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One of the biggest weaknesses I have is emotional immaturity. I tend to react quickly and harsh, but I have learned to turn this weakness into a strength (through the help of behavioral therapy, any negative aspect of life can be “spun” into being positive).

When someone is having any emotional reaction (e.g., happy, sad), he is in a virtual bubble (think Bubble Boy, but without the shitty plot).

Your friends are like, “Calm down, man!”

While your friends have your best interest in mind, the above statement can be re-interpreted as, “Dude, your behavior is sub-normal. Go get some help you fucking psycho.”

While the tone is different, there is a difference between what is perceived and what is intended.

Manic Monday

It’s rather sad that society’s primary view of mental illness is taken from popular culture. Hollywood and Top-40 radio have ruined any hopes of a “decent” non-Mel-Gibson Christian movie making it to number one. Movies like Shutter Island make number one (a negative portrayal of insanity), while Sucker Punch (a very realistic and positive portrayal of a mentally disturbed woman) is basically rushed to the torrent sites (side rant) and released quickly on DVD (no Quikstir, yay!!!)

The song “Manic” Monday comes into mind, and may possibly be where society in general has received their perception of being manic.

Being manic has nothing to do with a “Manic” Monday. Monday’s are busy. It’s back to work. Let’s check out some of the song lyrics with just a minor change:

It’s just another “crazy” Monday. I wish it was Sunday. Because that’s my fun day. Where I don’t have to run, day. It’s just another “busy” Monday.

I just changed one lyric in the chorus and it completely changed the meaning of the song.

If I were to change the “Manic” in the song with the real and interpreted definition of mania, you wouldn’t have time to read this blog post.

Here’s an example:

It’s just another “crazy, but really freakin’ awesome morning with clouds protruding from the sky with the rays touching the concrete with a glistening that envelops my senses as a gust of wind sprays a soft, warm mist onto my face, thus awakening the beautiful dream and realizing that the morning is beautiful” Monday…

I don’t expect any of you to understand the “Manic” mindset. If you want to, however, watch Unlimited. It’s one of those must-watch movies (also check out Sucker Punch) for mental illnesses.

The main reason I bring up Manic so much is because it is incredibly hard to understand. Everyone’s mania is different, but there are predictable symptoms.

In my case, my thinking is accelerated (racing thoughts), I have a loss of appetite (I have to take protein shakes), my heart-rate is elevated (hypertension), and I also have high blood pressure (pounding heart, blurry vision, weakness, nausea).

While in the manic phase, anything can trigger further mania. It’s very important to stay away from caffeine and processed sugar (soda). I drank a root beer thinking it had no caffeine and it increased my blood pressure to stroke level. Yes, being manic is incredibly dangerous — not only to others, but mania can literally kill you.

Being Manic isn’t fun. Okay, I take that back. Being manic is fun, but only while you are in the eye of the hurricane. Those outside the eye of the hurricane are getting their houses torn down and are blaming President Bush for levees breaking (seriously, build a fucking city below sea level near a delta?).

I can write an entire book on how to react to various mental disorders, but I just wanted to provide some context in a sense that a manic person, while perfectly sane and rational, is a hard person to deal with.

One last side note about mania. Mania is a form of seizure. It just happens to occur over a few days, weeks, and sometimes months. Just as if a person recovering from a seizure is wiped out and has no recollection of events, a manic person doesn’t remember anything either.

If the mania gets to an uncontrollable level, the person (I’m sorry) needs to be committed to a behavior health center (there are many shady fucking places, so use this as a LAST resort). If the manic person can be around family, that is probably best (I hate hospitals, as should you).

This “Listening” Advice Works for Manic People – It can work for you

The thing a “Manic” person hates the most is interruption. In my case, my thoughts are racing at light speed, whereas the “normal” me has thoughts that approach the speed of a satellite in orbit. It’s that much of a difference.

Conversely, a manic person can’t help but interrupt. Think of everything you say inside your head that you restrain yourself from blurting out. A manic person doesn’t have this impulse control and it’s very difficult to have this control while in the manic state. However, a manic person can learn to have this control so that it doesn’t affect others around him. This is what friends, family, and therapy is for. The manic person needs a way to channel all of this energy (I told my boss the best thing to do for a manic person is to put him in a meeting — sidenote, if you are manic, you should not go into work at all until you see a licensed therapist or psychiatrist — if your boss doesn’t understand, perhaps it’s time to jump ship).

I’ve been manic once before, and it wasn’t fun then either (mostly because I didn’t know what was going on with my body). I recognized it early this time, but it was still an issue. My co-workers and boss didn’t know how to react. Once I realized I was manic, I knew I couldn’t go into work, but my boss wanted to evaluate me (he was concerned, not being a dick). I honestly should’ve ignored the request and left any way. A person’s health is 1000% more important than anything else on this Earth. Period (no pun pun intended).

What I’m getting at is a manic person is relatively unstable, but still thinking logically (the impulse control simply isn’t there yet).

I explained the mindset of a manic person. I’ve been told through many sources that heavy metal actually can calm a person down of high intellect. I’ve come to accept that I’m a genius. It’s not being cocky. I’ve been trying to dumb myself down for years. I just need to accept it, realize it’s a weakness, and turn that around into something positive (my friend Chris can adapt his genius level based on his audience… I need to learn to do that as well).

In my recent manic episode, even heavy metal couldn’t calm me down. So guess what I did? I recorded myself just blurting out everything in my mind. Then when I wanted to go to sleep, I listened to it. It worked wonderfully.

If the manic person IS at work (and this is very highly NOT recommended), the best place to put them is where they are intellectually stimulated (then again, this may just be me).

