input and process speeds make a difference

There is a difference between listening and ingesting ideas.

When you speak on a sensitive topic, listeners are going to pick out certain phrases and then magnify and distort your meaning as they swirl the part they heard around in their heads with their own fears about what they think you might be saying.

I think if I had been there and heard the “daddy truck/baby truck” part, I would have missed the whole next section because I would have become wrapped up in my own thoughts. This is one reason why I’d prefer to read a speech than listen to one. Who can sit through a long, overcomplicated speech with a passive mind? Assuming you can resist thinking about something else altogether — what’s for dinner? — you hear bits of the speech and think about it, criticize it, relate it to something in your own experience.

[Ann Althouse. Summers releases the transcript. 18fb05

People react to ideas and often seem to misplace ideas with words. This may be because words are visibile and something you can easily see and read. Ideas are another thing altogether. They are abstract, have no visible formation, and can be seen as completely different by different people. Words are intended to express ideas. But many speakers have such a high word to idea ratio that their speeches are often droning dull affairs. There aren’t enough ideas to shake the mind enough to keep it actively working. But when the ideas come in flocks and herds and they are big ones, the mind can get distracted trying to get one stashed before the next comes along. That can be uncomfortable – and confusing.

If you are speaking, keep in mind your words to ideas ratio and make sure the ideas are spaced out well enough so that your audience has time to get a handle on them. Make sure you don’t have so many words and so few ideas so you can keep them on your ideas and not on your words. Paint your pictures carefully without too many flourishes!

If you are listening, pick up the words first and only mull over the ideas when you have time. Ideas will sink in whether you work on them or not so, if the speech is too idea rich for you, just plan to take some quiet time later to let them surface.

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