"I thought you just told me that you have good hearing."
I was about to explain when I saw him understand, "Oh, you have bad hearing, but it is nuanced."
Yes! Exactly. I have bad hearing but it is extremely nuanced. In fact, sometimes I have wondered if my hearing became nuanced to compensate for my hearing being bad.
I was remembering this story recently and thinking, maybe this is a good analogy for how I interpret emotional cues. People always wonder, how is it that sociopaths are so mind-blind about somethings but can be so uncannily perceptive about others. I've had a hard time explaining it myself. But maybe it is just this: that it's difficult for me to hear certain things and not others because they are actually unrelated in a way that is not obvious to the average observer. Maybe the emotional cues I am picking up on use a different sort of perception, like less empathy, more sheer observational skills. Or it's more something that can be learned with practice, like reading people's microexpressions?
Or maybe it's hard for me to pick up on big picture things, like which emotion, and it's easier for me to pick up on small emotional nuances, like how that emotion is affecting a person's motivation in that moment. Maybe it's like Newman says, that sociopaths can do quite well with emotion as long as their attention has been directed to it (e.g. talking with a person one on one), but if there is too much background noise distracting, it will go completely over my head?
I haven't refined the theory yet, but I feel there is something to it.