Tuesday, October 14, 2008
"Never Mind" You Say, "No Problem" I Say
It happened again just the other day at work. I was looking for something in my cubicle when a coworker who was waiting for me spoke aloud from across the room. I was completely out of visual range and partly around a corner. I caught perhaps one word of what she said and didn't pay much attention to it. Surely she wasn't expecting me to hear her under those circumstances. But actually she was. When I walked up to her I asked, "Were you talking to me?" She responded "Yes, but never mind".
I know those two words are the bane of some people's existence. I've come across several stories like this complaint about a hearing spouse who says them. In this blog post Jamie Berke asks, "How does a deaf or hard of hearing person cope when told never mind?".
Here's my response. I let it go. Here's why. Until two years ago I was blissfully unaware of my hearing loss. My life has been lived in the hearing world. Let me tell you that hearies talk a great deal about very little! I think that when asked to repeat something in a casual conversational setting, they realize in that moment that what they said was actually of no importance. It was just idle chatter. In other words it's not worth the effort it would take you to hear it. Possibly they've already forgotten what it was they did say.
According to Wikipedia never mind is a command which means "it is not important," "do not be concerned," or "I withdraw my previous statement". When hearing folk say never mind, it shows that the fault is on them not us. Remember Gilda Radner's Emily Litella from Saturday Night Live? She made the words her catch phrase. In her case it meant "my mistake".
How someone says the words makes the whole difference. If they're said to you in exasperation, that's a different story. Never mind is unacceptable if the information is vital to you. Of course the burden is on us to decide if it's worth pursuing the missing words or not.
Generally I would say that most conversation is not worth fretting over. Hearing people say never mind to each other all the time. Just let it go.
What do you think?