I feel like a steer. Colleagues are looping, roping, and circling back with me all the time. It’s not that I don’t like the attention or appreciate their estimation of my “value add,” but I could do without the jargon. Then there’s “piggy backing.” There’s something unnatural about an adult wanting to piggy back on another adult. I can’t hide the smirk, but then I smirk a lot. It’s not something I am proud of, but I have learned to live with it even if others haven’t (see In Defense of Smirking).
Most people do not feel this way. They’re content to get their point across within the accepted boundaries of business lingo. After all, they say, we need guardrails. But I am sensitive to it, because I spend a lot of time with language and words. In fact, my whole life is spent that way, whether at work or home. I write, edit, and choose words carefully. Lately, I’ve taken to watching people’s mouths as they speak, trying to make sense of the words that come out. Why do such a thing? Because I find it harder and harder to keep up. People are making less and less sense to me.
For instance, I notice when someone uses the expression “lock arms” three times in a speech as happened yesterday. That kind of thing stands out, and a little bell goes off in my head each time I hear it. I used to count how often undergraduates would use “like” in conversation, but that got tedious. I also felt like a jerk doing it. Now, I just feel numb. The avalanche of words that I hear in the course of a day buries all sense of meaning. It also wears me out. I don’t have the energy to listen anymore (see Hey, Yay, Way and Edgewise).
There’s another thing I’ve noticed. I do this trick in meetings and conversations. I pretend that I am not present and am reading a transcript of the conversation in real time. Reading through the transcript in my mind, I can see ulterior motives, hidden meanings, evasions, and underlying emotions. I can also tell when things don’t make sense or follow one another. People speak past each another so often that I don’t think it would matter much if they spoke different languages. Maybe they would actually understand more, because then they would have to agree on the meaning of the few words they would have in common.
That’s the important point: agreement. We don’t agree on what words mean anymore. That’s a problem, because if we can’t agree on the meaning of basic words like “justice,” “man,” “woman,” and “American,” then we will have no center to hold us together as a people. That leads to confusion. With confusion comes insecurity, and insecure people are easier to control. You don’t have to be into conspiracy theories to believe that. Just listen to people like Klaus Schwab and his Davos minions. They’ll come out and tell you. Controlling us is the plan. Then again, what do you expect from a Henry Kissinger protégé?
If my imagined technique of turning speech into text without context, reducing everything into a court stenographer’s notepad, sounds strange, that’s because it is. It’s also spying on people and judging them without their knowledge, although I’m not concerned about that. Getting to the truth interests me more. I also admit this runs counter to the oft-heard complaint about email being limited precisely because it lacks context. If you look at just the words the way Jack Webb looked at “just the facts, ma’am,” you lose context, but that’s fine with me. I don’t want context the same way I don’t want Webb to deviate from the facts or Lady Justice to remove her blindfold.
I’ve noticed in meetings with millennials and younger that they compete with each other, run over each other’s words, and continually question, counter, challenge, and correct one another. I’m not sure they realize they are doing that, but I can’t tell you how frustrating it is. I react to it by shutting down and not talking at all. You need the proverbial crowbar to break into the conversation, anyway. Meanwhile, they keep trying to rope me back in. I know I’ll have to join the rodeo eventually, but I’m not letting anyone piggyback on me. You gotta draw the line somewhere.
Image credits: feature by Phinehas Adams; cow by Garrett Butler. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”