Posted by: canaryinacoalmine | January 16, 2006

whisper down the lane

It was one of those getting to know you situations. The engineers and I were talking round in circles. Them speaking Star Trek and I speaking Mortal. Round and round we went as they tried to explain the necessity of a design. The words they chose were not common and had me running to indexes of books for clarification. Our ever so clever CEO, Mr. Man, walked by over hearing the obscurity.

Ah. Its time for brain camp.

Brain camp?

He gave a short speech on the merits of communication break down. The engineers did not know how they could illustrate the cross word grid pattern they verbally painted for me and I had run out of alternate ways to ask the questions I needed answered. Mr. Man wanted us to play a game. He took out a pad and paper and handed it to the engineer. He then showed me a photo of a sailboat.

Without facing the engineer and using only shapes and directions like up and down or right and left I had to get him to draw the sailboat. We had five minutes. My directions were something that looked like a potted fern with antennas.

He then went into further detail of how what we say is often misunderstood. The description he was supplying me was nothing I knew and nothing I have studied. I needed laymans terms. He needed technical terms.

Exhaling and walking to the white board we drew our design answering all questions.

As I sit here staring at the computer screen drowning out the Late Shows opening credits my thoughts move to how many times I have misunderstood and had the same done to me. We perceive anothers ability to understand our thoughts in hopes the experience and description are clear. Theres no peeking behind the curtain of perception. Our description is drawn upon our own experiences and tiny bubbles we thrive in. We put it out there as clearly and powerfully as we can and then we have to let it go.

Luckily, we all have imaginations.

“The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood.”
Jean Cocteau


  1. The first twelve months (or so) of our lives are spent learning how to speak. It goes downhill rapidly after that.

  2. Speaking of being misunderstood, it took me a few minutes to realize that you had NOT said “Brain Cramp.”

    I am old.

  3. Add to this personality of the many readers. Some see flirtation in everything that is written, when another can only see hatred.

  4. Hey Jess, I’m back with a new blog. Had to dump the old one, long story. Hope you are doing well 🙂

  5. I thought artists liked their audience to decide what their art means.

  6. A very insightful and well written post.
    How often, I wonder, do we think we know what the other person is thinking or feeling only to be surprised by the responses we get? I think you said it best when you wrote “Theres no peeking behind the curtain of perception.” Even when someone *tells* me what they’re thinking, I cannot know. I have to take their word for it.
    An interesting line of thought and I can’t help but wonder, other than the office incident, what made you choose this topic to post about. It’s always the parts we leave out that are the most interesting.

  7. Nice post. I think we have no idea how often we are misunderstood.

    I like your blog a lot. Really nice look, you write well, and you have a lot to say.

  8. You’re so right. I find that tone and meaning is lost in email. There have been many times that I’ve typed something and the recipient took it completely wrong. It’s frustrating.

  9. Have done the same back-to-back description/drawing thing in Technical Writing courses. It remember thinking how it brought out a basic cerebral and physical need to communicate, and understanding of the frailty of language.

  10. Engineer is a language I am still trying to speak.

  11. wait…i don’t think i understand…;-)~

  12. I seem to be on a different wavelength to everyone else most of the time 🙂

  13. Sometimes we forget that the people we’re talking to aren’t in our heads. They don’t see it like we do. Excellen post!

  14. Ugh memories of personality trait training and roll playing. Good point you have, but I hate participative stuff at work. Leave me alone, please.

  15. Cool post. Dude you are pretty insightful. I minored in communications in school and was always interested in that gap that we have between others. Engineers and layman is an extreme example that really shows it off, but that gap is there between almost everyone. Interesting stuff.


  16. intriguing. i had a prof once that spoke about nothing but schema for an entire semester. her explanation for it was its like a net that catches certain things based on our likes and interests. theolder we get and the more we experience the more things get caught in that net through the similarities to that which weve already caught.

    very interesting stuff.

  17. Are you sleeping any better lately?

  18. Well put….as always.
    You’re my hero Jess.


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