OBTUSE: dull

A person can be obtuse. So can a topic, a program, a comment, even a movie.   It all depends upon how engaging they are.  And some people are just plain obtuse … boring … dull.

It doesn’t take a lot to dis-engage someone.  A discussion may start out in a very interesting way, but soon deteriorates.  Overly-abundant repetition, poor choice of words, monotone voice, lack of affect … it can be any number of things that lead to a label of obtuse.  One that really gets to people is when a person is asked a question and they take several minutes of rambling comment before they get around (maybe) to answering the question.  Over-use of technical information can do the same thing.

And it doesn’t take long for a person to develop a reputation as being obtuse. When experience after experience is boring and dull, people soon begin to get the picture.

Being obtuse is not a sign of lack of intelligence.  To the contrary, an obtuse person may be brilliant.  It is their communication skills that get in the way.  It’s awkward when the person is an expert in a specific field and must be included in the data-gathering around a specific task.  You just have to buck up and endure it in order to get the material needed.

I’ve watched some people I would consider to be obtuse and it occurs to me that what they are doing is running their interior computer to get to the answer.   The material flashes by, getting closer and closer to the answer, but the speaker needs to relate all of the lead-up information in order to arrive at the point of definition.  It is as important for the speaker to tell the questioner about the process of arriving at the answer as it is to provide the answer.  Hopefully the questioner is still awake by the time the expert gets to the point of answering.

Moving away from the fields of science, technology and math, there is something to be said about a writer who is obtuse.  At times I think I fit into this category as much as anybody.   My editors tell me that I provide too much background material at the beginning of a piece, delaying the action point.   Some readers, they caution, will have closed the book, having been less than engaged early on.  I was shocked, then pleased, when a recent editor jumped through seven paragraphs before he focused on the sentence where he felt I should start the story!  He was absolutely right.   I found new energy in the story by jumping immediately to the event which caught the attention of the reader … in this case, me.

Last night we went to see J. Edgar, Clint Eastwood’s new movie about J. Edgar Hoover, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  The shoot-em-up first scene captured me right away, and the rest of the film was, then, anything but obtuse.  It was dark, disturbing, and controversial, but the acting and the writing were so good that it captured me to the very end.

Some would say that an obtuse person is one who is genetically pre-disposed to dullness.  There may be some people for whom that is the case.  But it is clear to me that anyone can act in an obtuse manner, even the most out-going, extrovertive person.  A unique piece of work can be obtuse.  An answer in a debate can be obtuse.  An article can be obtuse.  I hope this posting isn’t obtuse.

Photo Credit: dull

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  1. Another interesting, disturbing (really disturbing) movie that’s not obtuse in the least is Martha Marcy May Marlene ….

  2. Really interesting point(s).

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