While at work the other day, I realized that I have a much harder time getting my ideas across clearly whenever I speak. I also can’t think quickly enough to come up with responses. Whenever someone asks me a question, my initial response is usually “Uhhhhh….” It makes me sound and feel slow. I never feel witty enough to engage in conversations with my co-workers. It takes me longer to analyze facts or events if I don’t write down my observations.
This was on my mind a few days ago, so while sitting at the reception desk, I did some research. I came across this article written by Arthur Krystal for the New York Times. In his essay, Krystal actually claims to be smarter in print than in person. “I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence,” says Krystal, “but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I have never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me.”
I can resonate with Krystal on this issue. I can’t count the number of times a friend will express an opinion about a controversial topic, expecting me to engage. Usually, the only thing they will receive in return is a nod of the head. Why? I can’t seem to be able to raise good points for conversation. Even if I did have something to say, it would have to be deciphered through the stuttering, poor word choices, and severe lack of confidence that makes my words sound…uneducated. When I have the time to sit down, think, choose my words carefully, string them together and make a blog post, I can formulate opinions that otherwise I’d have never thought of.
Krystal goes on to mention a conversation that he had with Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, in which Pinker “sensibly points out that thinking precedes writing and that the reason we sound smarter when writing is because we deliberately set out to be clear and precise, a luxury not usually afforded us in conversation. True, and especially true if one writes for magazines where nitpicking editors with expensive shoes are waiting to kick us around for every small mistake.”
Pinker’s view naturally makes sense. And being that he’s a scientific professional, he’s a very credible source. Still, I can’t seem to get over the fact that in conversation, I generally have a harder time understanding what someone is saying as well as verbally expressing myself. Conversely, my reading comprehension level is very high and my ability to express myself clearly in writing isn’t so bad either. But if Pinker is to be believed, then if I had the time to pore over my words and carefully select my phrases, I too could come up with witty one-liners and clear responses when conversing with coworkers or friends. The problem with that? When the moment is gone, the moment is gone.
Since verbal communication does not appear to be my forte, perhaps I shall pursue a career in writing, be it journalism or otherwise.