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A Conversation

Him: I feel really awful today
Me: Are you getting sick?
Him: No.
Me: What do you think is wrong, then?
Him: *shrugs*
Me: What are your symptoms?
Him: *describes symptoms*
Me: Why is it that you are describing the symptoms of the stomach flu, and yet you don’t think you are getting sick?
Him: I’m not getting sick, I am sick.
Me: Aaaahhh! *brain explodes*

Literal man strikes again. I pointed out that he could have avoided the twenty questions if he’d let me know he was making that distinction initially, but his response was the usual, “But then I would have had to use words.”

The scary thing is I am becoming an amazingly astute mind-reading, but I guess my radar was down this time. Maybe I should take up palmistry…

The Further Adventures of Literal Man vs. Symbolic Girl

So I asked David, as per usual, if he would call me tonight when he got to his hotel (he’s fishing with his dad and brothers), to which he replied, as per usual, “I’ll think about it.” Or it might have been, “I’ll try,” which is also interchangeable with “I’ll do my best.” That’s about when my head began spinning around and I started speaking in tongues. Let’s look at a translation, shall we?
———————
My perspective:
Symbolic Girl says: “I would really like it if you would call me tonight.”
Translation: “Call me or I’ll start to worry you ran off with the stripper you met at a roadside diner right before your car flipped over and you woke up with amnesia in a hospital in Bermuda.”

Literal Man says: “I’ll think about it.”
Symbolic Girl hears: “I will call if I feel like it, but I really don’t want to and you can’t push me around, nyhaaa.”

His perspective:
Symbolic Girl says: “I would really like it if you would call me tonight.”
Translation: “I would really like it if you would call me tonight.”

Literal Man says: “I’ll think about it.”
Translation: “I will call barring unforeseen events that might prohibit me from calling, but I won’t say “yes, I’ll call you” because that would mean that if said unforeseen events were to occur I would have to bend space and time in order to call and that might not be possible. Hence; maybe.”
———————

So you see the dilemma: Literal Man hears Symbolic Girl’s question literally and gives her an answer that is scientifically and statistically accurate. But Symbolic Girl hears this answer and tries to interpret what it says about Literal Man’s feelings towards said request (and herself), taking into account his word choice, tone of voice, body language, time of day, and wardrobe.

Recommendations:
Symbolic Girl: Ask all questions in the form of yes/no or multiple choice. Be specific. Leave as little room for (your own) interpretation as possible.
Literal Man: Keep in mind that when Symbolic Girl asks you amost any question, be it “Would you call me tonight?” or “How does this shirt look?” or “What time is it?” or “Do you enjoy knitting?” she is usually actually asking “Am I important to you?” Answer accordingly.