Truth: We envy your free and almost wild ability to take risks.
Truth: We wish, at least 10 times in our lives, that we weren’t so serious. We wish it didn’t get us the, um, inconvenient treatment.
Truth: We think your carefree manner is dangerous because you live from the outside in.
Truth: Some of us are introverts too (talk about a double whammy!), and until we get comfortable in our own skin, we live locked up from the inside out. (Please note that when we get comfortable we still live from the inside out, but no longer hide it because of others’ discomfort.)
Let’s Get to the Communication Break Downs
Here’s two important tips on how to do life with literal people.
Part one of this series ended with the first tip for doing life with literal people: TELL THEM WHEN YOU’RE JOKING.
No, not every one gets a joke. Just like we say about certain perky people that they are on “10,” that’s us literal folks on the “serious and intense” meter. That’s why when you ask “Why are you always so…” or “Why do you have to be so…” SERIOUS…we get insulted, or silent or withdrawn. Because we don’t know. Our minds are constantly working; personally I breed great ideas. We do not wake up with a plan to punish you; we just have to get “it” out — the thoughts, words, concepts, prophecies, art, books, etc.
If you’ve ever had a conversation go downhill fast with literal people, at least five times it’s because we missed your joke. We took you seriously and got offended. OR, we frustrated you by being ourselves. We missed your tone. We just missed it. When you called or approached us, we were likely thinking about something. And not all of us can make the leap to joking as fast as you expect…well, because that can be slightly traumatic.
But you meant well and now you’re frustrated with us again. Please, on our behalf, we apologize. Also, know this won’t change. If you can simply tell us you’re joking, it helps us shift mental gears. And as hard as it may be, don’t tease or generalize us. We can’t take it…even though we try. (another truth)
The second tip for doing life with literal people is FOLLOW THROUGH. Whatever our passion, literal people stay on “10” about it. And we share our excitement with you — our loved ones with equal ambition and passion, and maybe a little less discipline to follow through.
You can set your watch by us. We are overly conscious of how our ways affect you. We feel like a bother, so we ask about your personal rules, boundaries and preferences because we don’t want to offend you or transgress them. We even offer you a disclaimer when we meet you, that we’ll likely be the most or one of the most literal people you come to know. What you appreciate today will frustrate you tomorrow or down the road and we’ll have to remind you of this conversation where we warned you. But you wonderful free spirit you, you didn’t think we were “that bad.”
We want to know what you love and know how we can help you see your dreams and visions in real life. We inspire you, but frustrate you when we hold you accountable for what you said you’d do or plan to do. But here’s an important truth: we are NOT trying to make you look bad or embarrass you. When we ask, “Well what about this” or “Why did you say that,” it’s simply for the information’s sake. We want the update. We want to know how better to help you (because in the early part of our relationship you said in some form how you admire our attention to detail and discipline and need someone like us in your life). That’s it. Nothing more. We don’t want to “fix” you. If we love you, then we want to help. and because we are literal, it’s a matter of facts for us. (another truth).
What we need from you is either follow through or adjust your speech.
If you have timing issues, never promise to do something for or with us by a certain time. We will be upset when you’re late. Listen to us when we try to give you an exit from these kinds of guarantees; it’s not that we don’t believe you. We’re just trying to help you operate in your strengths. If you say you will do a thing, and it concerns us, then follow through. Your consistency is how we learn to trust you and open up — and this is any “you.” If you want us to open up and trust BEFORE you show some consistency, then here cometh the stalemate. Stuck. Nothing moving. Please consider this…
The Best TV Example
I experienced a personal awakening when I first watched Bones. To date, it remains my favorite television show. The main character, Dr. Temperance Brennan, is literal to her core. I challenge you to watch at least one episode from each season. Watch how literal she is…and how in the beginning her behavior yields emotional outbursts to defend herself (because any challenge seems like a personal attack). Watch how people challenge and confront her. Watch how she misses the “popular” meaning of things and requires explanation. Watch how her feelings are detached from the facts, but how deeply she feels and has trouble communicating her feelings. Watch how they help her open up (and thus, change) by their acceptance. Watch how they know when to be blunt, because she’s all about the facts. Please watch.
I know this is real life — a better life, really — that I’m talking about, and not television. And I understand that this information comes a little late for some because some things cannot be repaired. But we can come to understand each other better, literal person or not.
Selah, and love to all.