Saturday, February 26, 2011

Non-Verbal Illiteracy & ME

(Note:This was a really difficult post for me to write...not physically difficult, because for the most part writing comes easily to me, but emotionally I guess. It's like revealing this deep dark secret and I'm worried about what the people around me are going to think of the secret...)

I know a lot about body language now  but that wasn't always the case.

Growing up I literally couldn't read body language or any type of non-verbal cues. It was absoulutely horrible! Something my siblings often say when we're reflecting on the good ol' days is that when I was younger I had an uncanny knack for putting our dad in an even worse mood than he started off in; He'd walk in the door after a long long day at work obviously upset, maybe from losing a patient or for some other reason, and because I couldn't tell that he was upset, I would just charge at him spewing words at a mile a minute. When all he wanted to do was sit down and decompress I'd just keep talking and talking and talking....and as he got more and more irritated it led to the inevitable chorus of "SHUT UP JENNIE" from my entire family. Looking back, I picture myself as a Golden Retriever puppy meets the Energizer bunny...super hyper and all-up-in-your-grill, and I just kept going and going and going... It was not pretty for anyone involved, least of all me. Can you imagine how many friends I had as a kid??...exactly.

As I got older, I'd start to notice some of the more obvious body language cues:
-someone rolling their eyes at you= annoyed
-someone shaking their head at you=annoyed
-someone rubbing their face= annoyed/ at their wits end.

Unfortunately for me, even though I learned that yes, that kid sitting next to me in German class was really annoyed with me, by that time, it was too late to do anything; I had already annoyed him and I had no clue why! It was like I went from living with a blindfold on to living with a pair of horse blinders on. I was still missing half the picture and I didn't know what to do with the half I was seeing. It got to the point where...I didn't want to look around and see the way people were responding to me because I didn't want to see the irritation and not know how to make it go away or to prevent it.

Now, as a 21-year-old college sophomore, the blinders are off (and the contacts are in thank God or I really would be totally blind ;-D) and it's overwhelming...I can see the joy in someone's eyes, the affection in someone's smile, the sadness in the stoop of their shoulders; I can see the good and the bad, but it didn't come easily or cheaply (therapy much?) but after being around people for awhile, it's like I have to recharge. It's draining to have to focus so much of my attention and energy in order to do something that comes naturally and automatically to most people. And I still need to learn what to do with the information I'm getting. A lot of times...I freeze (see the FFF post).

I wish I could say that I'm a regular Cal Lightman and that non-verbal skills are a non-issue for me, but like most aspects of my life, it's a work in progress...

Keep Reading (and commenting ;-))


  1. I feel badly for you going through all that, but I'd just like to say that I absolutely LOVED you when you were a child. I found you to be a breath of fresh air...obviously intelligent, creative and just generally fun!

  2. i have the same problem, although i'm still trying to solve it so you're a step ahead of me. my mom suggested that i might have a social learning disability, and i think she's right. i remind myself of kramer on seinfeld or michael on the office, just someone who says these crazy things; while it's funny on tv, in real life, it can cause problems. i feel so stupid sometimes, like why does everybody else just get it and i don't?? but my mom says that although i have trouble in that area, i have plenty of other talents that people who are socially adept don't have. i don't know so much about me but i can definitely see your good points so maybe it's true.

  3. Some people read TOO much into non-verbal cues. (ie: most women) So fret not that you weren't cursed with THAT kind of a burden.

  4. I'm sure you were an adorable little girl, and I think I would've been your friend, because all of my friends are like that, haha. You're definately brave for putting this out there like that. Good on you, sweetie.

  5. @Mrs.Podzemny: thank you! you're so sweet! I'm glad you didn't think I was *completely* annoying!

    @Rachel: I never would have guessed that you have any kind of social learning disability! You're such a fun gal and I know I enjoyed being your friend in high school (until I messed that up) and I'm glad we've gotten back in touch!

    @Kelli: That's a good point! I never thought of it like that! Thanks!

    @Stephanie...not going to lie, I was flippin adorable (until I hit about 11) but eh I was annoying and friendless:/ but thank you for saying that

    Thank you everyone for reading and commenting! you all are the best!

  6. You officially have a new stalker. Love your blog! :)

    I'm actually that person Kelli was talking about, so I kind of envy you. I look too far into things and I'm always paranoid that something I say is going to push my friends away. I end up being more irritating in trying to "fix" things than I may have been in the first place.

  7. @beanditch: you can stalk me anytime as long as you don't kill me in my sleep OR take pictures of me without my make up on lol. That being said, I'm glad you like the blog! Thanks for following and taking the time to read and comment!!

    That must really suck for you :-/. I know in my case, since I couldn't read people, I would constantly ask people if they were upset with me...drove em insane.

  8. It's a science. i actually attended several classes that are supposed to help us learn what expressions mean and how what happens on the inside manifests on the outside. It's tough, but once you get it, it feels like a whole new world opens up!

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  10. definitely! but unfortunately...that new world can be intimidating :/