up with. For at least the last 10 years something like that would happen at least once, if not a dozen, times a day. She would, or could, not change.

    It was such a relief to be separated from her. It’s been almost a year since we have spoken to each other and I still get a little thrill when I think of how good it feels to be free from that.

    • You may be glad to be free of her, but from what I know of your kids I think the world is a better place for your having stuck it out as long as you did. Karma, and all that.

    • “She couldn’t understand what my problem was”
      Oh, she understood perfectly. What I think, or hope, you wanted to say was that she pretended to not understand. Once they find a way to really irritate you, they’ll take every advantage. The really difficult thing to accept is that you perpetuated it by getting irritated. That was your weakness. Her leverage point.

      This exact same thing goes on nationally, politically. It will kill us.

      • No. I don’t think she did understand. I could not believe it either until I spent time with our counselor talking about it. The evidence was all there. She really tried to understand but people with personality disorders cannot comprehend there is something wrong with them or their behavior.

        There is something broken in her. Just like there is something broken in Joan Peterson.

        • Well there was that guy who said something like; “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.” So then we get into the issue of a very deliberate and sometimes coordinated behavior, and the yet separate issue of culpability.

          Common language like, “I didn’t know what got over me”, or “I didn’t know what got into me” and “I was beside myself” and “I don’t know what I could have been thinking” may shed some light on the subject. Still we are talking about behaviors that require thought or deliberation and observation in order to carry them out, and so we are talking about a will of some kind.

          Some might call it possession, but I think the term “hypnotic state” is more appropriate. Does a person who acts out according to a hypnotic suggestion “know” what he is doing? Well yes and no. There is a will planted into the person, and yet that person’s brain still must respond to instructions and carry them out, responding to his environment and all the rest. Who is responsible, for example, when a young impressionable man straps on explosives and blows himself up along with a bus-load of Jewish schoolchildren? He’s been conditioned by forces in existence before he was born. Does he really “know” what he’s doing? Yes and no. He may feel that he is acting according to his own will, but he certainly is not….and yet he is. He’s acting according to a will that was planted in him, and he’s taken it to be his own. It’s a problem. The former Soviet psy-ops warfare experts understand this sort of thing very well. And I might add that it exists in our universities.

          • That very issue of culpability has been explored deeply by the Greeks. Their view was “it may be tragic, but if you do the crime, you get the punishment, regardless of motive, or the law means nothing.” (simplified version). Their view was – “we don’t care about your childhood, your excuses, or your lack of correct information. You pay the price. It is tragic, sometimes? Yes. But the alternative of everything being relative [current leftist dogma] is MUCH worse.” NOT a new subject – just one that needs to be re-taught to each generation.

  5. When I announced that I was getting married my friends started telling me stories about their wives. After a while it became clear that the stories were all the same with the only difference being the name of the woman.

    From the comments on this post I see this is still a universal truth.

    • No. It was the female friends I had that did not have the mental problems of my wife that convinced me what I was going through was not normal.

      There are large numbers of crazy people out there, many of them women, but there are lots of sane people as well.

      • Matters of degree, says I, and matters of degrees of subtlety. Some trickster deceivers are much better at it than others, and some of them are licensed psychologists.

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