Quote of the day—Sarah A. Hoyt

If you find yourself reading the other person’s mind. As in, thinking “I love American” means “white America” realize you’re not psychic. Those thoughts in your head? they’re yours. Examine why you want to believe this, and what purpose it’s serving FOR YOU. Because your mind is the only one you can read.

Sarah A. Hoyt
August 7, 2019
But Then That Must Mean
[H/T to Harvey.

You may think this is just some abstract or exaggerated “thing”. No. It is not. This strongly resonated with me because of personal experiences with people like this.

I have a true story to illustrate. There are many similar true stories but this is the one I tell most frequently:

Several years ago I received a phone call which went like this:

Caller: Can you pick up Sister 1 at the airport?

[Because of the circumstances it was conceivable it could be any one of five different airports. I needed to know a critical piece of information before answering.]

Joe: Which airport?

Caller: I think she is coming in this afternoon.

Joe: Which airport?

Caller: She usually flies on Delta.

[Yay! This actually eliminates one of the airports! Only three more to go. We are making progress.]

Joe: Which airport?

Caller: Can you bring her to the motel we are staying at?

Joe: Which airport?

Caller: She has done a lot of things for you, can’t you do this for her?

[I’m getting frustrated. I would be glad to do this if I can physically make it happen. I just need to determine some critical pieces of information. I almost yelled at my caller.]

Joe: Which airport?!!!

Caller to Sister 2 as she is terminating the call: We should find someone else to pick up Sister 1 because Joe can’t do it.

I’m now infuriated. Not only they wouldn’t answer my question, they are now telling Sister 2 I refused to help them out. I called back, eventually got the information, and agreed to pick up Sister 1 at a local airport.

I met Sister 1 at baggage claim. Wondering if I should get a cart for her bags I asked, “How many bags do you have?”

Sister 2: They’re green.

How does this relate to mind reading? It is because in further talks it came out my words were interpreted as meaning something completely different from what I said. In some cases when this would happen I would ask them to repeat my question back to me. They were completely unable to do it. I could repeat the question and even coach the words out of them, one by one, and five seconds later they would be unable to repeat a simple question such as the one above. Their brains were wired in some weird way that plain and simple words mapped into some completely different concept, perhaps completely unrelated to the speaker’s words and/or actions and the original words would be completely lost.

The original words could even be written down and they would be mapped into something different. In once written case I had them read the words out loud to me. They were able to do so. I asked, “How did you get from those words to your interpretation?” They agreed they were wrong. I hadn’t said what they thought I had said. They looked away from the words and, literally, in less than five seconds they were back to insisting their original interpretation was correct. We repeated the reading of the words and them agreeing I was correct. Again, within a few seconds, they reverted to their original, incorrect, interpretation. I gave up in extreme frustration after about three tries.

It turns out that the entire family did this. They would literally believe they knew you meant something completely different from what you said, no matter how many times and how many ways you said what you really meant. They would insist they “knew” what you really meant. They also believed I was the borderline crazy person because I didn’t know what they really meant when they presented me with highly ambiguous information. In their minds, I was somehow handicapped.

I grew to avoid participating in their family conversations because it was so bizarre. I made it a game to just listen and attempt to disambiguate the meanings of what they said. It was extremely challenging. When confronted with an ambiguity I would form one or more branches of the conversation in my mind and wait for more information to come in. As the additional information came in I could determine which one of the branches was the correct one. Or, at least, trim a branch or two off if it had many branches. And, of course, the branches grew branches. Usually some new bit of data would come in and “Poof!” all the extraneous branches would fall away and I would be caught up on the conversation again.

Keep in mind I doing this for each of two, three, or even four people when sometimes no two of them were on the same branch. It was tough work, but at least my brain was getting practice with logic puzzles. Most of the time the parties to the conversation were essentially in synch with each other. But perhaps a quarter of the time they would actually diverge and never resynchronize on their own. One of them could be talking about their dog making a mess on the kitchen floor and another other believed they were talking about a husband instead of a dog (true story). For a while I thought it was funny and didn’t bother to correct the mistakes. It just didn’t matter that much and I would get in a little bit of trouble for being so nitpicky about details. So, why bother?

