The Power of Words – Part I

 I am reading “The Tiger’s Wife” by Téa Obreht.  This is not a book review.

I recently came to the realization that I am a lover of the written word over the spoken word.   I believe the psycho-educational world would suggest that my personal learning style is visual versus auditory.

How did I come to this conclusion a full 25 years after graduating from my post-secondary institution of higher learning?

I purchased an audio version of  The Tiger’s Wife for my recent 4-hour hockey road trip to Rochester New York with my 14-year old son, given the likelihood of a fairly long break in stimulating conversation.  Though I have occasionally been pleasantly taken aback by car chats with my kids during road trips, I thought it best to be prepared in case the usual teenager behaviour presented itself.  Conveniently downloaded to my iPod, I had quick access to alternative dialogue (albeit one-way) with a quick touch of a button.  Eye contact with a US Customs and Border Protection official without surliness is key to accomplish smooth entry into a foreign country with a bottle or two of undeclared adult beverage, so I did ask him to kindly remain conscious until we’d crossed the border.  My teenager reluctantly agreed and just as predicted, following unhindered entry to US with aforementioned beverages AND a token ‘good luck at the tournament’ added for his sake, Offspring is comatose soon thereafter.  So I switch to my iPod book and I’m ready to listen.

Turns out I wasn’t so ready to listen.

When I have a book in front of me, I read it.  I pay attention to it.  I am into it.  If I am distracted or otherwise called to be engaged (like falling asleep, for example), I put the book down and I no longer pay attention to it.   I turned on this audio book however, and I soon myself NOT paying attention to it.   I was distracted by the scenery, the other cars, my hunger, my coffee, my bladder, my to-do list, a passing inspiration … my bladder again.  I stopped listening to the book well before our I-90 turnoff.  I’ve listened to audio books before without this apparent lack of focus (my son called it day-dreaming but – puah -what does HE know?).  I wonder if perhaps learning styles change as you age and mature.   

I am finding now, it’s almost as if I have to see the word, rather than hear it, to fully understand, appreciate, and retain its message.  The book publishing industry is counting on the likes of me.  In fact, they love me because I now own  both an audio version and e-book version of The Tiger’s Wife.  Yet I couldn’t help thinking recently that learning styles and their consequences in communication might also have vast implications for therapists.

 [What is she talking about?]

Do you not think a marriage counsellor could increase their effectiveness and Saved Marriage Percentage (there’s no such thing in therapy, that’s just the goalie mom in me coming out) by ten-fold if they were to quickly determine which learning style and which media best served a couple’s communication style?  Think of how many relationships fall apart because of poor communication and misunderstanding.  A marriage saved resorting to communication-by-email, is still a marriage saved.  I have been told (though I protest) that my verbal communication with my dear husband is occasionally tinged with irrational emotion and impatience.  However, my texts, emails and Post-Its are calm and coherent, and they state my position and my needs without the exasperated non-verbals that men don’t understand anyway.  I have outstanding communication with my husband as long as we are texting (that’s Texting).  I think I’m on to something.  Imagine if counsellors take this a step further and introduce Parenting-by-Podcast.  Family counseling made possible through iTunes gift cards (written transcript available for the visual learner like me, of course).  

This is how my mind works sometimes – and then I wonder why it wanders during an audio book…

Do audio books make you day dream?

22 Responses to Are you listening?!

  • Astra, we’ve listened to books on tape in the car for years. Most of the Lemony Snicket series, and other children’s stories, a few adult fiction that were light reading. The last three times I tried to listen to books on tape I kept getting lost, forgetting what I was listening to, tuning out, and having no idea what had happened. I was not enjoying them at all. I can’t even recall the titles at the moment.

    I don’t know if it’s the type of story or if I’ve just lost my ability to multitask—drive and listen at the same time, either way I give up on trying to listen to literary fiction while I’m driving.

    • I am so relieved to hear it’s not only me! We’ve also listened to lots of books on tape/CD (we’re aging ourselves here, I think) with our kids. I sincerely hope I haven’t lost my ability to multitask – maybe it’s just that the tasks are too “multi”? Thanks for reading!

