I hate those stupid awkward long silences after a lecturer asks the audience a question. One of several things are happening: the question is unclear or incomprehensible, or nobody knows the answer, or loads of people know the answer and nobody feels like being the one to say it. And so the question just hangs there and we all look dumb together.
My exceptionally low threshold for that specific type of awkward silence means I am reasonably likely to stick my neck out and have a go at answering the question, even if the question is bizarre. On occasion I get it right. Sometimes I get it horribly and spectacularly wrong. In those moments, my colleagues are probably glad they are not me. They probably thank their cotton socks they studied something science-y and not some vague kind of arts degree. They probably wonder why I keep opening my mouth if I don’t really know the answer.
And then there are the questions I ask. Lately I’ve been asking questions which make perfect sense in my head, and as far as I can make out, they make perfect sense on their way out of my mouth. However the psychiatrists who answer them seem to hear a different question to the one I am asking. The question they then answer is then something so naive or judgmental that I would be embarrassed to have actually asked it. (I’m on placement in mental health, not a patient, yet). And when that kind of question is answered, it’s just a tad awkward to say “um, that’s not quite what I was asking”, because by the time it’s answered, it’s entirely obvious that the question I didn’t ask should never have been asked. Even though it wasn’t.
So, do I have some sort of expressive dysphasia? Or are they using me as some sort of Dorothy Dix? Or is it a case of people hearing what they expect to hear? Well, you don’t know, because you’re not there. Those are rhetorical questions, and this is not an awkward silence.
It really isn’t.