Do you often feel that people can’t hear you at all? Do you always misspeak, search for the right words, or find yourself saying things that are often misinterpreted? Do you feel powerless in conversation, incapable of formulating your argument on the spot, always cornered and easily stepped on by almost anyone? People communicate with one another on a fabric made from language, emotion and feeling. If you are by any measure somewhat separated from that medium, then you will always be at a significant disadvantage while participating in social discourse.
That misalignment will have an impact on almost every exchange regardless of how insignificant it might seem. Your words will lack strength. You will feel as though people aren’t listening to what you’re saying, responding often in ways you don’t expect, leaving you along with your frail and unstructured argument, immediately sidelined. It would seem as though people are expecting a message of a higher bandwidth but you’re stuck transmitting on a very limited number of frequencies. I find most people possess the ability to conjure the right words without having to put any visible effort into it, while others are not as eloquent. Currently, I am of the opinion that this misconfiguration has less to do with your proclivity for words or generally your language ability alone, but more a symptom of a lack of awareness, insight and emotional presence.
I’ve been meaning to investigate this for a very long time.
Talking to people is not straightforward. A surface level understanding of the individual words that are exchanged in conversation would give you a very distorted view of what exchange actually took place. Words exist within the context of a sentence that creates meaning and the meaning of that sentence is further qualified by the context in which it is placed. That makes for a lot of variables to consider before we can evaluate its meaning. Everything from what was said immediately before, where the conversation is taking place and all of the context you happen to share with the person you’re speaking to, can potentially influence the subtext of anything and everything you say. Ideally, your next utterance should be a carefully calculated product of all of those individual inputs. And for a mind that is predisposed to think like a computer, that is a lot of gigabytes to crunch in the mere milliseconds you’re allowed before it’s your turn to speak.
Obviously that doesn’t seem very practical.
Words are almost never perceived objectively so even if you don’t intend for them to be primed with intent, motivation, feeling or emotion, that subtext will be conceived and delivered as part of your message without any conscious effort on your part. And that is a big problem because you exert no control over that portion of the message. In doing that, you forfeit a large amount of agency which is what leaves you feeling powerless. As though your words are completely ineffective. At first you might not even be aware of this defaulting that is taking place, in situations where you speak your mind without giving much thought to what emotion and intent it will elicit given the context of the conversation to realise much later that you’ve either offended someone or made yourself look like a complete fool. Once you’ve arrived at a stage where you’re conscious of what sentiment may or may not be conceived at any given moment, you’re playing the game, choosing your words more wisely to make sure you don’t deliver any subtext that you didn’t originally intend. You will try and fail at doing that for a very long time, hoping for practice to make you a better player while you stare in awe at silver-tongued wordsmiths around you effortlessly slaying their opponents with the precision of their speech. You will seek out the people who exhibit this power hoping for their magical ability to wear off on you, you will read every book you can find on the subject, you’ll sign up for the local Toastmasters, you will research aphasia, you will consult a speech therapist, you will meditate, you will do pushups, you will hang from a tree, you will try everything you can, and it just, won’t, work.
Then one day life will happen and you will realise that people don’t think their words they feel them. You see, on the evolutionary timescale, language happens to be a relatively recent invention. Something we’ve had from long before we discovered language, is feeling. We are feeling beings that think, not thinking beings that feel. Language comes after feeling. Our perception of reality might be a function of the language we use to perceive it, but we don’t require that crutch of an artificial construct to understand and share feelings. Feelings are limbic. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have ensured that their transmission is reserved securely on a separate and independent channel which is primarily non-verbal (Limbic Resonance). Our limbic system allows us to practically radiate our emotions in proximity. Words are secondary, they come later, and they are very much a product of those feelings. That is why it often appears as though some people are not even thinking of the words before they speak them, because actually, they’re not. Their instincts inform them of what feeling they wish to elicit with their speech which enables them to render their words accordingly. There are words for every occasion, some that align and resonate with the emotional frequency of the conversation and others that either don’t fit well in the moment or completely break the flow. There’s a prevailing sentiment after everything that is said in conversation which has to be addressed immediately with words in the moments that follow right after. That is how the flow of conversation is maintained. If you are resonating with the frequency on which the emotional subtext of the conversation is being exchanged, then that flow will come very naturally to you. If you’re looking to find that flow through some kind of higher-order, left-brained logical reasoning, then you’re doing it wrong. You’re supposed to feel it.
Can you feel it?
That’s the question you should be asking yourself. If you’re not being able to listen and respond to how you are feeling, then your words will always be loosely coupled with misplaced sentiment and emotion, completely draining them of all their weight and impact. Trying to configure your words in the moment is only going to take you so far. What you want to do is recalibrate the engine that is responsible for articulating them. If you often feel like nobody can hear what you’re saying, then it’s probably because you’re not really saying anything they deem worth listening to, because your words aren’t primed with feeling, making it appear as though you don’t really mean them, and they can tell.
They can feel it.
The social domain is a playground reserved for higher sapiens. This might be a stretch, but I like to think it’s nature’s mechanism that operates at an evolutionary scale to filter those who are incapable of participating into isolation, potentially minimising their contribution to the gene pool. Either way, you will always struggle to participate meaningfully in the social discourse if you choose to remain oblivious to the intricacies of human communication. Circumstances might have conditioned you into internalising these complexities at a very young age, which would make all of this sound obvious and silly. But others, perhaps owning to poor life decisions, childhood obsessions or just bad luck, were probably not so fortunate. If you are one of those people, you could choose to ignore all of this and go on with your life pretending like you belong, being coddled and humoured by the few people who happen to have no choice but to keep your company. But that will only make for a lesser life of constant humiliation and perpetual anger, resentment and hatred.
The only other option is to understand that despite your peripheral disadvantage, there’s more fun to be had if you just play along and try to learn, than sit in the corner and die alone.