Sunday, January 13, 2013

Down With X!

Flash of common sense: If "Factor X" is doing so much damage to my life, then why don't I make it my primary self-improvement goal to address it? Doy!

As a reminder, there's this thing that seems to haunt my endeavors in my career and in human relationships called "Factor X," which makes people react to me in a wild variety of ways, from getting shooken up with rage, paralyzed by anxiety, or even doubting that I'm mentally competent at. By spending so much time unaware of and being unable to grapple with Factor X I've suffered much bullying and injustice, and I strongly suspect that Factor X is really damaging my career prospects, for despite skill and experience I have a tough time finding a job, even in this particularly robust city of Dallas where hiring is abundant.

Well, to tell the truth I think Factor X is primarily my voice and speaking habits, though it could be more complex than that. I think this because I've noticed that whenever I get those negative or odd reactions from people it's not until I speak to them; it's not until my voice hits their ears. Beforehand they're totally neutral . . . but speak those sentences and a wide variety of facial contortions can come. I'm not engaging in hyperbole when I say some people have shivered with rage at my speech, and in every incident I conducted myself with the appropriate manners! It's totally flabbergasting to witness that anger.

If my speaking problems are the root, then my hearing-impairment is the root of that. Let me a explain a little bit.

When someone has a hearing-impairment it is not simply the case that it's like the "volume" of their hearing has been turned down like a television, but rather that a person will have difficulty hearing certain pitches, or, more precisely, certain phonetic sounds. A person could hear fine a wide variety of phonetic sounds on one part of the spectrum and not the other, so when a person can't hear you it's not that you sound "quiet," but rather that so many phonetic sounds are missing in his interpretation of your speech that what you say sounds incomprehensible or muffled, though I grant some people might have such an equalized impairment or else one so severe that it is indeed like the volume being turned down. To deal with such people, it's simply better to emphasize every syllable or ask what their particular difficulty is. Raising your voice may not help, especially if it changes your speech flow entirely, and can be easily irritating.

For me, I have trouble with high pitches: I can't hear as "high" as other people can. Phonetically, that translates into me being totally deaf to phonetic sounds like /s/ and /th/, though there's probably more undiagnosed. Words such as "sink" and "think" literally sound the same to me. Consequently, this all leads to the unfortunate consequence of my not being able to incorporate speech sounds naturally into my speech that I cannot hear. In my youth I mixed up my /s/ and /th/ sounds freely, and committed such errors in pronunciation as "thissors" instead of scissors. I can only make the distinguishment by the way my mouth is supposed to move, otherwise my ear can't catch the difference.

This gave me a lot of grief in my youth because absolutely everyone failed to comprehend that my speech impediment was due to this, and I wasn't even aware that I had a speaking impediment at all. I was put in special ed and treated like I was retarded, bullied by my peers and called retarded, and not taken seriously by my parent and grandparents. Doubts galore about my intellectual ability. Everyone believed something was wrong mentally.

My best friend in high school just randomly pointed out that I spoke odd, thus finally giving me awareness so late into the game. A few years later I was able to take speech therapy, did lots of pronunciation exercises, and cured the bulk of my problems. It's frustrating to think that the majority of people dealing with me were too cowardly to point out that I spoke differently, leaving the problem invisible and untended to the majority of my life, causing unnecessary hardship.

Though these days there still seems to be some problems attached. People, such as coworkers, regularly ask where I'm from, detecting an accent. In fishing for constructive criticism, some have said I sound like a person from an unidentifiable foreign country. Still others get very provoked, such as a maitre 'd at a previous job who, upon our first meeting, refused to speak to me in English to intentionally show off his multilingual superiority.

Good grief.

There's more to it, such as those people shaking with rage, but I guess stuff like that can't be helped given I'm exercising my manners, yet I still wonder if people doubt my mental competence or whatever from my speech. Some women . . . VERY attractive women . . . find it attractive, so I guess it just varies from individual to individual.

Nonetheless in paying attention to myself I've noticed that I may have been engaging in some pitfalls, and want to address them if I'm ever to get over Factor X and get better career prospects, and get those damn people to stop smirking at me.

For one, I think I've been focusing too heavily on my most obvious /s/ and /th/ deafness, so I forget to acknowledge that I may be deaf or at least nearly deaf to other phonetic sounds and mispronouncing them too. I did a little experiment in the car of speaking some sentences in a very improper manner, allowing the tongue looser control or positioning my teeth all wrong, and I noticed that I heard my sentences as if they were being pronounced correctly! Perhaps then the different feedback I'm hearing has been making me careless in typical everyday speech, as I can't detect how a simple wag to the left of the tongue might change things while it's entirely obvious to the hearing listener.

Secondly, the habits of my old speech therapy may not have sunk in totally. A couple months ago I noticed I was placing my voice all wrong, differently than I had learned and trained myself from in Change Your Voice, and had to keep some self-awareness going in order to correct it. Could other pronunciation habits have slipped too? As far as I can tell, the /s/ and /th/ problem is quashed, but there's all those other sounds unknown perhaps too. 

Lastly, as part of some further constructive criticism someone posted a comment noting that I seem to trail off at the ends of my words, not fully pronouncing them, making it so the listener has to do some guesswork. Thinking about it, that's probably my being overly aware of the /s/ /th/ problem, particularly since the speech therapist used words such as scissors and think as an example, where those phonetic sounds are first. That made me focalize on the first syllables and forget about all the rest of the word!

