Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Getting Mouthy

So, I've already shared that I write a lot for work. A lot. Whew! But the funny thing is, and I've always had this problem, I just don't speak as well as I write. I guess that's why the whole Information Age has treated me well. Because for me, an IM works better than a phone call. An email works better than a face-to-face meeting. Does anybody else have this dichotomy going on?

Yesterday at a meeting -- a sort of troubleshooting, brainstorming meeting -- I found it happening again. Like writers block, but for the mouth. Everybody else just started shouting out ideas, and I sat there like a deer caught in headlights. It seems my best ideas flow through my fingertips and NOT through my mouth. I sat there feeling like some kind of mental midget.

Anyway, this comes as no surprise since I've kind of been this way all my life -- better conversing one on one, and certainly more creative and clever on paper, and definitely shy in a crowd. (I had one college professor who would literally call me out from the back of the room, "I KNOW you know the answer to this!") I guess maybe I sit there self editing myself or something, and fear that whatever comes out of my mouth spontaneously is going to sound dumb. But I welcome anybody's ideas about this... if you're the same way, or used to be, and found a way around it, or anything.

Thanks for reading,



Blogger Jeff said...

Um, I believe the proper term is "mental dwarf." ;)

Feel lucky that you can at least write. I can't do either very well. Sorry I can't be of more help.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Maktaaq said...

Yep, me too. I am horrid in person.

I am the sort of person who always comes up with a comeback two hours too late.

I don't know how to get over it. I was so obscenely shy in elementary school that I couldn't even say "hi." Then, at thirteen, I started working at saying just that one word. I think it took me about ten years.

Taiwan really helped because there were so many rude people pushing me around and I released the inner bitch to stand up for me. Obviously that approach doesn't have quite the finesse I am looking for.

I find for myself that comlimenting people helps. I often find myself thinking, I really like that shirt she's wearing, or that guy is really funny. So instead of just thinking, I try to remember to actually tell that person.

Or, I just say out loud what I am thinking. Something offbeat usually helps, like "Man, it's so cold my nosehairs have frozen together." Well, I forgot what exactly I last said that got the whole room cracking up.

I am very curious as to what everyone else suggests. I would like your advice too!

12:16 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

I'm terribly introverted as well. It is part of the reason I work from home now--so that I can improve my skills in a manageable environment (ie, encounters of my choosing). Although part of introversion is neurological wiring, part of it is self esteem. A great deal of the battle is reminding yourself that people interact not only to hear themselves talk (although some do) but to have human contact.

What to do? Like Matkaaq, I try and compliment people, because everyone likes to be complimented, and I also listen well and remember things (like people's names). I always try and remember that people who I talk with who don't talk back usually come off to me as being (1) standoffish and not liking me or (2) awfully boring, so I try and interject something about myself or even something neutral about the weather if I'm feeling dominated. As for meetings, I don't know what to say--I sucked at them also, and they were a big part of my job as a manager. If you know you're having a meeting, it might be best to brainstorm before it--jot some ideas down on your notepad. Then, just throw yourself out there. It's kind of akin to jumping off a diving board, but the more you do it, the better the water feels.

8:51 AM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Hee hee... mental midget just felt right, with the alliteration. Sorry... mental dwarf!

Thanks guys for the suggestions. Seriously, the meeting thing is my worst problem, because everybody's sitting around being so... smart. ;) Ha. Maktaaq, I definitely do utilize the compliment thing, I think, a lot. It does make everybody at ease...

And Jen, yeah, that is the answer, to jot down those notes beforehand, something I don't do much at my current job because I think the problem is, I get so busy thinking about my stories and my deadlines that my brain automatically prioritizes the meeting behind those other thoughts. Then I get in there and I'm just... white noise. Ha.

It just amazes me how much more comfortable I am in the written world than the spoken one... so strange. Probably also explains why I never much liked classes, or poetry readings (especially when I read anything I wrote out loud), etc.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Maktaaq said...

That's a good idea to jot down ideas beforehand. I just came from a business meeting, where I just could not feel at ease. All these loud - and I don't really want to say domineering because they were nice - semi-strangers expecting me to give a mini-presentation. I've been in "safe" circles for so long I forgot how it feels to be helpless.

Two of the meeting leaders were extremely complimentary to me so I found it hard to be really modest. Then one of them made a jab at my boss, so I had to remember to not say anything that will be used against me later. *Gulp* I think I rolled my eyes by accident. Oops. Even if I am no good at speaking to strangers, my body language did me in.

Last week, my best friend recommended that at big events with lots of strangers I should make a point of approaching everyone and saying at least one sentence to each person.

Jen, I always try to remember to say things so I don't seem standoffish, too.

12:22 AM  
Blogger Hebdomeros said...

I'm ok at meetings now because there's a defined topic. I may not interject as much as some people, but I make sure to speak up. Even if I have to force myself. Notes help alot; not just writing up things beforehand, but also notes of what others are saying and how I want to react to their ideas.

It's parties that I'm really bad at, because I'm really bad at "small talk", particularly with people I don't know well. I would often have my first dates on one of those art nights at a museum, because there would be something definite to talk about.

Strangely, I talked very well off the cuff the few years I worked in radio. But it's very different in a room by yourself, even if a few hundred people are listening.

9:38 AM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Yeah, body language can be a killer. And I don't know how sometimes in more casual conversation I sometimes blurt out stuff that I don't mean to. Then I totally beat myself up over it later, even though truly, most people probably just gloss over most inane comments.

Radio -- very interesting. I guess it might be easier -- if you don't psych yourself out about thinking people are listening, then you are just in a studio by yourself talking. Interesting...

10:01 PM  
Blogger Maktaaq said...

I worked for six months in radio but I got really nervous knowing that 100,000 could potentially hear me. Plus my co-host was el jerko so I could never top him and it was in another language (Romanian) so half the time I had no idea what was being said.

I doubt I would do better in English radio since I am not that great verbally, period.

1:05 AM  

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