I’ll go back to XXY experiences here.
For most of the people, the typical way of discussing important things is the face-to-face way. People who are verbally not impaired prefer the verbal way of communication. They tend to refuse the written form because they assume it’s much easier just to meet and clear the issue exchanging arguments, instead of writing long e-mails and having to answer in a similar way. It costs too much time. If you’re asking therapists or coaches, they will tell you the same – it’s better to settle a difference face to face than with an e-mail or by other sorts of written communication (SMS, messenger, whatsapp, etc…).
Face-to-Face Communication is a Minefield
What I learned about myself is that communication is a minefield irrespective of the chosen form. However I struggle much more with face-to-face communication than in a written form.
When I’m face to face with a person to whom I have an important discussion (no chit-chat) where I intend to carry my point, I struggle with finding the right wording and I can’t even built complete sentences, neither in german nor in english. Auditory processing delay may contribute to losing the threads as I need time to think about what was said but discussion is already advancing and I risk to forget what has been said. I also tend to focus on what I will say instead of listening. I often end up argueing lousy, putting up arguments which are – of course – too emotional and not fact-based enough to convince the person whom I’m talking to. It also happens that I come up with a certain intention and during the discussion I just lose the thread while talking. I’m aware of losing my thread and that the discussion runs into a false direction and runs the risk of ending up with a potential worst case scenario (i.e., I didn’t succeed but things are getting even worse after the talk) but I can’t stop it.
Shutdowns and pondering may result
After such discussions I’m often totally exhausted needing a rest in a quiet place. Hypersensitivies worsen after such ’socialising‘ and every noise and every movement in my surroundings are just too much. I feel the strong impulse to withdraw and I have to avoid crowds of people not to run into a panic attack. Sometimes, I become silent and I don’t want to answer or to speak for hours (shutdown). In other cases, I tend to become very sarcastic, and people are wondering about my choice of words, especially when sarcasm is inappropriate in that situation. After worst case scenario discussions I have a long time upcoming when I think about the course of the discussion and what I should have said instead. Ruminating about the correct choice of words and arguments is a typical consequence of face-to-face discussions. I know that from other XXY people, too.
Distractions contribute to lose the threads
Communication for many of us means for the counterpart they need to give us more time. While our minds are stuffed with thoughts, with many options and arguments, expressing our thoughts is delayed. Word finding is often an issue, and bad short-term memory prevents us from recalling the facts-based arguments. If you can’t avoid a face-to-face discussion, it seems to be appropriate to take notes as much as possible. Bring notes to recall your arguments and take notes from the counterpart to remember important statements. Depending on the surroundings we also highly suffer from distractions. People talking simultaneously, construction noise, a vacuum cleaner, ticking clocks, a radio playing in the background – this noise may be highly distracting and contributes to quickly losing the thread in a discussion. The same holds for interruptions when another person enters the room and wants something.
Body language and facial expressions might be misleading – for both
Besides distractions and losing threads, we have difficulties recognizing facial expressions. We are able to distinguish between good (happy) and bad (angry, sad) faces but we have great difficulties distinguishing between angry and sad faces. In an important discussion we might miss the point when we should stop argueing before situation escalates. The message carried out by our own facial expression might differ from the things we actually say and may confuse the counterpart. It may end up that the counterpart doesn’t believe us when we try to argue and body language and facial expressions look guilty or we even smile accidently while talking about something serious.
As said in the beginning, face-to-face communication is a minefield for MANY of us. I still want to emphasize that MANY XXY struggle with similar problems but not ALL.
Main advantages for writing are …
- It allows me to gather my thoughts and speak without getting upset.
- It allows me to think about what I’d like to argue for, and I also have time to think about the answer before answering myself.
- I have the chance to bring my arguments step by step, without the risk to loose my thread.
- I’m not distracted by the surroundings or by misleading facial expressions (I don’t notice when someone is pretending an attitude).
- I have notes which are easy to recall while verbal statements may be lost after a short time.
Of course, I’m aware of the advantages of face to face but these advantages aren’t valid for ME. I also know I can’t avoid the disadvantages of writing, like misleading statements because the counterpart doesn’t see my face and body language (probably better, he/she doesn’t) while making this statement. He might interpret it in a wrong and potentially damaging way for our relationship, depending on his picture (and prejudice) about me. Verbally communicating people dislike writing because it costs time. Why write a long e-mail when you could simply make a phone call or meet the other person in place?
Different is not worse!
Last point which is important for me… I described different ways of communicating, neither a right nor a wrong way to do it. In my opinion, both ways are valid and value-free. There are much more people out there preferring writing, like people with autism (especially the nonspeaking ones), people with mutism, deaf people. You could even have had a disease preventing you from talking. No matter what reasons or causes let you prefer writing instead of verbal communication – it’s a legitimate form of communication.