What does it mean to have communicated or understood something?
Is such a question even important?
Convey: c. 1300, “to go along with;” late 14c., “to carry, transport;” from Anglo-French conveier, from Old French convoier “to escort” (Modern French convoyer), from Vulgar Latin *conviare “to accompany on the way,” from Latin com “with, together” (see com-) + via “way, road” (see via). It was a euphemism for “steal” 15c.-17c., which helped broaden its meaning. Related: Conveyed; conveying.
Of all the generic interview questions, the one I hate the most is “Tell me about yourself”. I’m fluent in English, but I’m not quite fluent in conjuring a response to these words. Is the purpose to get an audio summary of what everyone already knows is on the resume? Is it to see how I’d respond to an open ended question? Any possible answer I’ve come up with I feel there are better alternatives. My visceral response to the question every time it comes up is “This is a stupid question”. That’s not what comes out of my mouth in an interview, but is that communicated through anyways? Even if the interviewer doesn’t consciously understand it, can that sentiment be read through whatever I actually say?
If they ask “Tell me why you’re the best candidate for the job” and I say “Sorry, I can’t do such a thing without having seen the qualifications and personalities of the other candidates for myself”, will the humility and empathy get through? Or will only the cheekiness and lack of respect for authority, and a demonstration of failure to fulfill objectives in favor of laziness and some smug sense of superiority?
There’s things a person simply won’t pick up on. Having different political opinions is the easy example, introverted vs extroverted or similar personality differences are the slightly harder example; these sorts of things are knowns, and then there are unknowns, of no lesser strengths. People will vehemently reject this or that, before or even without becoming aware that such a thing is happening. If the other person is a different skin color, speaks a different language, or wears different clothes, then the reason is assigned easily after-the-fact, but if they don’t, then it’s said to be due to bad personality traits or group associations.
Which has its uses, to be sure. The purpose of knowledge is judgment, if someone is dangerous you want to know sooner rather than later, and, though subdued for most other decisions, that urgency is the same push behind all judgement, and therefore, understanding. Any other push for understanding can’t be stronger than the one powered by survival instinct (unless for whatever reason the instinct is deficient). It’s not so important that one is aware of why the other guy is dangerous, as it is acting on the decision that the other guy is dangerous. It’s not so important that one is aware of why one believes the other guy is untrustworthy… and so on. Especially when one considers how much time it takes to actually become aware of things and think things through on a level that can be written down. When these automatic judgments are right, then there’s no problem, and when they’re wrong, they’re too costly to bother fixing. Easier to agree to disagree, whether it be verbally “Let’s agree to disagree” or taking an extra turn at buying donuts, because otherwise it’s at least a few hours of everyone’s time, and aint nobody got time fo dat. Donuts plus a word starting with “S” is usually sufficient, unless it’s stealing or murder, in which case an entire class of rich people have all the time in the world, except it’s still not for that.
By all means these are not “logical”. But they get the intent across.
If understanding is not done because it is not financially or realistically viable, then communication is effectively about how to sing songs in another language. It’s about how to hit all the tones and inflections, correctly angles of chests and palms, all the things which “speak to us” as genetically similar descendants of a species, rather than anything to do with “content”. Not that content is completely meaningless, strong heartstring-pulling words mean more than logic, and logic means more than evidence, evidence means more than how it was obtained or checked, etc. etc. etc. all of them, 80/20, each step of the way.
It’s idyllicaly stated that “A good speaker is a good listener”, I don’t think this is true at all; I’m pretty sure a good communicator is 80% signalling. Similarly, a good listener is also 80% signalling. If we assume that the words “communicate” and “understand” refer to things that the majority of people actually do in the majority of situations, these are the approximate proportions and descriptions borne out by reality. Any “true” version of either “with a capital [letter]” is niche ideal nonsense at worst and still completely different from the norm at best.
But, because the writing population does spend a lot of time among words and logic, and because the probability of finding a “compatible” speaker or listener is not zero, when communication and understanding through words do happen they are treasured and remembered over all the other instances of it leading nowhere.
And so we read and learn that getting an idea across is about things which it isn’t.
“There is a saying in business.
>”Suckers try to be right. Non-suckers try to win”
They don’t care about being right. Even if they get everything wrong, they will have more friends, game and social security than you. Do you think that birds will suddenly fall to the ground because they don’t understand the physics of aerodynamics? They don’t need to know why they are successful. They just will be because their system labels them so.
This system, “/ic/”, what does it labels you as?”
“”The most important part about art is expressing yourself” – Pablo Picasso
According to one of the most renowned artists in history, expressing yourself is more important than grinding boxes and fundies. Is this why so many people here never make it and are instead stuck in a miserable shitposting loop?”
“unbeknownst to picasso the human personality is always expressing itself to the best of its capability
when he was bound by ‘technicalities’ he was expressing his anxiety
when he was being a useless hack he was expressing his flamboyance
when you consider all the ‘box drawing shitposters,’ can you figure out what they are expressing?”
“Fuck you Picasso.
The most important part about art is managing to make a living with it.
It’s also the ugliest part.”
Communicate: 1520s, “to impart” (information, etc.), from Latin communicatus, past participle of communicare “to share, communicate, impart, inform,” literally “to make common,” related to communis “common, public, general” (see common (adj.)). Meaning “to share, transmit” (diseases, etc.) is from 1530s. Related: Communicated; communicating.
“Isn’t” – I say this as shorthand for “basically isn’t” because I can’t possibly be bothered to explain the 80/20, the letter versus the spirit, the absolute versus the general, before every single use. Sometimes I say “zero” to mean “actually zero”, other times to mean “basically zero”. In general inaccurate word choice doesn’t break the intent, but every once in a while, and usually for more important things than not, choices must be critically correct.
