Sunday, June 6, 2010


Recently, I have become very interested in different processing styles in people. This is something that I've been fascinated with for awhile, since I read a memoir written by the mother of a boy with a sensory processing disorder, several years ago. Up until that point, I don't think I had ever considered just how differently every person processes his or her world. For example: too much stimulus completely overwhelms me. A place like an amusement park makes me feel like my skin is turning inside out, because there is no escape from the stimuli. Noises, smells, bright flashing colors, the heat of the day and the sticky, body heat of the thousands of others, the pavement under my feet, the rhythm of walking, and the blend of all of it together - it's too much for me. I can enjoy myself somewhere like that for a limited amount of time, and then I crave the quiet darkness of my bedroom.

I put aside the subject of sensory perception, because I didn't have the time to keep only studying the things I was interested in. Darn college professors, wanting me to learn their subjects. But a few months ago, processing came up again, in relation to my learning style.

I am auditory. Always have been. And when it came time for me to learn biology, Kelly and I put this auditory theory to the test. She read my textbook to me. She read test questions to me. I answered her. I got an A. 

Because I've had a little - though not much - more free time over the past few weeks, I've been doing some reading on auditory learning and auditory relating. Apparently, being auditory means that:

  • I would rather hear a story than read it. Though I do love to read, I would rather listen to an audiobook, because I absorb more.
  • I take my cues from how things are said. Tone is super important to me, and I am sensitive to it. 
  • I can recall exact words and tones used in conversation. Which can come in handy. Or be really annoying.
  • I talk to myself, and talk myself through tasks. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that I am crazy.
  • When I write, I say what I want to write before I write it. Thus lengthening my already lengthy writing process.
  • I hum and sing to myself. And I do it on key. But I'm not sure if that has to do with being auditory or not.
  • "Extra" noise distracts me - the sound of your sniffing, your pencil scratching on your paper, you shifting in your seat bothers me. But I can easily function with music on, and I often learn better when things are put to song.
  • I don't make eye contact when I'm listening. This drives Kelly crazy. I've gotten better about it, and I can usually manage it for professors, but I hear better when I'm not looking directly at the speaker.
  • Mispronunciations, irregularities in speech, and improper word usage bothers me. A lot. I need my world to sound right.
All of these are things that I've found in lists related to auditory learning, relating, and communicating.  There were others, including a few that didn't fit me at all. I am, apparently, supposed to enjoy talking on the phone. And 'round these parts, I have a reputation for hating the phone. But there are people for whom I bend my phone hating rules, and I do love phone conversations with them. But for the most part, this fits me. And it really makes me wonder how I could better shape my life to accommodate my natural sense of relating to the world around me. 

It also explains why I have such conflicts with people who are of different relating styles. If I'm so tone sensitive that I perceive criticism where there isn't any intended, I get upset for no reason. Likewise, when I expect others to infer from my tone what I mean, and they don't, it's a source of real frustration. And that music you have playing? That you love so much? The metal clashing stuff? It's not that I'm being hard to get along with, it's that it literally makes no sense to me. It's too much amplification, too much signal, too much noise. All I can hear is clashing. Give me something acoustic, and I can pick out every instrument. I can hear every harmony, an differentiate between them all. But noisy music? You might as well put a jackhammer over the speakers.

That said, I really wonder if there is some kind of a link between tonal processing and auditory relating. I'm not very good at looking at a picture and imagining it differently. Sure, I can manipulate it until I see it differently, but I'm not very good at changing images around in my head. But music? I can listen to a piece of music and change it while I'm listening. Add a flute here. Another guitar there. A harmony part above and below. This is the skill that allows me to sing harmony. Additionally, music is not something that I have to think about at all. It is natural for me, which is why I can sing while typing, working puzzles, or entering data. I wonder... if I were less auditory and more visual, would it be the other way around? Would something like singing require me to put forth more effort, so that I couldn't type while doing it? Would I be able to stare at a puzzle and put it together with my eyes while my brain tried to manage the less natural conversation I was having at the time?

It bears further study. 

It also makes me realize that I need to find out how the people in my life best relate to the world. There's an idea. Happier world relations through processing styles.

As I lay here, at nearly three in the morning, wondering why I'm not yet asleep, I hear my air conditioner, my ceiling fan, and the sound of my typing. Cooper is breathing, and when he moves, his collar jangles. That collar will have to go. 

If you've stuck with me through this boring, self-assessment, you're better than I am. I almost left twice. And I'm the one talking. 


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