…or how we are disadvantaged by rigid NT structures, procedures and ways of communicating
I have spent most of my working life nodding and pretending to understand when I don’t — this has been my default mode which is ‘pass at all costs’, and then (double default) hiding the resulting anxiety and depression and feeling of failure.
At school I didn’t know how to ‘study’. Or write an essay with a beginning middle and conclusion. Or put forward an argument for my final BA paper as a mature student. There though, I explored creative ways to write and structure my writing.
I scraped through O levels (GCSEs) except Art and English Language. For other subjects I spent months learning answers to possible questions, whole passages from books off by heart, and re-sitting the ones I had failed two at a time. A teacher commented in a school report on a mock English Literature exam at A level: ‘Did not complete the first paper, and the answers she did attempt were very superficial. She must read widely and in depth.‘ This was confusing because at junior school and early secondary, I had read our local library’s entire stock of classic fairy tales, folk tales and myths from around the world — ‘Did not complete the paper‘ was a regular comment followed by ‘…must learn to work quicker‘.
Being ‘successful’ as an artist is about making connections and asking the right questions, and being able to write and speak NT to get funding/commissions. I have applied to many, but have never been successful. Making connections?! See previous post.
Recently at work I asked for clarity on something complex and needed to relay this back to colleagues. I normally avoid this if at all possible because I never fully ‘get’ what people are saying to me if it is likely to contain complex explanations or directions, but I was feeling under pressure because I don’t normally do this and felt I should take responsibility this time.
A complex verbal explanation (or even ‘simple’, if there are a number of steps to follow) may as well be in another language. I recognise words but they are scrambled in my head as they are spoken so don’t make sense. I then get anxious and panic because I’m not ‘getting it’ and may have to relay this to others and/or have to act on it. There is no point asking for clarification because the situation would repeat itself. So I am left stuck. Not understanding what I am supposed to be doing, and getting more and more stressed because it appears that I’m not doing my job. Though my experience of having things ‘reiterated’ or clarified in writing is that this often has an official/formal tone which seems unfriendly, and makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong.
However, communication (written or spoken) by those in positions of authority is often not clear and full of obfuscation (love this word) — more in a future post.
At work I usually feel more comfortable emailing rather than speaking BUT I spend a long time trying to get the words and tone right, not always successfully, and management are wary of emails because putting things in writing makes them official. stuckinmute again.
It takes forever for me to put together something like a report — again the order of things is scrambled in my head like spaghetti. A colleague and I were asked to write a short report on our involvement in a conference. My colleague had done this and emailed the report before I had got off the starting blocks. *Though when given time I can, and have, produced reports, (both in video form and conventional) that are thorough, of an extremely high professional standard, are visually engaging, and contain important observations and detail that others would have missed.*
At meetings I get stressed because I am always trying to process something said a few sentences before so miss what follows, and if I get the courage to ask for something to be repeated, often get looks that say ‘Were you not listening?!’
I am unable to express and share my experience and knowledge in recognised NT ways, so I can be easily bamboozled /taken advantage of by those who want to push through their own agendas, even though I may be aware it is happening. I just can’t get to the words.
But I can take hundreds of bits of video and make them into something that makes sense and has an impact…and I suppose in some sense, I am a communication expert — I have spent a lifetime studying the subject.
*Updated 27 February 2018
IMAGE A circular wooden bowl shaped object. Inside it is a woodland scene in 3D, showing a little girl with a red hood and dress holding a basket on one arm, the other arm is outstretched towards a wolf just in front of her. Mountains are painted on the upper part in the background.