Sometimes a day or so later I would hear a mention of the previous conversation with a serious misunderstanding and consequences of what was said. I would inform them that they misunderstood what the other person said. I would explain that I too momentarily went down that same branch but then realized that wasn’t what they really meant. Frequently, I wouldn’t be believed. They KNEW what the other person meant. If the truth was important I insisted they call and verify their understanding of the original conversation. I was always right and the person who “KNEW” couldn’t really understand how I really knew.

Once, in extreme frustration at being repeatedly misunderstood on an important point I demanded and received an answer which explained this bizarre behavior. After being told they KNEW what I really meant despite my repeated attempts to explain I meant something completely different from what they clearly believed I asked one of them, “How do you determine truth from falsity?” The answer was like a stoichiometric mixture of oxygen and gasoline vaper onto a lite match, “It depends on how I feel.”

I blew up. How is it even possible to have a conversation with someone like this? We live in almost completely disjoint realities.

It gets worse.

One time there were three of them talking and I was doing my usual branching and pruning when a new bit of information came in that caused all the branches to disappear in great ball of fire in my head. No one else seemed to notice. I had to interrupt.

“Wait, wait, wait! I don’t understand. A little bit ago you said, ‘[data point A]’. Just now you said, ‘[data point B]’. Both can’t be true and nothing you have been saying makes sense.”

The answer was, “Oh Joe, it doesn’t matter. We are just talking.”

I went slack jawed and the other two family members laughed. They then all continued as if nothing of significance had occurred.

In the span of a minute or less the same person said two things which were completely and totally, contradictory. Not only did they brush it off as irrelevant, they and other parties to the conversation thought it was obvious that I was just being silly for trying to make sense of it. I slunk off into a corner and took a nap. There was nothing further of value to be gained from listening to these people make sounds at each other.

Years later, reading about personality disorders, I discovered that it is characteristic of certain disorders for people to believe they can read other people’s minds.

They might not explicitly say it because they know it will not be well received. They may not believe they can determine the explicit thoughts. But they will “know” the gist of what the other person thinks regardless of what the other person says and does. They can create an entire, frequently conspiratory, narrative which “explains” the contradictory evidence such that what they “know” to be true is not shown to be false. Paranoid people are perhaps the best known example although they are far from the only ones.

This is also particularly easy to see with many of the present day claims of racism. A statement with no mention of race will be claimed as clear and convincing evidence of racism. The political left will go absolutely bonkers about the white supremist, etc. when there is no evidence to support these claims. And, frequently, there is contradictory evidence. These people have mental problems and should be treated as such.

I think a good case can be made that, as many others have said in one way or another, “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”—Joe]

21 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Sarah A. Hoyt

  1. Caller: “Can you pick up sister 1 at the airport?”

    A. [Maybe]. Which airport is she flying into?
    Or
    A:[Yes] which airport is she flying into?

    The brackets contain the unspoken assumptions.

    Next time lead with the direct “yes” to avoid confusion.

    • I’ve known people like this… Not sure the yes/maybe would’ve made a difference

      People who think with their feelings are a maddening breed.

      • Agreed. Prefacing with “yes” may seem the logical thing to do, but with non-thinking feelers it will be miscontrued just as readily and completely as any other answer.

    • I’ve never had that problem with anyone outside that family and I won’t be getting calls from them again.

  2. A friend taught me or exposed me to a book that had this:

    The four parts of communications are:
    1) What I say
    2) What you hear
    3) What you say
    4) What I hear.

    Communications doesn’t happen if those four parts don’t take place. What I say and what you hear are sometimes completely different. The return also has to exist to make sure that what we are hearing isn’t an echo of what we want to hear.

    My wife use to use what is called “mitigating language”. This is when you don’t actually say a thing but instead suggest something and pass the responsibility to you to “know what I mean.” “You’re smart, you can figure out what I mean.” or “You are being difficult, I told you what the problem is. What do you mean you didn’t do x,y,z to find out what I meant?”

    Part of the problem with mitigating language is not only does it break down, often, it also means that the person using that language is never ever responsible.

