Too Much Information?

I have a phone interview coming up. I’ve never done one before. It makes me a little nervous trying to communicate without the benefit of face time.

How is my self-editing function supposed to react and adapt if it doesn’t have all those pieces of information – the blank expression, the hint of a derisive smile, the warm nod of agreement, the admiring surprise of the enlarged eye and raised brow, the shifting impatiently, the cozying into a chair as if you’re a favorite TV show, and heaven forbid, the openly contemptuous quizzically furrowed brow?

I got a really bad one of those once. When I was job hunting between college and law school. Even though the job I was up for was essentially clerical, the guy asked me about my legal interests – it came up in conversation. I said something about legislative policy and he told me that his department had a lobbying component (we were a few blocks from the hill). I jumped in with my not-yet-inappropriate youthful animation (I still have a lot of it, much to my own chagrin but that’s another story) and I told him about some back-end work I had done with student environmental groups to help the lobbying efforts of a grassroots clean air campaign.

He of course was running a business, not a non-profit but I hadn’t thought that mattered since the whole lobbying thing had nothing to do with what I was interviewing for. Mostly, I just lacked the savvy to anticipate that this _could_ be a problem. He furrowed his brow AND his lip and held it that way for almost five seconds before telling me: “well, what we do is industry driven.”

Shudder. Don’t wish it on your worst enemy.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not so bad to be spared that kind of crap. Pilots have to learn when and how not to depend on their visuals but fly strictly on sensors. Even in a job interview there might be some benefit to shedding the distraction of processing all this extra “information” and focusing on what they are willing to actually say to you. That “industry driven” guy probably would never use words that were the equivalent of his scornful expression – that would be admitting he was a bit of a jerk.

But then, and this is the nagging question: what if something I say on the phone is greeted with a few seconds of dead silence on the other end? Isn’t that the aural equivalent of a blank expression and don’t we drive ourselves nuts trying to interpret what’s “behind” a blank expression?

Is there any way of getting around our inclination to “interpret” everything?

Susan Sontag thought that analysis creates a false description of “reality” by destroying the reality of the surface experience (or something like that). I wonder how much of that applies to hyper-deliberate interactions like job interviews?

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