A stranger helped me get past the mental rut I was in with drawing. Nothing they said was particularly new or groundbreaking, and I’d had some semblence of the idea myself for a while before meeting this person, but I didn’t do it because reasons, reasons which they largely ignored because it wasn’t important. The reasons I could vocalize were insignificant or even contradicting the reasons I couldn’t, and, like in most cases, the latter was the driver. The stranger understood the problem I was having, and ignored most of my words in favor of saying that which would actually solve the issue. If I had gone on in essay format, they would’ve ignored 80% of my points. They picked up the important 20% quick, were critically correct multiple times on end, and leaving me with the sentence or two I’d been suspecting the whole time but was covering up with words words words words words, and believing the direction they pointed in was correct. Or alternatively: I had the right idea in the wrong frame, and they provided a better frame.
But that’s generally not how it works.
I’d had some other troubles with drawing and drawing philosophy before and almost every step of the way there’d be a “okay you can stop there, I’ve diagnosed the problem” rebuttal. So much so that I can start imagining them before they appear. An example of my disagreements:
“/ic/ told me to follow Loomis. But Loomis is overrated crap. He’s not wrong, but he’s not great. Just looking at what he proportions out as “the ideal woman” it’s clearly not pretty. He says draw skulls one way, and then draws them a different way. The way I draw now might have some similarities to Loomis, but it’s more because they felt right than because it’s what Loomis said.”
Example of potential levels of rebuttals, nonexhaustive, from broad to specific:
- >following advice from the internet
- >following advice from 4chan / anonymous posters
- >implying /ic/ is one person
- >getting memed by the sticky
- actually Loomis is from the era of average = ideal so he’s not overrated
- post your work
- well you read Loomis and you draw like Loomis, so Loomis. praise Loomis!
- mad cuz bad
Rewording for a more widespread issue:
“My parents, teachers, and the media told me to get a STEM degree. But STEM degrees are overrated crap. They’re not terrible, but they’re not great. Just looking at how many actual [countrymen] get jobs as opposed to [foreigners on worker visas] it’s clearly not pretty. They say when they went to college they paid for everything with a summer part-time job and got a real job just by walking on a lot and giving a firm handshake, look at what it takes now. I have a STEM degree, but looking at everything now, I really wish I didn’t.”
Examples of potential levels of rebuttal:
- Any idea that originates from this place is bad (nothing you say is trustworthy)
- Your story doesn’t disprove the statistics (the experts overrule you)
- Worked for me (i overrule you)
- You just hate different people (i.e. tangent into some other topic / politics)
- You’re just lazy / stupid / (some other personality deficit)
For all these other responses, what is one to say?
Is it really a communication mistake or an understanding error? Is there any value at all at being right on one thing or wrong on another if everyone’s signalling past each other?
If you know what kind of audience you are looking to talk to, i.e. what kind of “brand” you want to build, then you can just hammer the same thing over and over again for some of that sweet sweet survivorship bias. If you just want to feel good about yourself then you just talk about whatever you’re most confident on or know the most about, then pull out the rhetorical tricks if you’re losing somehow.
If none of that applies – what then?
When I started out my post on BART, it was because I was pissed off that I had to hide my old knife under some bush after being told I couldn’t bring it into the building and finding coin lockers did not exist (and a second item I did not successfully retrieve). After coming home I thought I’d put together some imagery comparing what life looks like around Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Tampa – three regions where I either had or could easily obtain photos of and knew what to talk about, since I’d been there in recent memory and had read up on a bunch of stuff relating to urban planning. Ended up only tangentially talking about urban planning, barely on the coin locker issue, and not at all about Tampa, because the more I wrote the more I saw something even more infuriating than the ugliness of cars and land use designed around cars, namely, the mentality behind the design and defenses of the American system. Robert Stark later interviewed me not on what I wrote but on BART and SF Bay land usage, to which I prepared ~5000 words in text and proceeded to use almost none of it.
So after gone through this topic three and a half times in very different ways I get pingback from a forum on a site called city-data.com where the first comments summarize my post as “‘America sucks because it’s not Hong Kong’, maybe he should move there then” and “this guy doesn’t know how to communicate and talks about killing himself, why are we listening to him”.
I mean… sure. These aren’t that far off the mark. There’s quite a few more negative things that could be said about me, if they wanted. But I can’t really care to argue about it, because it feels like I already have, and because it’s pretty clear, at least among those sentiments, there’s nothing that more words can solve. On the actual discussion too, there’s not much more I have to input: whether this city should take this decision or that agency should take that decision I don’t know. My opinion and knowledge don’t go that far. I’m aware about how much time is spent in cars and waiting in lines while in cars, I’ve seen how much better it could possibly be, and that’s about it. Maybe some disillusionment about how much can actually be done to change how systems work in America, and preference for saving time over having space. I’m not all that educated on the topic. I just wrote because I had material and I was mad.
Granted, this was a pretty unique case. I commented on a blog, and someone else who runs a podcast found me through that blog, and yet another someone else who listens to that podcast posted that podcast and my post to a forum, so clearly there was going to be some sort of audience/culture/style disconnect.
But even on the few topics which I am experienced in and can string together coherent paragraphs on and with people I spend time with it’s the same fuckin deal. Tweak some percentages on types of responses, even go ahead and switch all negatives to positive if you like; the picture will remain the same:
No one responds to what I’m trying to convey.
I mean, maybe it is just me. Maybe I’m the only idiot. Maybe I think in words too much and don’t realize or even consider why people are even around and what they want to get out of their dropping or pitching into any given conversation.
But how is one to think if not with words?
What important things could there be other than being right and true?