    “I never told you to mow the lawn.” “Yes you did. You asked “Isn’t the grass getting a little long?”” “It was your choice, I never TOLD you to mow the lawn.”

    Yeah, you never “ordered” me to mow the lawn. But we both know that if I hadn’t “bad things” would have happened.

    “reading minds” is one side of the issue, forcing you to read minds is the other side. Both are nasty and both are commonly used.

  3. I feel you, bro. My two brothers exhibit that trait in spades. Maddening, indeed. And one of them is by far the most egregious “mind reader” of any person I know. We don’t talk often.

  4. I periodically end up in a meeting where the speaker goes off on a stream of consciousness diatribe. Someone will ask a very specific question that is ignored and the babble begins again.

    After the 3rd time I just leave. My tolerance for this gets less everyday.

    • At one time a client put in a particular request. I’d prepared for that request and gave her a complete answer, explained the issues of doing it the “new way” or doing it the “manual way”.

      She specifically requested the “new way”. I spent a dozen billable hours doing it for her. Put it in place, demonstrated it. Got sign off. All of this with my boss and second in command in the meetings where she made the request and where I demonstrated the “new way.”

      So 3 or 4 months go by, they are using the “new way” in demos. One day she calls up boss and screams at him “Who made those changes! I never wanted that. It looks/sounds horrible!” Boss proceeds to throw me under the boss and says it was my idea.

      He calls up and accuses me of going off the reservation and doing the “new way” on my own. After listening to him accuse me a dozen times of doing something I hadn’t, I finally broke. I ended up yelling into the phone “You are a F’ing liar.” and hung up on him. Wife is going bonkers that I just got myself fired.

      About 30 minutes later, I get a call from boss. He apologizes. Seems that he went back and actually checked his notes and checked with others that were in the meeting. All of those confirmed the reality of what happened.

      He has what I call “The salesman mindset”. Whatever his client tells him MUST be true and must be reality. Anything that is in conflict with what the client says is just “wrong”. It takes something like an angry out burst to get him to reset and actually check with reality.

      I feel for you @Gerry. Though these days when I walk out of a meeting there is general either a mass exodus or the speaker stops to find out what they have gotten wrong.

  5. Me: “A” told “B” about the thing going on with “A” that you didn’t want us to discuss. Now everyone knows.
    Them: YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO TELL ANYONE!
    Me: I didn’t.
    Them: BUT YOU SAID YOU BRIEFED…
    Me: No I didn’t.
    Them: THE EMAIL CLEARLY SAYS…
    Me: *s*i*g*h*

  6. I used to believe there were people who were devoted to deliberately and maliciously misinterpreting and misunderstanding what was said in spoken conversations. So I tried to direct discussions to email or text whenever possible.

    Didn’t work. A question such as “what’s the voltage on terminal 4A” would get a response along the line of “Tuesday.” No, I would say again, what’s the voltage on terminal 4A and this time it would be “blue,” and stated with equal conviction and authority as the “Tuesday” response. There was nothing in the schematics or other documentation referencing a depressed day of the week as a voltage output; I didn’t know if it was me who was on Mars or the other person. Was I not being clear enough with my question or is there something about this – whatever “this” might be – that I was not understanding well enough to communicate accurately and concisely about it?

    When I started paying attention I realized what I was facing was a mental processing disorder that involved not only spoken language but also extended to written language. It had nothing to do with the communication, its content or the mode in which that communication was conducted but entirely in how the communication was processed by the mind of the recipient which was completely unpredictable, determined – apparently – by random alignment of incongruous thoughts. Saying “apples” might elicit a response of “Chevrolet” and if the response did come back involving “apples” I had to make sure my “apples” reference was the same as their “apples.”

    This is not confined to one person, but seems to be something afflicting a certain percentage of humanity, and the affected cannot be identified except by actually engaging them in communication of some sort and paying attention. It also seems to inflict in varying intensities; “apples” may get a reply of “peaches” which the message originator may interpret as “close enough to work with and develop further” because both are fruits, but it’s simply a moderate case of the mental disorder rather than a severe one and is just a harbinger of the frustration to come; any assumptions regarding the communication by “normal” people are extremely hazardous to make. One sometimes has to take the discussion down to the “See Spot run” level to ensure any reasonable amount of mutual understanding.

