So, this came in over the transom yesterday:
I was surprised: why would someone at APSA, and a newbie Dir of Communications, want to pick my brain? So I thought I’d ask:
Now, you might be thinking: Why ask? Does it matter? And at some level, no, it does not matter at all. After all, had he phoned, I would have answered and we would have chatted.
But this is a great example of a situation where one of my aspie tendencies reveals itself. You see, I have an insane desire to do things correctly. Worse, I am the relevant audience. So this request for a phone call made me a bit anxious because it was not clear to me what the person wanted, and it was far from obvious to me that I have anything useful to offer. I asked for clarification so that I could be reasonably prepared, the purpose of which was to manage my own internal dialogue. It had nothing whatever to do with the person who contacted me: I know that when I got done with the interaction I would judge whether I was pleased with my performance or not. I have no earthly idea how to “turn that off.” It is just a part of my existence. So, undoubtedly unbeknownst to my interlocutor, he had induced a small amount of stress into my life, and I wanted some info to manage it. I often have this sort of experience when I interact with a friend of mine, David Davis, who is (to me) infuriatingly vague (casual) about things, and I know full well that’s just his style. It wouldn’t surprise if this person has a similar personality/style.
This morning I received this reply:
This irritated me. “Why didn’t you answer my question?!?” my brain hollered. And I thought about whether I should (a) just suck it up; (b) ask again (nicely); or (c) register my irritation, hoping that might prompt a reply. After all, I am happy to help out, but I was miffed. I kicked this around for 45 seconds or so, trying out a couple of different phrasings, and settled on signalling my irritation:
The reply came quickly:
I rolled my eyes, and decided to cancel:
I suspect that my correspondent is a perfectly decent sort who found my query about why his lack of a response to my question about the topic asinine and rude. I suspect at least some, perhaps most, readers will agree. And I confess that there must be more effective messages I could have written to elicit the information I sought. But here’s the thing: I did make some effort to do so. I just came up blank, and being useful in this situation just wasn’t that important to me.
This is a weakness I am aware of: I sometimes find myself at a loss with respect to how to respond to someone who has irritated me in a fashion that does not escalate the situation. I have learned to seek counsel, when doing so seems to be a good plan, and am often surprised—Why didn’t I think of that?!?–at how obvious the proposed course of action can appear in hindsight. I am sure such an opportunity existed here, though as I type this I honestly don’t know what that might have been. And in a situation like this, I don’t find it worthwhile to seek someone’s counsel. So I just winged it, and it turned out much less pleasantly than I had anticipated. And that is a shame.
Oh well. I am sure the American Political Science Association, which has never sought my counsel before, will be perfectly fine without it.
 This is not the first time where the communication style of the sender of an email irritated me.