No fuzzy bunny contest
The other day I met a friend from high school at the bus station and we happened to be going to the same place. Naturally, we spoke most of the way, catching up on each other’s lives and making connections between common friends. But I found myself doing that thing where I ask, “Pardon”, she repeated, and I still could not understand or hear what she was saying. So, to avoid asking her to repeat what she said again, I nodded my head and offered the conversation-neutral, “mmm-hmmm.”
I avoid asking people to repeat things more than once because a) I feel that unless it is a key piece of information, the effort is not worth it and b) the underlying energy and enthusiasm that accompanied the unheard quip is lost with each repetition.
She has always spoken somewhat mumbly, and with a uniform expression on her face. This makes it hard to decipher whether what she has just said is a good or bad thing; without facial clues or proper enunciation, her addition t the conversation has been lost.
Similarly, I have received messages on my voicemail that are spoken so quickly or from a mouth so far from the telephone receiver, that gathering the who, why and phone number is a veritable hearing exercise.
My public service announcement is this: If what you are saying is worth someone’s hearing, the onus is on you to ensure the words are communicated clearly. If I can’t understand you, I’m not going to benefit from what you’re saying. I can’t react to it or offer my own quips in return. And I will likely make fun of you afterwards for wasting my time with your incoherent babbling.
I don’t mean to come off as a grade school grammar teacher, but there is some merit in your obligatory public speaking exercises of before. Unless you are speaking with your best friend who is a trained interpreter of your mumbles and grunts that are supposed to form words, your listener will not understand you. And really, if you’re going to take the effort to exhale and express the thoughts that are already using your energy to zip through your cerebellum at rates faster than we can imagine, then occupying the strongest muscle of the body (the tongue) in conjunction with your lips, vocal chords and facial muscles to say them, you may as well get it right.