    My experience is that it seems to afflict more females than males, but males are certainly not immune. I haven’t looked in the DSM to see if it’s been identified and categorized, but I keep meaning to. It’s sufficiently common for someone among the Freudians and Jungians to have developed an interest.

    • “people who were devoted to deliberately and maliciously misinterpreting and misunderstanding what was said in spoken conversations.”

      Funny way to spell “lawyer”.

  7. So, then, a question arises: If they are put in a isolated situation, where there are no other people to interact with in any way, but they have a set of projects / problems to deal with on their own, things that require an accurate analysis of facts and real-world details and reading printed instruction manuals to extract information, how do they fair when required to do so for en extended period of time? Someplace where the real world doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about their mental issues, but communication with others isn’t present to be a problem. Something not particularly technical or physically impossible, but requires accurate observations and clearly logical thinking. Example: give them a remote cabin with appropriate supplies and tell them to take care of everything over the fall and winter. How would they do?

  8. If “liberalism” (authoritarianism i.e. power lust) is a mental disorder, it is a mental disorder with a consistent and readily discernible purpose. It is predictable, like the progressive stages of a deadly disease.

    But what you say is valid. For many years I’d thought it extremely immoral and dishonest that some people took credit for my ideas, even when I’d clearly hand-built original prototypes, literally designing in 3D, alone, with my bare hands, and the proof was literally on the shelf.

    But just this week a good friend had said he’d drawn a little line on a box, totally altering the image. It was just a dumb, a cute little thing I’d done right in front of him two weeks before (just one tiny little line segment), and we discussed it right then as he watched me do it, and then later, he’d actually, truly, remembered doing it himself.

    The implications there are quite serious. And a bit scary.

    This then brings up the question; are these things partly our fault, for being flawed communicators ourselves, or is the fault purely in the other people?

    Also; your descriptions remind me a lot of how Alan Turing’s social communication difficulties were depicted in the movie The Imitation Game.

    Once again though, defining the left as having mental disorders, or diseases, is acting as their defense attorney, without which they could be determined fit to stand trial, and thus possibly convicted of some extremely serious crimes. If you’re recommending forgiveness for reason of insanity or mental incapacity, or at least some leniency on those grounds, then OK fine, but remember that you’ve done it.

    It must be pointed out also, that for someone who stresses accuracy in communication, there is an awful lot of typographical errors in your post about accuracy in communication. More specifically, it shows a curious lack of proof reading. Perhaps Tolkien’s Ents could help here. Treebeard (an Ent) said;
    “We don’t say anything unless it’s worth taking a long time to say” or something to that effect.

    • Just because someone has a mental disorder they do not necessarily get a pass on criminal activity. My understanding is that they merely have to be capable of recognizing their actions were illegal and be able to assist in their defense. That is a much lower bar than being capable of answering all direct questions with a straight answer.

  9. It pains me immensely to admit this but my wife does this to me all the time. It is like she took what I clearly said and translated it in her head into something completely different. And then reacts to what is in her head instead of what I clearly communicated to her.

    Immensely frustrating but after 45 years together I’ve learned to live with it. Better the devil you know than taking a chance on someone else. 🙂

  10. I knew a woman like this once. The behavior quite literally made me feel as though I was the crazy one. Got away from Crazy and all was well. Up means Down, Yes means No, Thank you means I hate you don’t do what I just thanked you for. You think their feelings are based somehow in reality and go about trying to deconstruct what they’re saying to logically find meaning, but it’s all nonsense.

  11. I work in printing and get small variations of this all the time. Customer calls and says they are calling to check on their job. I ask them who they are and they say something like ‘It was business cards’. Well I do several different orders of cards per day so while you have narrowed it down a bit, it doesn’t tell me who you are. It often takes 3 or more times to get a company name from them so I can check on the order.

  12. Are they related to the people who say man didn’t go to the moon because they just KNOW it’s impossible to get there!

  13. I call it a Blue Rock request…. 15 Q&A cycles and we finally get to them wanting a turquoise bracelet of specific size and quality, which they knew before they made the first request.

    But, they ask for a blue rock…

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