Social Literacy Thread (split from Rant)

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bluebambue
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Re: Social Literacy Thread (split from Rant)

Postby bluebambue » Tue Feb 10, 2015 6:23 am UTC

Can I semi-derail this thread to ask about my own social literacy stuff I want help with?

I'm at the point in my career where social literacy is going to be more and more important for me to continue advancing. Does anyone have advice, ways to practice, or books related to the following things I have trouble with?
1. Delivering findings that people don't want to hear because it is bad news about a thing they put a lot of work into.
2. Convincing people to do something that would mean their department numbers go down, but is better overall for the company.

Thanks!

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Noc
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Re: Social Literacy Thread (split from Rant)

Postby Noc » Tue Feb 10, 2015 7:04 pm UTC

Shro wrote:
Phorrest wrote:Being literal and saying what I mean (and assuming the same of others) seems way easier than carefully shading everything for nuance that will make the other person feel the way I hope they feel about what I'm saying (or trying to figure out which of the many possible interpretations of their nuances are the accurate ones to read from them), just asking for clarification instead of guessing and then second guessing and third guessing be sure I read them right and didn't misinterpret something potentially ambiguous, waiting to hear everything someone's got to say since it may well include the answers to any questions I had anyway and save me from having to ask them, avoiding confrontation (if by that you mean remaining emotionally neutral, see next paragraph for alternate interpretation), disregarding the significance of body language cues like eye contact or the lack thereof, etc. It feels like turning off a lot of potentially problematic cognitive processes and running in safe mode, and it feels, to me, less resource-intensive; I wouldn't want to be stuck in that mode, just like I wouldn't want to be stuck in bed, but it seems like a kind of relaxation to "lie down" into that neutral state, rather than work to "get up" and do it, so it seems weird to me that you'd find it laborious to default to that "safe mode" temporarily in cases of potential misunderstanding and unintentional offense.


Being literal all the time is definitely work. I will use cultural and emotional shortcuts to explain how I feel about things all the time to people who are aware of these nuances. It speeds up communication a great deal, and I can perform a desired interaction at a fraction of the time. I can use modulation in my voice and my tone to indicate intention, or how I feel about something without having to explicitly state it - which can take a long time, and a lot of effort. I am much more comfortable in these environments that I am when I have to explain everything. I do not enjoy waiting for people to finish what they're talking about when there's something interesting in the middle of their dialogue that I want to explore... it makes social interactions feel like giving speeches to one another instead of a back and forth that makes me think in ways I necessarily wouldn't have. It might seem weird to you that I would find it work to default what you consider a safe mode, but for my particular hardware, your safe mode is resource intensive, because my safe mode is different.

I find a useful way to think of this is "how much double-checking and second-guessing do I have to do?"

. . .

Like, "being literal" is easiest when you have enough shared context that you can trust them to know what you mean! Otherwise you're constantly going back over what you just said and editing - checking for ambiguities, for misrepresentations, for things you need to clarify or questions you need to ask.

And this is easier when you can trust the other party to be doing the same kind of analysis you are. For other overcommunicat-y types, this can mean trusting them to ask for clarification if something bounces off of them, rather than misunderstanding something and running with that in a way that requires a lot of wrangling to straighten out.

But this also means trusting them to feel comfortable and competent in engaging with you in that same manner, rather than just, like...feeling troubled and uncomfortable with what you're saying, but not knowing how to articulate it immediately and just leaving the conversation feeling unhappy? And also trusting that they trust you enough to take whatever they say seriously, instead of immediately trying to pick apart whatever they say because you treat everything like a debate.

If you've got enough trust and shared context, this can definitely go pretty smoothly: they know what you mean, you know what they mean, you can both spot and clarify when something gets lost in translation, and everything's actually pretty nice. But if you don't, then it can easily turn into these long, awful, tedious discussions where you have to basically explain your idea with absolute precision up from the most fundamental principles -- unless you pay a ton of attention and put a lot of work into steering around that.

. . .

Working with body language goes the same way! If you want to communicate that you're interested in what someone has to say and would like them to continue, you don't have to stop them and say "I'm interested in what you have to say and would like you to continue!" You can smile and make eye contact and adopt a relaxed posture, and trust that they know what an interested person looks like.

But if they can't pick up that signal, then you have to spend more effort making sure you're asking the right questions, and reacting the right way, and generally reassuring them more explicitly that things are cool and that you're still interested.

And there's usually an additional caveat to that, that goes, "...until such time as I have something to say, at which point I'll expect you to treat me the same way and not just keep going like I'm not here." Ideally, they understand this principle and are good at applying it! If they don't, you have to go through more effort to assert yourself as someone they can't just talk over -- sometimes to the extent of actually sitting them down and trying to explain the concept to them, which is rarely simple or easy. (See: this thread!)

. . .

So the idea is that people's "safe modes" aren't so much entirely different methods of communication so much as they are sets of symbols and protocols that they're are most comfortable with - and that they're thus most comfortable with people who share them. But a very useful skill to have is being able to pick up on when someone is going out of their way to try and speak your language, as it were, and being willing to do the same for them.

Like, I'm an overcommunicator! I'm most comfortable when it's okay to overcommunicate and clarify and when I don't have to worry about projecting the precise blend of nuance I want to the first time around. But I try and recognize when, like, constantly going meta makes things onerous for other people, and correspondingly cut back and allow my communication to be imprecise because it's not that huge a deal and it's easier for them that way.

And in turn, I generally hope that people can pick up on when I'm not being very good at body-languaging or body-language-reading, and ask appropriate questions! The hope is that even if we don't happen to function on exactly the same wavelength, we can both stretch enough that neither party feels like they're doing vastly more work than they should be.
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