Note from Uncle Dale: “You” and “You, Interpreted”

So let’s wrap up this week of connected Rules.

If you think about it there are always at least two “yous” that exist side by side.

There is the “you” that looks out from behind your eyes. This “you” knows your history and thus understands the reasons you do what you do. This you knows your fears and hopes and motivations.

Then there is the “you, interpreted.” This is the “you” that most people know. It is the “you” that is interpreted based solely on your actions, what you do, you with no access to your inner motivations.

You are always being interpreted. There is nothing you can do to prevent that.

But, if you know it then you have a little control over it. You can manipulate it (not like a Bond villain) like you already do unconsciously. Think about “you” at work, “you” at home, “you” at church. If we asked people from these different environments to describe “you” each “you” would be a little bit different. Not because you are being fake or putting on an act, but because the demands of each situation are a little bit different. Each demands a slightly different “you,” or at least a slightly different interpretation of “you.”

As interpreters we use this dichotomy all the time. We change our affect to match the clients’. We interpret not only the signs or spoken words but also the attitudes, emotions, desires, moods and intents of the hearing client to the Deaf client and the Deaf client to the hearing client. We, in essence, “interpret” the clients themselves for each other. We must, because their cultures are so divergent they could not possibly accurately interpret each other through mere observation.

There is another point to all of this discussion however.

I’m obnoxious.

I know this because all of my life people, family, friends, strangers, have felt free to tell me so. It really used to bother me as a kid. But then I started to think about “me” versus “me interpreted” and it changed my perspective.

I’m funny.

I’m interested in things.

I’m excited about things.

I’m likely to sing when the mood hits me.

I dance when I’m excited.

I communicate in stories, poems, and quotes from movies and television shows.

These are all parts of me that I really like. But if you put them all together it’s just too much for many, maybe even most, people. Put them all together you get “me, interpreted” as obnoxious.

It’s not an insult. It’s an accurate description.

Now, there are many situations where this works well. Ask any of my students they will tell you that at one time or another they just were not feeling it that day and would have skipped class, but didn’t; they wanted to see what I would do that day. Would Professor Uncle Dale dance on the desk or roll on the floor? It was worth their time to show up to find out. I keep their attention. If I can keep their attention I can teach them something. It works for me in the classroom.

Not so much if I’m on a committee.

I would be a terrible person to have on a committee. But I know that.

One time I was put on a committee at the Deaf Center and I looked just in time to see a person who was also asked to be on the committee roll her eyes. I followed her out to the hall and said, “I caught the eye-roll.”

She started to stammer out an apology but I stopped her.

“It’s fine,” I assured her, “I’m obnoxious.”

She told me she never said that.

“To my face,” I grinned, “but let’s be honest, you have said it!” I laughed, then quickly said, “look, I know me, I know I’m too much for most people a lot of the time. But I also know that won’t work for a committee, so I will tone it down. I will listen more and not say everything that pops into my head.”

She looked skeptical.

“But,” I continued, “I may get over-excited about a point we are discussing and forget myself. If I am taking over the conversation feel free to look at me and say, ‘you’re being obnoxious.’ It’s not an insult. It’s an accurate description.”

It’s kinda zen, I know. I did not get to this point overnight. It took a lot of self-reflection to understand that I like me and many of the things I like about me… bother other people. Mostly these things bother other people when they all come out of me at once. But that is not them disliking me. That is them being bothered by what I am doing. Being bothered by their interpretation of me. And that is absolutely ok.

Everybody does not have to like “me” all the time.

My brother called me a while ago and asked me if I realized my Dad was mad at me.

“Yep,” I answered (I think I had said something nice about Obama…)

He asked me what I was going to do about it.

“I don’t think I have to do something about it,” I replied.

He asked me if I was really just going to let Dad be mad at me?

“I’m not letting Dad do anything,” I corrected, “he can choose to be mad as long as he wants, or not to be mad. He is not mad at me, he is mad at something I said.”

My brother wanted me to unpack that for him.

“Am I still invited to thanksgiving dinner?”

My brother was fairly certain I was.

“If Poppi and Grammee take the grandkids to McDonalds will my kids be excluded?”

He assured me they would not. Poppi would not do that over a simple disagreement.

“Then,” I reasoned, “there is nothing fundamentally broken in our relationship. He is not mad at me, he is mad at something I said. Now, if I was not welcome at Thanksgiving or he cut my kids from his life that would not be worth a political comment to me and I would feel the need to address it. But as it stands? I know my father loves me, but Dad does not have to be happy with me all the time.

No one but me ever has to be happy with me.

I’d like it if my wife was happy with me most of the time. But other than that people will interpret what I say and do. Some will be happy. Some will not.”

That is zen.

I don’t get there all the time, but I try to visit as often as I can.

I hope this week’s Rules help someone get a little perspective on who they are.

You are enough. You don’t need anyone’s permission to think so. Not even mine.


Rule 543.3

If someone dislikes something you’ve done or something you’ve said you are under no obligation to fix it, especially if you believe in what you’ve done or said.

(In other words, Sorry not sorry-Kim Bishop!)

This is not permission to be rude. It is permission to relax.

Rule 543

No one has to be happy with you all the time.

No one even has to like you all the time.

Rule 541

“We are making a training video for our new shipping process and we wanted to have one of the Deaf employees in a scene, you know for diversity, but it would be so much faster to have you play a Deaf employee, you know, because we can just talk to you during the shoot. We’ll pay you for your time. So, what do you think?”

I think, and hear me out here, NO.