Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NT Planet: Euphemism in the Wild

You know how on Animal Planet, you get to see all these creatures in the wild and you learn more about them than you can looking in their cages at the zoo?

Well, for the new year I'm launching a new blog series: NT Planet. Examples of NTs and how they interact in their natural habitats.

To start us off, let's check out a review of emergency medicine in 2010 in which Kelly Grayson muses:

"Wait a minute, there are EMS systems out there that still use lidocaine, procainamide and furosemide? How...quaint."

First off, "quaint" is a nice way of saying "old-fashioned" or "outdated". In terms of, say, antiques and traditional architecture, that can be good. In terms of something like medicine, not so much.

("Not so much," btw, is a euphemism for "not at all.")

Also, did you note the ... in front of the "quaint". That's an ellipsis. If Grayson has been quoting an actual person and decided to omit one or more words between "How" and "quaint," the ellipsis would indicate that. But it's not the case.

Here, we've got an implied pause. And a pause in speech often means the person is searching for the right thing to say...not wanting to say the first thing that comes to mind. Since under NT norms, blunt thoughts need to be sugar-coated, someone may need to think for a second before coming up with a good euphemism.

And knowing this, one may intentionally pause for effect. The message is "What's coming up isn't the literal truth, but rather the nice-sounding version. To get the actual situation, dial up the negativity a few notches." It's a bit like reading someone's school transcript and knowing that they inflate all the grades by one letter, so if you see "B," for example, think "C".

In short, Mr. Grayson wants to say something pleasant about some emergency systems' medicine choices, so he can sound polite, but really wants us to know the unpleasant reality. That's how NTs act a good deal of the time.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

Facebook discussion: People who get offended when you wish them a Merry Christmas. (Somewhat NSFW due to language.)

Let's put to one side the merits of wishing someone a Merry Christmas, or for that matter of getting offended if someone wishes you a Merry Christmas. Suffice it to say that some people feel that getting offended at "Merry Christmas" is overly touchy...even provocative.

Self-defense expert Marc "Animal" MacYoung comments: "If they're looking to pick a fight, can I punch them? Oh wait, their version of a 'fight'"

Different people have different versions of what's a fight and what's violence, based on their views of what's acceptable and unacceptable. One person has no problem with a verbal conflict, but draws the line at touching much less hitting.

The thing is, not everyone draws the line that way. The law itself, in certain places (for example, Virginia) rejects the idea that "You can talk but you can't touch." That's because with many people - especially (but not only) in certain regions, neighborhoods and socio-economic groups - talking can lead to touching, slapping and all-out beating. You and I may see the latter as an unjustified attack; many other people see it as a simple escalation - along a single continuum.

Bottom line: You may be able to start anything you see fit by your rules. However, the person you start it with may be able to finish it by theirs - and you may have bitten off more than you can chew. (Assuming you can still chew, that is.) And even if things don't get physical, we need to understand that the other person may be willing to take things much further than we've ever dreamed. For example, what you consider to be simply a direct and forthright response to a co-worker's unfair request could result in her plotting to get you nasty assignments...or even fired.

One of the easiest and worst mistakes in the world to make is about (1) how someone else perceives what you do and say and (2) what they're capable of.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Improvising Social Skills

Improv (improvisational comedy) can be a great way for Aspies (and NTs too) to learn body language, tones of voice and unscripted conversation.

Sandy Bruce - grandmother of an Aspie, in fact - has set up an improv group, Shenanigans!, to help adolescents on the spectrum bring out their inner actors. It can really help young Aspies feel like we belong while practicing acting skills (many of us) possess - since we sometimes need to get along by imitating rather than fully understanding others' words and actions.

Improv can also help us learn to respond "on the fly" - that is, to situations we don't have a script for. People sometimes say and do unpredictable things, and it helps to develop our capacity to know what to do right away.

So if you even think you might have some talent or interest in improv, go ahead and try it!

H/T: Mark Bennett, respected criminal defense attorney.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Allan Pease on improving conversational skills


Allan Pease, world-famous communications expert (and previously author of multiple collections of rude, nasty, politically incorrect and totally hilarious jokes) helps us give and receive compliments.

Regardless of Pease's background, this video is SFW.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Communications Revolution: Hold the Whipped Cream

Get to the point.

Especially on something difficult or sensitive.

That way, your listener will know right away what the situation is.

And they won't have to feel like they're searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack while you go through all your detailed explanations and only then say what the issue is.

Gopal Kapur, founder and president of the Center for Project Management (and member of the Harvard Policy Group and Project Management Institute, among other things), has given us a simple communications series. It focuses on giving the most important information first, so the other person can better understand what comes next in turn.

And it shows respect for the other person as a grownup who (1) can handle bad news and tough issues, (2) can sift through and discard all the whipped cream* to get to the truth anyway and (3) has other important things to do in the time you save them by skipping said whipped cream.

[*] Whipped cream seems to hide what's underneath, but you can brush it aside and find what's below...with time and mess. It may be fine on your sundae, but skip it on Monday!

H/T: Douglas R. Wilson.

Thursday, December 2, 2010



This morning, I thought of two things: how several freshman girls were attracted to me in my senior year of high school, and the following sentence from a 1983 education commission report: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."

Just this evening, I happened to come across these two articles.

Maybe tomorrow morning if any numbers come to mind I should race to the nearest lottery merchant....

(Don't worry - even if I do hit the jackpot I'll still keep A SPLINT in operation - in fact I'll likely use some of the money to expand it!)