When in a meeting, the manic’s brain is on overload. The “meeting” is louder than the person’s thoughts. As a result, it calms the person down and for the first time in that person’s history, actually gets something out of the meeting (okay, only slightly sarcastic here).

While in the meeting, I had an idea of what I wanted to say, but me being manic, I realized I had a weakness. My impulse control was zero, so I basically kept my mouth shut. My co-worker Dustin realized this weakness, so he decided to turn it into a strength.

“Listen to everyone else. Take down any thoughts that come up, but then concentrate on the person speaking.”

When the meeting leader asked, “Anyone else have anything to share?”, I replied, “Yes sir, I do. I have a full page. Do you want me to postpone for later?”

“No, go right ahead. That’s why you’re here.”

So I read through my entire list, checking off areas, and soliciting feedback from the key stakeholders of a particular project. I basically unloaded a fucking novel on them and their note-taking abilities weren’t fast enough.

Even in my manic state, I sounded rational, logical, and organized (a manic’s mind is a logistical miracle and he can pull various unrelated items into a cohesive, well-thought out idea).

So here’s some takeaways from the advice I received (this advice can be used in meetings, in relationships, and with acquaintances):

  1. Shut the hell up and listen
  2. Don’t be a “one-upper”. It’s annoying, rude, and frankly, immature.
  3. Use a notepad to write down any “off-topic” ideas/suggestions. If it will require a separate conversation or a meeting, shelve it for later.
  4. Keep listening. Develop a code system for being able to jot down notes quickly so you can get right back to the meeting (in a later post, I’ll share the system I use).
  5. Direct the conversation (more on this in a bit).
  6. Most importantly, do not ever ask in an implicit sense, “Are you done now?” It’s fucking rude, and makes the person feel like the thing he has to say isn’t valued.
  7. Lastly – keep listening. When the person’s done with a thought, give them a few seconds. If the person wants to jump to a different topic, let them.

The ultimate desired outcome is that you are no longer waiting for your turn to speak. And when it’s your turn (it may be that day, or a few days later), you now have a visual queue in front of you (you can do this mentally, but it will require another article).

The Director – How to Listen

Thing of the person talking as a writer presenting a screenplay for a major blockbuster. You know it’s going to make a shit-ton of money, so you’re excited.

The person brings the screenplay into the office and asks for your feedback.

At this point, you are the movie Director (think Michael Mann, not that piece of fucking shit director Michael Bay — yes, I can write a book on him too).

While it may seem counter-intuitive to listen and also be directing, please hear me out.

The Director is the man behind the scenes. He’s pulling the strings for Pinocchio, whereas the crowd has no idea and can only see the marionette doll (and even then, it can be further limited down to only the performance).

The reason people like to interrupt is because they don’t value what the person is trying to say. By taking notes (use your smartphones or tablets to take these notes on the go, but notepads are actually more convenient), you are recording your thoughts.

You now have a visual record of the conversation right in front of you. Subconsciously, you are having the conversation with yourself without having to say a word. As a result, you no longer have the need to interrupt.

In addition to taking notes of your own thoughts (remember, you are the Director), you are also writing down notes for the person you are listening to.

When the person talking inevitably says, “I’ve lost my train of thought. Can you help?”, you can look at your notes and actually direct them back on track.

In a figurative sense, you have directed the conversation from one scene to another. If the scene doesn’t fit in, you can ask questions of the screenwriter.

Here are some tips on how to direct conversations:

Questions that Direct the Scene

Questions are fine, and you can even ask politely, “May I interject with a question?”

The difference between interjecting and interrupting is an interjection does not distract from the main conversation (watch the David Mamet movie Oleanna to see this in action). Interjecting helps steer the conversation (again, you’re the director).

When the person talking actually finds that the person he’s explaining a concept to is actively listening, he gets more excited. As a result, you get more excited, and eventually you will reach conversation nirvana. It may just be the most fulfilling conversation you’ve ever had, and all you were doing is listening and directing.

A few tips regarding questions:

  • Try to keep questions open-ended. It allows the screenwriter to talk more, thus giving you more items that you can direct (yes, you’re technically in control, even though the other person is speaking).
  • If you ask a “yes” or “no” question, expect a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Think through all of the possible answers of the question (much like Chess). If you aren’t ready to accept all possible answers, you’re not ready to ask it yet (and in all honesty, write it down, and explore why this simulated answer does not resonate with you).

Statements

Think of statements like director commentary. Directory commentaries in movies are a mixed blessing. At one point, you can receive unique insight into why a director has chosen a particular route in the movie (in Michael Bay’s case, he just sounds like an idiot and tries to make “art” out of crusty mold found in the bottom of a sewer in the Philippines — ewwww).

However, as with director commentaries, these must be opt-in (in Michael Bay’s case, the movie studios should discount his movies for even having them available). Sometimes you just want to watch the movie, right? But if I want the person’s commentary, I’ll turn it on.

Think of your commentary like director’s commentary for a movie. However, this is opt-in for EACH statement (like a movie, you can toggle on/off the commentary at will). Just because a person asks for feedback once does not mean you are now free to give it from now on. Once the statement is given, the commentary is now back off. Let the viewer watch the movie.

Here are a few tips on statements:

  • Do not ever give unsolicited advice unless it is life-threatening. If it truly is life-threatening, call 911. The person will hate you. The person may not ever talk to you again. But you may have saved his life, and he may eventually forgive you after the realization of the gravity of the situation.
  • If your statement is longer than one sentence, write it down. It’s probably going to be considered an interruption.
  • Never mix statements and questions together.
  • Don’t “one-up”. Ever. You have good intentions. You’re trying to relate. Shut the fuck up. This conversation is about them, remember?

Conclusion

Listening is an art form. Now go practice on your canvas.

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