As a additional, uncertain point, perhaps there's also the matter of facial expressions and emotional tone. I tend to speak drily . . . perhaps; again I'm uncertain . . . so maybe people get offended at not being able to read me emotionally. Hm.

Regardless I've got some practice goals, and you're going to help and monitor my progress! This is the stuff my Youtube Channel is for, after all.

Addressing this ought to be pretty easy and speedy, given that I've already done so much past training and drilling. A lot of these practices are simple variations of other activities I already do, giving them a new addition to add some speech benefit.

Number one, in addressing this I shall read my articles out loud to myself and exert to vary the emotion in my voice with the emotion the writing conveys. Reading articles out loud is a staple of my editing process. This ought to address any possible concern with not conveying enough emotional information to other people.

Number two, after all the edits are finished and before scheduling the article, I shall then read the article backwards. Some brief online research suggests that reading writing backwards is a good practice for developing faster speech, as you have to process the words more intensely to get them out. Makes sense to me, and in paying attention to my speaking habits enunciation may be a problem. Oddly enough, being hyper-aware of my speaking habits in the past have cost problems, such as slurring, speaking too fast, and so so; I've got to temper just the right amount of self-awareness without tripping up.

Number three,  I shall try out all the phonetic sounds in the linked guide, and if any trouble is detected I'll drill with words containing those sounds. However, this one could use your input. Is there an effective way to generate a list of words isolated by the phonetic sounds listed above? Consulting the dictionary is practical of course, but I'd like to have it varied where the sounds are placed in different syllables.

I'll do these practices and on occasion, starting by next week at most, do some video updates for you to critique. Any information you guys could give me on speaking mechanics and speech aesthetics will be immensely helpful.

Still . . . it makes me wonder what else there is to Factor X? Some people tend to stare at me as if I were a foreign-being, despite not wearing odd clothes or shoes. Could holding my shoulders up really be a factor, or the thinness in my face? Why so many adverse reactions? Are my applications always getting shredded because I looked at someone the wrong way?

No idea, but I'm tired of Factor X having such an impact on me.


  1. That University of Iowa phonetics website is fascinating! The visual representation of the teeth and tongue sure beats my typed-up description of how to make the th- and z- sounds! :-)

    Why is the first photo for this blog entry a photo of someone being tied up? :-O

  2. Because that's essentially what Factor X has done to me in terms of career: Kept me tied up and prevented from moving forward.

  3. Why work so hard to accommodate people? Why not just tell them when you first meet them, "I have a hearing problem so please understand if we have some communication difficulties." Why waste a single second training your voice to make other people think you're just like them. You're not. So what? Tell 'em straight up and let them worry about it.

    By the way you sound fine.

  4. Good thoughts, but I'm not so sure if it's sufficient to get people to be allayed, as I do tell people of my difficulties with hearing and it still doesn't really change anything.

    Note, for instance, that my parent and my teachers knew of my hearing-impairment, but none of it clicked to them that it was causing my speech impediment, so I got stuck in special-ed anyways and thought to be "slow." Everyone who knew of my hearing problem still thought I have mental/brain problems anyhow. As such, telling someone I'm hearing-impaired isn't going to do well to make the connection to my odd speaking, and it'd be hard to naturally convey that my hearing affects my speaking.

    I would like to work on fixing this feature to affect my employment prospects in the short-term, at least, as my speaking may be the major reason why I'm so behind in my career: People get offended -- for whatever reason -- at my "accent," or perhaps even doubt my mental competence.

  5. Revise your opening statement to: "I have a hearing impairment which also causes me to talk funny. Don't worry, though, because I have a genius IQ. Let's get down to business." Seriously, with self-assurance, a deficit can become an asset. If you project confidence, it doesn't matter if you talk funny or have no hair or are missing a few limbs.

    Think of a self-made billionaire like Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos or Larry Ellison. Even if they were wearing a disguise and you had no idea who they were, they could walk into ANY room ANYWHERE and take charge instantly. This is what they do every single day. They are professional leaders.

    Now imagine if one of these guys was horribly disfigured and suddenly anonymous. Would he lose his leadership qualities? No. In fact, it might make him even more arrogant. "F--- you, are you gonna keep staring at my face or are we gonna get busy?"

    There are a lot of people in this world who are very powerful, and not in any way disfigured or impaired, but their personalities are so caustic that people puke before meeting them, they're so afraid. For all the rage those idiots have for you, they would absolutely melt before a Steve Jobs. They would pee their pants. They are scared and still full of rage but they deal with the prick anyway. Because the prick has something to offer. I can't believe that the average idiot dealing with you is 1% as bad as a single 5 minute meeting with Steve Jobs.

    So maybe you are too nice. Too deferential. Trying too hard to overcome the problems that people have erroneously told YOU that YOU have. Maybe you act subconsciously like you expect people to have a problem with you. Some of the most successful people in this world have HUGE personality problems that are bigger turnoffs than any speech impediment. Emotionally handicapped, if you will. Their will to succeed just blows past all that. So maybe you should change the way you deal with all the people you're going to pass by. Stop waiting for them to keep their promises. Press them. Don't ask. Tell them what YOU want from THEM. Start swearing. Be shockingly direct. If you suspect someone thinks you're dumb, whip out your MENSA card. Shove it in their f---ing faces.

  6. Go right up to someone and say, "Do you think I'm dumb because of the way I talk?" Put THEM on the spot. Embarrass them. They'll waffle a bit. Maybe even get angry. You just get angry right back. And prove them wrong.


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My only rule: Use common sense manners.