Apparently I made a number of people unhappy with my post on why engineers are ignoring you. As an occasional contributor to this blog, Zee demanded equal time on this subject. Since one of my goals for this blog is to get people to think, allowing a view from the other side is always beneficial. I read her post but have to admit I’m reminded of somebody that once told me my opinion was wrong. My opinion can be biased, uninformed, even totally unfounded but it’s still my opinion. My post did not impugn anyone for their communication skills, it simply described how I process data and how to best ensure my attention. These are my warts, this is who I am. As I said in my post, there are some mysteries that should not be revealed.
I will admit her last point has a high probability of being correct. So how do you fix it? Train millions of engineers not to be engineers or learn how to focus their attention.
Dear Engineer Who Ignores My Words
The courteous way to proceed with your problem-solving mania is to ask the troubled person if she would like suggestions. To do otherwise is to be inconsiderate and egotistical. Sounding boards are great if they fully understand what they’re being told but if the engineer’s mind is on the ceiling joists he is not giving the speaker his undivided attention … and it’s obvious. The non-engineer can only feel she (or he) isn’t worth much to the other. The engineer’s words aren’t all gold either but we who love an engineer, give him our full attention because he is important to us.
If a female engineer should read this, I apologize to her. I’m certain she has as much trouble understanding the male engineers as their wives and girlfriends do. We somehow are not considered as intellectually advanced as they are for, in their tunnel vision our gender precludes the possibility that we also have logic tucked into our brains, which we do, but we serve it up differently than males. The major problem is that men do not understand women and their mysterious, magical gift of universal knowledge just as women do not understand men and their determination to instill their brand of logic in all they meet. Engineering logic is great for building bridges and turning grassy meadows into highways but it does nothing to make the world sweeter, the flowers bloom larger or more vibrantly, the birds sing more vigorously, or the rabbits play more happily.
To a harassed homemaker running a ranch or a 40+ hour-a-week working mother who has childcare to occupy her spare time, or even a retired woman who has spent years learning how to keep a semi-retired engineer husband happy by presenting him a problem along with his evening meal, this robotic response to conversation is a hoot. It doesn’t matter if the words of advice are spoken by an engineer friend or a dolt in a grocery store who, listening to me discuss spices at the spice rack with a friend, tells me which brand I should buy. When, without asking, we’re told what to do we feel the obligation to do the exact opposite. We are women. We rule the world!
If you allow yourself to think we who are the ignored are not analyzing your words, your facial expressions, your mood or the emphasis you place on certain words in your responses to us, you are missing our thoughts and our feelings, and you’re not earning your favorite dessert for supper.
A lot of us non-engineers of moderate intelligence can read a book in a day while cooking, cleaning, babysitting and holding down a full-time job. We may speak slowly because children and animals require words carefully enunciated in order to learn and it becomes habit with us. Sorry if you wish us to hurry … we probably won’t. (This statement does not pertain to many New York City women who I’ve heard speaking so rapidly one is mentally catching word five about word fourteen. I wonder how engineers who marry these fast speaking women get their own words in edgewise or at all.)
As for mentally or actually finishing the sentence before I say it, I do that with my engineers often, perhaps because I’m accustomed to their language or their thinking but as we’re all interrelated, it might just be human nature or a bit of that mysterious magic that connects people.
As you admit in your blog, things can go horribly wrong when you assume you’ve heard everything and you’ve nodded agreement occasionally to show the speaker you are paying attention. It is, I admit, a trick all of engineers’ wives and girlfriends quickly learn to get you to agree to a social night with the Jones when you’d planned to watch a football game on the television with only your dog and pizza for company.
Subject matter: I detest football, auto racing and wrecking, current music, movies of today and their actors and actresses, soccer, designers whose designs seem to be on men rather than fashion, TV, lying politicians, reality shows that are anything but real, and forums with their numerous paid and unpaid trolls. I would wish that no conversation with my engineer(s) included even one of these subjects. We all have our favorite as well as our most disliked subjects but unfortunately one’s pet dislikes often pop up in conversations. Best to try to change the subject … but smile a lot if that becomes impossible.
Pauses: Love ’em. Gives me time for to solve a puzzle I’d read earlier.
Problems: We all have them but some are personal and not for telling, especially to our problem-solving engineers as the solutions are best figured out by ourselves as we alone know our capabilities.
Whining: Oh, my! On that subject I could refer you to men, even engineers. We wives and girlfriends (and mothers) do not mind. We love our engineer(s) and sympathize as needed.
Data: Here I’ll hand it to the engineers in my life. I could care less how many ounces are in my huge coffee cup as long as my coffeepot pours black coffee into it without complaining. And as for how many inches or feet are in the kitchen … too many while scrubbing, and not nearly enough for me and three children or animals when I’m cooking. I know engineers’ lives are made up of that metric system they’d like all of us to go by but sorry, Engineers, they seem absurd to us as we’ve been brought up on inch, foot, yard, and pint, quart, and gallon, and actually prefer it.
Emotions: Indeed, we who aren’t listened to actually do have emotions … love for our engineer(s), joy to see them, sympathy for their cuts and bruises — even the mental ones; indignation for being dismissed so readily, sadness when we’re ignored, irritation when you are indifferent to our words. We do understand that you also have emotions and we tiptoe around those sad ones that we cannot make better.
Extreme Politeness: If my engineer knows what I’m saying before I say it, how matters it if I am not saying the exact words or positioning myself in the way he believes I should? I do believe politeness is important in all conversations and especially between you and your loved ones. If meanings are imprecise because of politeness, tough! Ask for clarification.
Pick Your Time: Amen. Don’t ask which tie you should wear with your deep blue suit while your loved one is changing the baby’s diaper. And don’t ask her to make you a sandwich when she has just fallen into an easy chair after two hours of being on her knees, weeding her garden.
In Summation: We may think, act and talk in a manner you don’t believe is correct but there are how many engineers in the United States as compared to those of us who believe ourselves to be competent communicators just as we are? I read that 5% are scientists and engineers, so perhaps 2-1/2-3% are termed engineers. As non-engineers comprise at least 95% of the population, I would believe it essential that engineers learn to listen to the non-engineer for it is a matter of percentages that we play the dominant role.
And a final question: Is lack of listening for that which would please the consumer the reason we have so many poorly engineered household appliances, outside implements, automobiles and communication devices?