Differences in Processing Time

In 2015, I read Susan Cain’s Quiet, which is about the hidden power of introverts and the many talents they can bring to the table and how they are often overshadowed in America—a far more extroverted country than, say, Japan. Introverts tend to be misunderstood as “shy” or “rude” or “antisocial,” which has been a source of frustration for me throughout my life.

To me, the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is what I call “processing time.” Extroverts are way better at making decisions in shorter time frames than introverts, at least in my experience. They come up with solutions faster and their witty comebacks are that much more effective and funny because they are spontaneous. Introverts need more time to process and consider all options. This may lead to a better-informed decision, but it’s useless in times when a quick decision is mandatory. And I find myself annoyed because I come up with the perfect witty comeback… four hours after the time when it should have been said.

I consider myself fortunate to work in a department that consists of mostly introverts (editors and writers). We understand each other’s “antisocial” tendencies and need for “processing time.” We don’t have too many long-winded water cooler conversations because we just want to get back to our desks and focus. However, I think I got a little spoiled by my workplace, because when I go out into the real world, where the majority of people are extroverts, I get frustrated when they don’t seem to understand my “slow” thought process and impatience with small talk.

Then I also realize that perhaps I am not being as understanding of extroverts as I ought to be, and I may be using “introversion” as an excuse to avoid social situations that might otherwise benefit me. So the need for a fine balance comes into play. There are times when a quick decision is necessary, and there are decisions that require more thought. There are times to go to parties and social gatherings, and there are times to go home and relax and read or watch a movie. Some projects would be better when worked on in a group situation, and others are best worked on individually. As with many other things, it’s a matter of understanding other people and what they’re like and how their brains function.

It’s not like in the days of elementary school when you can immediately write off that one kid as weird because he likes to play by himself, or avoid another kid because he likes to be the life of the party. In the real world, we have to work together.


Plain Language Reprise

A few years ago, I wrote a post on the Plain Writing Act, and received the honor of being Freshly Pressed on WordPress, probably not because of the quality of the post but more because of (1) the timeliness of the issue and (2) I happened to mention then-President Obama.

Plain writing and plain language are still pretty important issues and will become more so, as people have less and less time to read (and absorb what they have read). In my job, we do a lot of work for the federal government, which is still pushing for plain language as it attempts to make its reading material more accessible to the public.

A few of my coworkers went to a conference on plain language and learned that images and typography are just as important, if not more so, than words in conveying a message. Many elderly people cannot read text as easily when certain fonts are used, and they may not interpret symbols in the same way as a younger audience would.

The terminology used is also important; if you are writing a pamphlet for lay readers about how to detect early signs of a stroke, it is crucial that you use simple language, not complex medical jargon. People have a tendency to completely give up on reading something if it’s too complicated. They simply don’t have the time or the energy to sift through it. Your message may be important, but it will be lost if nobody reads it.

My parents received a booklet on Medicare benefits from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. I idly flipped through it and was surprised to see that the plain language principles were being used. The booklet was geared toward older people, so it was written in a larger font, it used images and text boxes, and there were fewer words on each page. It had a glossary in the back that defined commonly used terms in simpler language, and it seemed to be organized a lot more clearly than a lot of other government materials I had been seeing. It almost made me want to read it.

Even so, my parents didn’t read the booklet, at least not cover to cover. Perhaps the larger font made it seem like it was longer, perhaps my parents didn’t have the time, or perhaps it’s the simple fact that nobody really wants to sit around and read about Medicare because it’s one of the most boring topics in the known universe. The booklet was the kind of thing you look at when you are at your wit’s end trying to hunt for some tidbit of information that you thought you might have remembered seeing somewhere. And that’s all the more reason to make these types of documents accessible. The last thing you want to do is confuse or frustrate your audience, especially when they’re reading about a topic that’s confusing, frustrating, or boring to begin with.

Have you had any frustrating experiences with documents that did not use plain language principles?

Bridezillas and the “Perfect” Wedding

Confession time: I used to watch Bridezillas, that horrible reality show about brides abusing their future husbands, their hapless bridesmaids, their mothers, their future mothers-in-law, and basically everyone else they came into contact with in their quest to reach the altar.

Now that I’m planning my wedding, I understand the beleaguered brides’ plight much more than I did when I watched the show. I don’t sympathize with or condone their bad behavior, like breaking into bar fights on the day of the bachelorette party or engaging in unnecessary drama. But I understand the pressure, and pressure makes people do crazy things, like having a crying fit over something as seemingly simplistic as what kind of flowers to put in a boutonniere.

I still find it amusing that the most common piece of wedding advice I’ve gotten is “it’s your wedding; do what you want.” In all honesty, if I could do what I wanted, I’d just have a church wedding and avoid all the rigmarole and expense that comes with the reception. Hell, if I could do what I really wanted, I’d have the wedding at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The reality is that “it’s your wedding; do what you want,” but with several caveats: what the budget allows, what your family will and will not tolerate and/or pay for, what his family will and will not tolerate and/or pay for, what the church will and will not let you have at the Mass, and so on.

So… it ain’t Burger King; you can’t have it your way. In that sense, wedding planning must be the smallest microcosm of what marriage is going to be like: realizing that you can’t do what you want anymore, at least not without consulting with your future spouse. This has been particularly mind-blowing to me because I’m a fairly independent person. I like to do what I want, and I don’t like having to consult what seems like a thousand other people for their opinions, because then I begin to second-guess my own opinions.

Then there’s all the “informative” material: wedding magazines, wedding etiquette books, sites like Pinterest and the Knot and WeddingWire… and the list goes on. I read or scan through it and literally get sick to my stomach. It’s too much. Weddings are a business and an industry, and the vendors have to make money and will inundate you with aggressive advertising for stuff you don’t want or need. It’s easy to get bogged down in it all and forget that you’re planning for one day. One day. Yes, it’s one very important day, but it’s still one day. No wonder some women become bridezillas.

The fear of becoming a high-maintenance bridezilla has caused me to stay far, far away from all that “informative” material. I don’t want to read a sappy story about how Person X and Person Y met and planned the Best Wedding Ever and how they did it all incredibly cheaply and it all turned out looking like a Disney fairy tale. To me, it ought to be less about the wedding and more about the marriage, the journey together, the ups and the downs and the day-to-day stuff that can make you or break you (not to mention the spiritual aspect of it, but that’s another blog post). I just wish that for every wedding magazine, there was a marriage magazine, and for every happily-ever-after, picture-perfect wedding, there was a good, stable, lasting marriage.

I guess all the wedding hype is another symptom of how our culture is so laser-focused on momentary pleasure and making things look Facebook- and Pinterest-worthy, but I think that’s yet another blog post for another day. I’ve bored y’all enough. 🙂