Growing up, my dad always used to correct my sisters and my speech. We would often say stuff like, “Dad, could you open this jar for me?” or “Can we go out to eat tonight?” To which he would (and still does to this day) reply with, “I don’t know, can I?” or “I don’t know, can we?” At the time, we did not fully understand what he was trying to get across to us. As we grew older, we realized that he was correct all along. It makes more sense to ask someone if they will do something than if they can. Of course most of the time he could do anything we asked of him, the real question was would he.
Geeks and non-geeks differ in their uses of language. For geeks, words are used simply to communicate and get a point across. Non-geeks consider language as more than a way to share information, but instead as a way to share meaning with one another. In the same way that Dad has small preferences about the way we communicate with him, he also does not like when we interrupt each other. Many times he will instruct each of us to wait until the other is done speaking before we share our view. While I never really considered my dad to be a geek, the way in which he communicates a majority of the time goes right along with how geeks prefer to speak. Dad shares meaning through language a lot, but he can also be quiet and only speak to share information with others.
Miscommunications just like the one shown above, while sometimes funny and rarely this dramatic, are almost inevitable if geeks and non-geeks are unaware of how to connect with each other. Many arguments can be avoided if we learn how our coworkers behave and interact. In fact, I believe it is respectful to learn the ways of our coworkers as soon as possible when beginning a new job.
One pretty humorous miscommunication took place during President Jimmy Carter’s trip to Poland in 1977. Carter meant to give an encouraging speech telling the P0lish people he wanted to learn more about their country, how glad he was to be in the country, how his trip from the U.S. was, and to compliment the people on their recent constitution. This speech would have gone swimmingly with a great reaction from the Polish people and strengthened relationship, if it had not been for the incompetent translator that President Carter relied on. Instead of saying the kind words above, he said he “desire the Poles carnally”, wanted to feel them up, that he had abandoned the United States, and that their new constitution should be laughed at.
In the same way that geeks and non-geeks do not always understand one another, we run into these problems all of the time and even the President of the United States is not immune to these sometimes disastrous errors.
This episode of The Big Bang Theory is a very obvious and geeky miscommunication. As usual, Sheldon just cannot seem to connect with others during Pictionary. I think that Sheldon, like most geeks, needs to realize that the way his brain operates is much different from everyone else and that he does not always come off in the most clear way. Similarly, suits should tailor their communication to be more geek friendly. When the two types of intelligence meet in the middle, a lot of progress can be made to improve the company and society. However, learning these language differences requires compromise and effort on both the part of both geek and suit.