Communication Skills part 2 (part 1 pending)

I have serious issues with people who don’t listen to what other people say.  Perhaps you can relate to this, because I deal with it on a daily basis and it pisses me off.  Here’s the thing.  When I open my mouth and speak, it’s because I’ve edited those thoughts and hand-selected the ones which are most functional and direct for vocal publication.  See, I have this theory that the vast majority of what’s going on in my head is not only uninteresting, it’s completely and hopelessly irrelevant to everyone else on the planet.  THAT’S WHY I DON’T DO TWITTER…Seriously, when Justin Bieber eats a doughnut, it’s still a freaking Tim Horton’s doughnut.  He takes it into his skull the same way you and I do, except with slightly better hair.  I also don’t care what Wyclef Jean thinks about politics.  I’ll probably be OK without Wyclef telling me how to vote. 

But the thing that most surprises me is the general inability of people to simply process the uncomplicated stream of well-chosen words that come out of my mouth and process them in  a timely manner so they can give a reasonable response.  I mean, I know people have gotten lazy because they can get online and have instant answers with no effort, but there comes a point where we get so lazy that we can’t even be bothered to understand a simple collection of nouns and verbs which another entity of similar species and cultural background spews in our general direction. I call this the “Lazy Man’s Failure.”   For instance, let’s take the following conversation Ihad with a “person” recently:

Me:  Do you want me to clean it today?:

“Person”:  Clean what?

Me:  What?

“Person”:  Clean what?  What are you talking about?

Me:  Um, the car.

“Person”:  Don’t get snippy, you weren’t clear.  How was I to know you were talking about cleaning the car?

Me:  Because we’re standing in front of it and we’ve been talking about it for the last two minutes.  What the hell did you think I was talking about, the space shuttle? 

“Person”:  You need to learn to speak clearly.

I know I’m not the only one who has these conversations.  You cannot go around living your life as if every single thing someone else says is a contextless syntactical singularity which can only be understood if the sum total of the experiences are directly referenced in the sentence.  And secondly, where does that line of thinking end?  NEVER. 

Me:  I am going to wash the car today.

“Person”:  I don’t understand.  Which car?

Me:  OK, “I am going to wash the car that we own and purchased seven years ago in May and are standing in front of  right now.”

“Person”:  Who is “I”? 

Seriously.  I mean, can we not expect a fractional degree of contextual interpretation in this world?  Here’s an even more egregious example:

Me:  (pointing at the sleeping dog)  Man, he’s wiped out.

“Person”:  Who?

OK, stop right there.   I mean, “who?”  Really?  WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK I’M TALKING ABOUT?!?  I’M POINTING AT THE DOG AND SAYING WHAT HE’S DOING RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!  Listen, at the point that a pronoun and an index finger aren’t enough to communicate an idea, you can forget verbs and nouns.  We simply aren’t going to make it out of the jungle.  I can’t make my communication any more basic than pointing and grunting unless I jump up and down on the thing I’m referencing and throw my poo at it.

Now that leads me to my next communication issue.  The so-called, “Trustless Question.”    Incidentally, these are all my own terms.  I had to make them up myself because to the best of my knowledge this stuff isn’t documented anywhere.   The “Trustless Question” works something like this: 

1.  Someone asks you something.

2.  You respond

3.  That person then asks you another question, seemingly to clarify the situation, but the second question is phrased in such a way that the mere asking of it implies that the person didn’t think you could answer the first question anyway.  Here’s a hypothetical example that happened in my kitchen seventeen days ago around 6:49PM:

“Person”:  Are the mussels finished

Me:  Yes

“Person”:  Well are they open?


See what happened there?  This “Person” asked me if the mussels were done, and when I said yes they then asked me if I even had the knowledge base to answer the question in the first place.  That’s not just agravating, it’s patently patronizing and bordering on malicious.  Furthermore, it’s just as endless as the Lazy Man’s Failure because the logical extension of this kind of questioning leads to insurmountable issues regarding whether or not you even trust my understanding of the language we are using.  Look:  If you want to know something from me, as the question and take the answer for what it is.  If you don’t think I have the knowledge base to answer that question, ASK A DIFFERENT QUESTION IN THE FIRST PLACE.  OTHERWISE YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO CREATE AN ARTIFICIAL SITUATION TO VOCALIZE YOUR BELIEF THAT I’M INCOMPETENT. 

Now this last one.  THIS one…is the worst.  It’s one of those things that lots of people do, and it’s so completely annoying because it boils down to using the english language as a tool to indicate that you need more time to process something you can easily answer.  I call it the “Hateful ‘What’ Stall”.  it goes something like this.

Me:  What time is it?

Loads of People:  What?

Me:  I said…

Loads of People:  3:21.

I know you know what I’m talking about.  You say something, and the other person clearly heard it, but they say “What” anyway because rather than think about it for an additional 1/2 a second, they say “What” which starts you annoyedly repeating the question which they then promptly answer, correctly mind you, 1/2 a second after you start repeating it.  JUST THINK FOR A 1/2 A SECOND BEFORE YOU TALK, DAMMIT!!! 

And do you know how I know the other person knows the answer?  Because if, instead of repeating yourself, you just stand there in total, hateful silence, they shortly thereafter take their brains out of “someone else please think for me” mode and figure it out.  It’s so damned annoying. 

Me:  Hey, what’s better than actually listening to what I’m saying and responding like an adult?

Loads of People:  What?

Me:  I said, what’s…

Loads of People:  Making other people repeat themselves because I’m too lazy to think.    

So there’s quite a few more of these, but I’m going to go a group at a time to spread this stuff out.


Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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