  • Having been a learning consultant in the Chicago School system for 25 years and used to categorizing visual and auditory learners as well as focusing on how the brain functions during multitasking, I have to say you girls are on to something. And, believe me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. It all has to do with learning styles and how your brain best takes in and assimilates information.

    BTW, Lynne, the brain can only attend to one piece of information at a time, so multitasking in the car is not such a good idea. Not that we, in our society, aren’t cracker-jack multitaskers. But just think what it’s doing to our brains! :=)

    • And I’m a stickler for not doing anything but driving while I’m driving! Duh, I just realized I wasn’t driving while we listened to the other books on tape. My husband usually is. I have listened to a few mysteries driving by myself but they weren’t anything that really needed strict attention. I studied Gardener’s stages and agree we have different optimal learning inputs.
      I cannot process auditory input very well so it’s not surprising that books on tape confound me.
      I can’t spell out loud nor can I follow when one of the kids yells out “Mama, how do you say, or what does this mean…?” and they spell out a word. It’s a big joke now. The kids want to hide something from me they spell it out like I’m a toddler. Brats.

      • Oh, you kids ARE brats, and that is too funny. I am occasionally asked to spell things by my kids and I have to ‘write’ the word in the air first!

    • Nan, thanks for dropping by and for assuring me that I’m normal 🙂 It was just such a disappointment to me that I couldn’t enjoy this audiobook during 4 hours of pseudo downtime. As Lynne suggested, however, perhaps the previous occasions I listened to an audiobook I was the passenger not driver. So here’s another good one for you: I can’t normally read text in the car without fear of – well, you know, throwing up. I have found, though, that I have a higher tolerance for text via eReader than text via print version of a book while being a passenger in a car. Isn’t that weird?! Oh, the power of words (and the brain), indeed!

  • Astra,
    I am not ready to drop the book for audio tapes yet, but if my eyes go bad, I’ll gladly make the shift. I tried it once…and like you, found that I was more distracted and unable to focus on the plot. I, too, have to see the words in print. There is something comforting about it. Plus, it keeps you visualizing how a word is spelled which keeps your brain rebooting.

    You may be onto something with the marriage counselors communication method. It might be a good approach to find out how partners who are unable to get to the heart of the matter react to print versus speech. I have a guy friend who once told me that women have no clue how irritating they are talking about all their gripes and grievances. He says it takes only a couple minutes and they start going on and one motoring their mouths about the kids, their annoying friends, etc. (No wonder he is single.) But, imagine if those women wrote out a short list for his review…starting with “First, let me say that you are an annoying asshole” and then recapped about the kids and friends. Short bullet points if that works better. I could get into that!

    • Annie, you made me laugh with your [single] friend and his take on women and communication! Not sure if he and I would get along 😉
      I’m not sure that written communication is the best thing for a relationship in the long term, but I sure have learned to avoid ridiculous arguments simply by slipping in ‘I’ll let you know by text/email, dear’ as I leave the room/house/car/whatever …
      Thanks for dropping by!

  • Dear Astra,
    I’m beginning to wonder if we’re not twins who were separated at birth…. I had thought that audio-books were my answer to my adult children being too selfish to read to me, but my mind inevitably wanders, or worse, I fall asleep! My learning style is definitely visual, and yes, I think book publishers are safe as long as we’re around. It would be helpful also for couples to understand each others learning styles. Great post!

    • Thank you Elizabeth, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I’m relieved to find others having trouble with audio books. It came as such a disappointment to me given how much time I spend in my car!

  • I only give way to audio books on long road trips otherwise I still a read (both the e-reader and the old fashioned regular book). When I am listening to a book – I will pay attention and often write down phrases in my writer’s note book. This annoys the hubby because I will pause the audio file while I write. I still prefer reading to listening. . As for communication and texting– I struggle to type in a word document– my texting skills are horrible, but that doesn’t stop me. You should read the texts I try to text without my glasses.

