I’ve been podcasting for about ten days and I’ve already learned so much. The other morning, my mom commented that maybe I should consider limiting my number of weekly interviews and time spent on the podcast, but I see no reason or benefit to that. I already have set boundaries on the project in accordance to my schedule, obligations, and energy. I’m enjoying the interviews for the most part. There’s an undeniable pattern of pre-interview anxiety (bordering on dread!) where I’m somewhat regretting my commitment to that scheduled appointment, but it’s really just performance anxiety that subside a few minutes into the conversation. I mainly seem to get nervous about actually making the call, first connecting, and reading the guest’s bio once recording has started since I am very uncomfortable talking on the phone, especially to people I don’t know, and I am self-conscious about my difficulty with reading aloud. It’s also “my show,” so I am naturally on the spot to lead and curate an interesting and articulate conversation. My brain operates in a choppy and slow manner when verbally conversing, so I often stumble and struggle to get my thoughts and responses out eloquently and in a logical order. It’s much like a series of gear cogs that should turn synchronously, but that get jumbled and caught up on one another while transferring the motion from one to the next. Gear cogs operate such that two adjacent cogs rotate in alternate directions, but it’s like my mental cogs get confused, first rotating the same way, only to then buckle under this maladaptive pattern, before sorting themselves out.
Usually, there is a significant processing lag. I’m listening and of course I’m fluent in English, but it takes time for my mind to comprehend the spoken language. This happens in any conversation, especially in person, because the nonverbal aspects conveyed actually work against my comprehension and severely inhibit my understanding. Most people gather more “clues” or data from in-person interactions because facial expressions, body language, and tone help augment appreciation of the actual words spoken to bring about a deeper and richer understanding. For me, it’s quite the opposite. Because nonverbal information is so baffling to me, it works to counteract what I would otherwise have understood from the words alone, causing me to question my instincts about what the person is saying and gravely hampering my ability to follow along. That’s why the phone works better for me. Of course, it still lags considerably behind written language. People often say texting or emailing can be a poor means of communication because tone cannot be adequately conveyed; however, for me, this is a major boon as “tone” is some elusive unicorn to me: I don’t understand it, I don’t hear it, and when I try to interpret it, it’s a guarantee that I get it completely wrong. I fair far better when language is completely devoid of tone. Just use the words to say what the tone would have implied: “I’m upset because,” “this frustrates me,” “I was disappointed to hear,” “you surprised me when,” or “it hurts my feelings if.” I cannot see or hear sarcasm, so if said in jest to me about something I’ve done, it usually hurts my feelings.
When listening to someone speak, after my brain has caught up on processing their words (like an old computer tasked to perform multiple processes simultaneously), I do form thoughts in my head for an intelligible follow-up or thoughtful response, yet as I try to actually express the words aloud, they often scramble into strange, grammatically-incorrect, incoherent mishmash. Although it’s an ego issue I need to get over, I get so embarrassed when this happens because I pride myself on being intelligent and I want my verbal skills to match that self-concept. Therein lies the crux of the problem: I lack social intelligence. I’m not smart in that way. At all. That’s why I’m so set on trying to work to improve it and why I’m so dedicated to my podcast project. In response to my mom’s concern that I should moderate my involvement and frequency of interviews, I see the opposite approach being most beneficial. Like a boot camp, the more practice I get researching and preparing for interviews, conversing with guests who are essentially strangers to me, recording, and publishing podcasts, the faster my skills have to grow to catch up. Plus, despite the initial anxiety and pre-appointment nerves, once I get rolling in the interview (and past the awkward introductions and bio reading), I’m genuinely enjoying the conversations while they are happening (and not just when they are done!). I’ve spoken with fascinating, bright, inspiring, and strong people and they have all been patient and gracious with me. This life skills training is actually fun!
(For the record, although I haven’t explicitly asked, I don’t think my mom is trying to discourage the podcasting project; she just gets concerned about my tendency to overwork myself.)