Curb your crap filter

The Trackball got some weird but not unexpected feedback from the drinking post a little while back. Apparently a good proportion of readers came away believing that I am against drinking. This is curious because I am not and never said that. The point of the post was that I didn't get why it was so hyped. But in today's blog-fogged, talking point, scream match kinda world, you're considered either in favor of something or against it. So if the sum total of what you say tips one way or another, people chalk it up to you being completely that way but just being sneakily subtle. ToT must be against drinking and want to ban it if he has sounded the slightest bit negative. Totally not so.

The ToT has noticed this before in many venues. Hardly anyone hears exact words, even when they are trying to hear them (unlike in political circles). You can write a glowing email about something you find truly amazing and have someone believe that you're being a totally negative sarcastic cynic. You can say A, but people hear B.

The cause of this misinterpretation is the crap filter. It's that part in your head between your ear and your brain that takes what you actually hear, tries to filter out the useless words, double talk and ironic pleasantries and boils it down to what you assume it's basic essence is. Kinda like Fox News or Brian Williams reporting on complicated world events. So if Jimmy Buffett runs up to you with his hair on fire and asks for your help, because of your crap filter all you hear is him saying he's wasting away again in Margaritaville.

People are using their crap filters more and more often for several reasons.
1. The communications culture has become so saturated with predictable, canned messages that we've tune out the actual words. If Ford announced it's layoffs by saying that it was no big deal because these were all blue collar losers, or that the layoffs would weaken the company but they had to do something to please Wall Street, most of us would hear things about rightsizing, being competitive and Japanese car makers.
2. Stupid primal emotional checks. If I say you're clothes don't match, you may not hear the words, just that I disapprove of you, question your fashion sense, don't like you, etc. Everything said to you is interpreted in one of two ways: you like me or you don't like me. Pity the fool who delivers constructive criticism or brings an unwelcome fact to someone's attention.
3. Laziness. Concentrating on words and actual meaning takes energy, and most people just. don't. care. that. much. So they just check facial expressions, body language, sex and racial makeup and then guess at what they heard. Note that they don't just do this with the media or their boss. This probably happens most with their significant other, which might explain why divorce rates in Fox Newsy parts of the country are so high.
4. Some people are careless with words because they expect that your crap filter will figure out their message. They actually say crap. They outsource articulation. Thanks for making a simple conversation into Gravity's Rainbow, shithead.
5. Fear of being wrong. The crap filter will spit back whatever self-reinforcing mistruths you wanted to believe in the first place. It'll take out the words that flip your reality on its head and soothe you with what you wanted to hear anyway. Take the evolution deniers who scrounge for whatever scraps of fantasy they can cling to.

This is all very disturbing to me. I say what I mean and every word counts. I also pay attention to people's exact words. I don't have a crap filter. Being dense, I have no confidence at guessing at others' intent without actually first hearing/reading what they actually said. Being a contrarian, I'm often saying unexpected things. And often am being misunderstood when my meaning is all too clear. Even when I correct somebody, often times they still are resentful, as if it's my fault that they used their crap filter and that it's not reliable. It's not embarassment even, they still suspect that the crap filter was right and somehow I'm ingeniously covering my tracks and being dishonest.

In this sense, being me is like being Larry David in his show Curb Your Enthusiasm. Besides his loutishness and self-absorption, he's always being misunderstood because of circumstances that he can't explain his way out of. Because the others' crap filters have negated everything he said.

I was once in a conversation with several women who were talking about sex discrimination. I said yeah, it's worse than you know, because a lot of assholes freely admit to it around other guys, including me. The women who knew me nodded in agreement, having heard me correctly, but the others looked at me like I had just happily quoted Andrew Dice Clay. "It's okay" one of my friends said, "he's one of the good ones. He gets it." The others looked at me almost apologetically. I knew what they were thinking.

Oops. Crap filter failed me again.

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