Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Turn Signals or The Increasing Entropy of Common Human Relations

Turn signals are great. They’re so simple. They explain so much while being the easiest thing to understand. There’s no written language to understand to understand a turn signal. They communicate a pure, often important message to others. There is no nuance to a turn signal and the information delivered by a turn signal is only ever beneficial to everyone involved.

Most people who know me in real life consider me to be quiet, introverted, thoughtful and, overall, a bit of an asshole. That’s all probably pretty accurate but mostly because there aren’t turn signals. Human interaction is incredibly complex and I get it wrong almost every time. It would be so much better if motivations, needs and desires could be communicated in the same purely binary principles of the turn signal. Instead, we’re meant to receive a raft of spoken and unspoken information to understand each other.

Eye movement, posture, facial expression, hand gestures, personal space, tone of voice, verbal infliction and a whole mess of other subtle and not so subtle clues are continuously being delivered in even the simplest of conversations. Heap on top of that individual, familial and cultural differences mean that nobody is working with the same unspoken vocabulary. The whole thing is further complicated by the fact that spoken words, meant to be the most explicit form of communication, rely on living and therefore always evolving languages. None of it - definitions, word order, sentence structure, etc. - is static.

I just want to know if you’re turning left or right but somehow we’re involved in a heated conversation about the pros and cons of tapioca pudding. Is it any wonder I spend most conversations watching and listening? Receiving, interpreting and filing the information that I think is being delivered is often overwhelming. Then developing and delivering a clear response makes a complex situation nearly impossible. Is it any wonder that I spend most of my time actively avoiding conversations?

There aren’t many people I would count as close. There are a lot of people I like and, not always concurrently, admire. There are far fewer with whom I feel capable of communicating. I think those unfortunate few probably to find me exhausting.

Despite appearances, I do crave human interaction as much as anyone else. When I think I’ve found it, I quickly overload my new victim. Making matters worse is the fact that I’m almost always wrong. I haven’t established successful interaction. More often I’ve found someone who, for whatever reason, finds it in their interest to try to exchange ideas with me. I find myself in situations where I think I’m building a friendship or affection where the other person might simply fulfilling a specific need. Once done, I’m left wondering what happened to my new buddy.

I’m not saying I’m a victim or this is a situation unique to me. I imagine this is a universal experience and I’ve probably been on the other side of that situation quite a few times. I do think I’m less aware of it than most. Human relations are always a negotiation and most people understand that instinctually. I find I don’t and I have to stop and make myself understand that what I think is a fast, new friendship was, actually, a transaction.

Whenever I really put my mind to these matters, I almost always decide that I have Asperger syndrome. If I do, I’m on the functional end and there’s probably not a lot of benefit in knowing. Fortunately, I do have a few people in life and they’ll have to do.

I just wish the rest of you assholes would wear turn signals.


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