Saturday, April 18, 2009

The problem with being overly literal minded.

A number of time I can recall saying (or typing) something and then noting that while what I actually said is exactly what I meant, most people will read between the lines and get something else out of it that is not what I meant. The first example of this I can think of is years ago, asking my dad "Do you know where the whatever is?" Now when he (or most anyone, including my self once in a while) asked that sort of question he would expect people to if they could, help him look for whatever it was he was looking for. The problem was I was asking "Do you know where it is" and exactly nothing more, in fact in that cases asking more would have been rude.

I have run into the same sort of thing a few other places where I ask one question that usually is an implicit request for something else but in a situation where that something else would be rude to ask for. A more recent example would be asking a question on a forum where I could Goggle for the answer in about five minuets. Asking someone to go do my research for me would clearly be rude but what about a question that someone who knows the topic could answer in 15 seconds? I sort of end up stuck in this corner; do I burn five minutes on Goggle trying to find what terms to ask for? Or do I risk sounding rude and selfish on the (fairly good) chance that someone who knows the answer will help me out?

What I often end up doing is spending about half my words explaining what I'm not asking for and it always comes out awkward. I think the whole problem for me comes because (I think) I tend to form loose concept associations. There's the idea of what I want to ask, and the words I use to ask it and because I get the first fully formed before I start in on the second, the implications of the phrase I end up wanting to use don't enter in the decision of whether to ask the question at all.

I'm not trying to change the world (I can't) and I'm not expecting the world to treat me different (it won't) and I'm not even asserting I'm smarter than other people (that's a sort of useless topic to begin with in my book). It's just an interesting thought I had at a way I keep getting tripped up.

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