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Communication Breakdown

March 20, 2009

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately (nothing bad, just busy at work, getting ready for vacation, applying to grad school, etc.) and apparently, I think its affected my ability to communicate with other people in any sort of coherent sentence pattern.

I am used to having full conversations in my own head. Apparently, this is a tool used in psychology, but I have always just done it because I am crazy. I sometimes imagine complete scenarios – how I am going to start a conversation, what I think they would say, how I would respond, etc. Apparently, some people can do this and be healthy. It helps them. So far, all its done for me is giving me something to do on the subway when I don’t have a book, and occasionally get really upset – especially if I end up actually having the conversation and it goes nothing like I have rehearsed in my head a million times. Sometimes it goes even better than I planned, and then I am annoyed I wasted all that good “crazy” time. But, I have been known to pick fights, because someone in my imaginary conversations said something that pissed me off, about an incident that may not have actually happened. I am telling you – psychotic. It’s like being mad at someone because they did something mean to you in a dream.

The famous story of this is a meeting with a former colleague. I was dreading the meeting, because of the subject matter and some personality conflicts. In preparation (instead of you know, researching the subject matter) I rehearsed how this would go many, many times in my  head.  We got to the meeting room, and were going through paperwork. We had a long conversation about expected outcomes, and I carefully and beautifully explained my point of view. She stared at me blankly. I prompted her “Well? What do you think?” “About what?” “About what we just discussed!”

Apparently, I had said nothing. I sat there, silently, having a complete conversation, along with a heated argument entirely in my own head. What does one say after that? (Maybe I am Cylon-projecting?)

I thought I had gotten over this, but as I said – lately it’s been getting worse. My boss can stop by and ask if I need anything, and all I can manage is “Yes….paper? Oh! Email. Numbers. I need numbers.” This of course means “Yes, thank you. I would like you to review the email I sent you. Also, I am working on something else now, but I should have the numbers you asked for shortly. Are you having a good day?”

Luckily, the people who know me best can translate. Some are still catching up, and have suggested that if I am going to speak in fractured sentences with only a tenuous relation to the topic being discussed, that I at least choose words that  don’t make me seem like a serial killer. (Don’t ask.) But it’s a little ridiculous and getting embarrassing. I am hoping that a vacation can bring me back to at least an acceptable level of coherency.

In fact, I actually got home and checked the computer to see if I had any comments on this post. This is when I realized that I had not actually written the post – just composed it in my head, on the subway. I am terrifying.

I can’t believe I have gone this long without referencing Led Zeppelin.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Steffi permalink
    March 20, 2009 9:44 am

    this reminds me so much of Phoebe, from friends. in the most positive of all ways.

  2. March 20, 2009 6:36 pm

    Seriously, talking to you on AIM without you filling in the conversation with the necessary details has just been insanity!

    But, we’ve made it work.

    Because we’re cool like that.

  3. March 21, 2009 12:55 am

    once again, you are hilarious. And I totally agree with the Phoebe remark. I may just have to refer to you as Regina Falange.

  4. Bart permalink
    March 21, 2009 8:22 am

    Once you get on the same wavelength with Erica this phenomenon makes everything so much more efficient. When we plan to meet I know what she probably wants and when I get there she says “cookies” and know that means “yes the analysis is complete, I posted it to the shared drive, now how about we celebrate over cookies.”

    Similarly, I’ve had my half of the conversation on my end and all I need to say is “Elmo” and Erica and I have accomplished in 3 seconds what takes non-crazy folks 15 minutes!

    Train tracks!

    • March 21, 2009 4:39 pm

      Sure. What do you want for lunch next week? Toaster?

  5. Katie permalink
    March 23, 2009 10:51 am


    Love your blog! I, too, must admit that I am a victim of the internal conversation – where complete dialogues have been initiated, discussed, dissected and discarded. In fact, this is my first comment to a blog, well, my first written comment. I’ve composed many, but none that I actually posted. I’m hoping this is the first step to breaking the cycle 🙂

    (BTW, I’ve been wanting to start a blog, but like you, wasn’t sure how to, what to write, if I even had anything relative to say. I’d love to connect some time … seems we have a lot in common!)

    • March 29, 2009 11:09 am

      Hi Katie! Thanks so much for giving me the first-comment honor. I know what you mean – and then I realize how silly I am being. Censoring comments on blogs! Overthinking sentences that very few other people are actually reading, let alone wondering if “unctuous” really means what you think it means. No one else really does either. I would love to connect, anytime!


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