Speaking Invisibly

I think I’m officially developing a new talent. Maybe cultivating is a better word, actually. I mean, I didn’t plant the seed of this talent – my mum did that. I certainly didn’t help it grow into the mature trait that it’s become – my day job did that. No, I was stuck with this hardy talent, so I think I need to cultivate it now and start using it to suit my purposes. You see, it seems that I’ve taught myself to Speak Invisibly.

What does this mean? Glad you asked. Speaking Invisibly is a talent that I seem to have grown into, all on my own – it’s the ability to speak in conversations and be heard but not heard. The people you’re speaking to hear you, but they simply don’t hear you. They know you’re talking, but the meaning of the words are lost them – while they heard the words, they aren’t understood or retained.

Ordinarily the clich? of “you hear me but you aren’t listening to me” would be applicable. I know it is for a number of husband-and-wife conversations, particularly during football season, but it’s not the same as what I’m talking about. Not listening is when a person’s lights are on, but no one is home: you’re basically ignored. Speaking Invisibly is more subtle than this and in some ways, more powerful. When I talk to someone, I know they hear me and I know they listen – they just choose to “lose” what I’ve said to them. I know, it sounds weird, right? Here’s an example:

Mum: “Do you want some fruit salad to take home tonight?” Me: “No, that’s OK, thanks.” Mum: “Oh, OK.” [five minutes later] Mum: “How much fruit salad do you want to take home?” Me: “Um, none thanks – I don’t want to take any home.” Mum: “OK, sure.” [five minutes later, while leaving my parents’ house] Mum: “Wait! You forgot your fruit salad!”

It’s conversations like this one that lead me on the path of discovery. You see, my Mum heard me just fine. She responds to me and acknowledged what I said, because she even frowned when I told her I didn’t want anything to take home. Is she forgetful to the point of forgetting that I told her no? Maybe, but I don’t necessarily think so… at least not yet… check with me in a few more years on that, but for right now, she’s fine. No, she heard me and she listened. She just chose to let the words pass through her. She was set on giving me this fruit salad and sending me home with it, so my words become porous, transparent and yes: invisible! It’s happened elsewhere, as well, so don’t think it’s just my Mum. Let’s look at my day job, as another example:

Boss: “We need to pay $5,000 a month to get the new data content and I think we want it for a new application. What do you think we should do?” Me: “Well, given the uptake rate of new users and the churn that we’re seeing each month, I figure we’d only take in $500 a month in gross sales… even the best projection says that $750 would be the ceiling figure, but I would count on $500. I don’t think it makes sense to bother with it, if there’s no money in it, particularly given the costs of the new application.” Boss: “Right, that’s not a good profit margin, is it? OK. So how long before you can build an application that uses the new content?”

This wouldn’t be such a bad thing either, except that a) it’s a true story and b) after paying for the content for six months and taking in a third of the projected revenue, we were told that we were dropping the expensive content, because it wasn’t worth it after all. So here’s a great example of Speaking Invisibly in the business world! My comments are backed by simple algebra and principles from Business 101 and my boss obviously acknowledges my comments – he just sees through them and allows his own train of thought to continue, as if the words were never spoken. He heard me – he listened to me – he just lets the words pass through.

Well, now that I’ve identified this particular talent, you’re all fucked. If I see this talent in the proper light, I think I’ve been given a license to say whatever I want to. At least I think so. I mean, if my words are seen through and fall away unheeded, then I have certain free-to-say-anything liberties, don’t I? This is not a thing to give someone like me – I get into enough trouble when I feel somewhat responsible for my comments… imagine the trouble I will cause if I’m given free-hand to just speak?

And to think this almost developed into a complex… it will make for a talent, though. Of that I’m mostly certain.

3 thoughts on “Speaking Invisibly”

  1. Hell man, that’s most conversations I have with my managers – ya just start off by saying something nebulous, like “Development fees” or “Software testing” and it spins out of control from there!

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