[extropy-chat] Signaling and Social Markers

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Sat Jan 6 15:32:35 UTC 2007

This post feels awkwardly personal, but I suppose many of us on this
list have experienced difficulties relating with those more central on
the bell curve.  So, in the spirit of new year's resolutions...

Pjmanney wrote:

[Jef wrote:]
>> Even though I can clearly see that it impairs
>> effective communication, I feel strongly that
>> I must be "real" and if I were to bias my style
>> and presentation that it would be manipulative
>> and I certainly wouldn't want people doing that
>> when interacting with me.


>> So, maybe there's an analogy between the clothing
>> style one presents and the communication style one
>> presents.  For me they seem very different in terms
>> of values, but I can see that they each may be 
>> simply a layer over the self.
>> As Lizbeth left for work this morning she said "Maybe 
>> holding on to who you are gets in the way of who
>> you may become."
> Please forgive me for getting to this so late.  I'm still 
> wading through the deluge of communications from being in 
> rural Wisconsin without Internet or cell service...  It was a 
> blessing and a curse.  Like all technological ramifications!

Welcome back!  In the years before the Internet became public, I'd feel
withdrawal pains if I couldn't find at least a good newspaper each day.
Nowadays, if I don't have wireless, I'll sometimes drive to a library or
coffee shop to get my information fix.

> I've been reading a lot about empathy, as you know, Jef.  And 
> one of the primary forms of empathy we humans display is an 
> unconscious mimicry and mirroring of speech patterns, facial 
> expressions and body language.  We do it without realizing 
> and those who do it more are considered more empathetic and 
> relatable compared to those who do it less or not at all, who 
> are considered incommunicative or unempathetic.  It's those 
> pesky mirror neurons again!
> You did it consciously as a manager and it was very 
> effective.  But maybe the people closest to you need it, too. 
>  Because it's not about being inauthentic.  It's about being 
> relatable.

Yes, that's a key point of clarification.  So there's a great
challenge--and some very real limitations--when attempting to convey
both empathy and deep thoughts via the limited bandwidth medium of

> Maybe what these people are seeing is you being you, as 
> opposed to 'being them.'  And they need to see more 
> 'themselves' to understand you.

And I SOOOOO dislike it when people try to do that in an inauthentic
way: commissioned salespeople, second-rate counselors, distant
relatives, church people, politicians... to name a few.

> As I've said many, many times before -- We may think we speak 
> the same, literal language, but how we take that information 
> in and what we do with it can be radically different.  In 
> this world, we've got be become multilingual to communicate, 
> even with our own friends and family.  You're not being 
> false.  You're reaching out.

Yes, communicating effectively is not simply putting the information out
there, but about making a connection.

I think a technical solution to the "authenticity problem" is to simply
be up front about the fact that when it comes to communicating largely
unfamiliar concepts you simply can't deliver the whole, in one shining
coherent package, so, with full sincerity and authenticity, you offer a
smaller chunk and see how it goes.

It comes back to the bandwidth problem again, related to the fact that
acquiring personal experience (personal truth) is an extended process of

> And don't think for one minute that I can be completely 
> 'myself' with anyone, including family (although my husband 
> gets the 100%, unpasturized, real 'me' -- he bought this cow 
> so long ago, that I grew into all the wacky facets of my 
> identity before his eyes...).  None of us is so 
> simplistically formed that anyone can take in all our 
> contrary complexities without whiplash.  (And yes, I can 
> still give him whiplash!  But I think he likes it...  ;-) )  
> Think of it this way: the mirroring lessens their neck strain 
> trying to keep up with you.  And makes for smoother relationships.
> Hope all is well!

Yes, I'm doing well and getting ready to spend a few days in Las Vegas
for CES 2007.  Should be interesting.

- Jef

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