    • You’ve given me another peek into the profound world of writers, Brenda, and am understanding where your ability come from: “I will pay attention and often write down phrases in my writer’s notebook.” What a great learning tool. Well, a) I need to pay attnetion – that seems to be a problem for me – and b) I need to write down the phrases that speak to me! Thanks for sharing this Brenda!

  • Astra, I am so with you! Long ago, I read “Clan and the Cave Bear,” and loved it. I recently bought an audio version, as I figured it would be a good thing to listen to while out on walks with Henry. Well, I get distracted too, and I can’t seem to concentrate. I need to see the printed word! Sheesh. I thought I was the only one, so thank you for sharing. Re communication in marriage, I think you’re on to something. You should go on the training circuit and make presentations across the US. There are a lot of marriages here that could use your help.

    • Thank you, Monica for your kinds words. A training circuit is certainly not in the stars for me! As lover of the visual ( written) word, this skill set leaves me quite difficient in public speaking abilities.
      Hey, maybe Henry would like to listen to Clan and the Cave Bear 😉

  • Astra, you made me laugh out loud with your description of what was happening as you tried to listen to the audio book! ha! I’ve been dying to try audio books for a while now and still haven’t had the opportunity for lack of funds. However, I too am a visual learner and find it more difficult to listen than to see. I think we might try purchasing an audio book on communciation in relationships and play it while we’re having dinner. If we can’t absorb what’s being said, maybe our other halves can! hee hee! 🙂

    • Glad to have made you laugh! I used to have a bladder like a camel. In fact, my mother used to joke and say, “What are you doing in the bathroom? it’s not Tuesday!” I think mostly because she was jealous! A cup of coffee in me now though before a road trip? Two hours …. TOPS!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Bella, we always borrowed ours from the library. I think so long as listening is the focus, audio tapes are great.

    • Lynne, thanks for the tip! Unfortunately, here in Europe you have to pay an annual membership fee before you can take out any materials from the library. Unbelievable, I know! In the meantime, I have my sister searching out thrift shops to see if she finds any! 🙂 Astra, while we may love our coffee, we must not forget it’s also a diuretic! hee hee! 🙂

  • I must say that I’ve never tried audio books because I *know* the brain would wander off. I have the attention span of a flea. I’ve wondered if I’m ADHD. I’m not going to bother to find out.

    Driving takes all of my attention. Hanging onto plot points and who-did-what would be beyond the ability of my feeble intellect. So, I miss some important point and from then on, nothing makes sense. Bleh.

    Astra, you bring up an important point – bladder distraction. I’m convinced that the word “car” is right next to the word “restroom” in my brain. All I have to do is look at the car and I gotta go. On trips, I have a tendency to put off stopping as long as possible. And, when I finally do pull into a station somewhere, and then get out of the car, things get worse fast. I’m at the age where all of the Lycra in my bladder has worn out and I swear, when I stand up, the bladder is still in an “L” shape from sitting. So then it’s, like, poking into whatever is next to it and getting squashed as a result, which makes me *really* gotta go. Add gravity to the mix. So now I’m running and hoping that the ladies room is unoccupied.

    Thanks for writing this – I can so relate!

    • Hi EMC, I really appreciate your description of your road trip woes. That coffee can do this to me is a relatively new physiological malfunction (as far as I am concerned!) and I am quickly realizing the ladies-room-planning isn’t going well. On family trips, I tell my husband I will need to stop in two hours. Never fails, he says at the two hour mark: “Can you wait 38km?” which is the location of the next rest area. I am still perfecting my “Do I look like I can wait 38km?” look for him!
      How is the ambitexterity coming along?

      • Hi Astra,
        Thanks for asking. I have cheerfully abandoned ambidexterity as the fingers on the damaged hand are cooperating, as least as far as typing goes.Blogged about the hospital day which went fine; it was the next 24 hours that were *painful*. There’s a reason for pain meds!!


  • Astra, I much prefer reading to listening to books, but on a long road trip, the out loud books can help break up the monotony a little. Still, I like reading better!

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About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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