Jun 192007
Authors: J. David McSwane

Everybody hates me.

That’s what Stephanie Gerlach, my counterpart at College Avenue, told me last week.

This so-called hatred, she said, is a result of the way in which I communicate with others.

“You seem condescending,” she said. “Everybody hates you.”

I was baffled. I make an honest effort to be diplomatic even to those I find irritating, especially in the workplace – it’s just good business.

Somehow, though, I managed to say something unfavorable to some of my peers, which in turn inspired them to unite and form the now infamous National Organization Designed to Avenge Victims of the Editor in chief (NO DAVE). A quick Google search tells me they meet in an undisclosed location every Wednesday night to make baked goods and chant hate sonnets.

While organizing a reconnaissance team to investigate the NO DAVE conspiracy, The truth came to me like a curling iron to the face – which hurts – Stephanie wasn’t referring to something I said; she was referring to something I didn’t say.

It’s called non-verbal communication, or as the McSwane Dictionary defines it: “A cruel practice of inference and misguidance that is often used against an unsuspecting boyfriend, boss or coworker.”

Humbled, I called off my elite team of disenfranchised Fort Collins youth – trained assassins, mind you – and began to do some soul-searching.

Keeping in mind that most of my sisters, friends and coworkers are female, and being desperate for guidance in my personal relationships with women, I did a little research to figure out how I can more effectively communicate.

And as it turns out, my gender, as a rule, is quite dumb when it comes to interpreting and using body language. Like an ancient, Gaelic nomad thrown through the vortex of time only to find himself in a Women’s Studies course at CSU, us men are left without guidance in understanding this abstract form of communication.

For those of you not so keen on the use of metaphor (i.e. ranking officers of NO DAVE), I’m saying men use a more primitive form of communication – I like to call it the English language.

My research tells me that women are much more adept at reading body language, which includes facial expressions, eye movement and more intimate communication. A lot of what I read made sense – those who make eye contact continuously project power more so than the timid conversationalist, blah, blah, blah.

The truth remains, though, that I, like many of my sex, am completely oblivious to the art of non-verbal communication. If I had to tell, my body language probably says something like: “Shut up and give me a beer.” This is, of course, not appropriate when communicating with my coworkers.

When reading my friends’ and coworkers’ non-verbal communication, I often misinterpret it. Like when Stephanie clinches her fist and grits her teeth after I insulted the magazine, I assume she just has a bad case of lockjaw and carpel tunnel syndrome.

And it’s much worse in a dating scenario. For instance, when a woman ruffles or runs her fingers through a guy’s hair, his initial interpretation is, “Giggidy, Giggidy!” But what if she’s implying, as is usually my situation, that you simply have bad hair? Learningbodylanguage.org tells me that it’s probably the former.

But what if a woman stares at you in class? For many guys, it’s like an invitation. In my case, though, she probably just can’t stop looking at my bad hair.

It’s a lesson in gender roles, power relationships and institutional patriarchy that is long-winded and suited more for a sociology class than a column. Simply put, reading body language is a crapshoot, so many men abandoned it long ago. All it takes is one wrong interpretation, one misstep and the next thing you know, a slow-motion curling is iron twirling toward your face, or worse.

Body language is exactly what it sounds like – a language. And it’s foreign to me and many other guys. So please, if you are going to hate me, hate me for something I said – with words.

Editor in Chief J. David McSwane is a junior technical journalism major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian summer edition. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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