Silence is Golden, unless it's your Engineer who is being silent!

The Silent Engineer

Now, those of you who are actually living with an Engineer might think that this is a blessing! After all, when he’s not saying anything he can’t possibly say anything stupid!

But, every silver lining comes with its cloud, and this one is no exception! Trust us, not only are we engineers, but we’ve hung around them much of our adult life! We know!

Your engineer is silent for one of two reasons:

1. He recently made a mistake – probably technical, because he doesn’t recognize a social faux pas as a real mistake – and he’s wondering how to save face in front of the engineers who will likely recognize his error.

Peer pressure is as powerful to engineers as to anyone else, but it’s not pressure to conform, but pressure to perform, and making mistakes is not performing to an engineer.

His silence is caused by his logical brain being totally preoccupied with how to fix the problem prior to anyone noticing, or how to minimize the damage, or…  As a last resort, your engineer might have to find a way to sacrifice an Arts Student, who won’t really be missed anyways in the grand scheme of things.

2. He’s brooding. And that’s TROUBLE! With a capital “T” and a capital “RUBBLE”, as in what will be left of your life if he continues on his current line of thought.

As always, we are prepared to admit that many engineers have the emotional intelligence of a 6 year old girl, and that brooding is hardly the sign of high EQ. What’s surprising is how few potential sources of brooding there are in your engineer’s life!

His friends can’t make him brood. Even if he lost the debate, your engineer knows that intelligent debate on the grade of iron alloy that was best suited for use in medieval armor is necessary to elevate the world’s consciousness. It’s all good in these debates!

His family can’t make him brood. They are idiots who never understood your engineer, and tried to make him into something else (anything else?) when he was a teenager. They clearly can’t be trusted to have a worthwhile opinion!

Can a stranger make an engineer brood? Don’t be silly!!! Unless the stranger walks up and says, “Hi, I’m Elon Musk, and that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen!”, your engineer can assume away uninvited input from anyone! He’s practically impervious!

So who can make him brood? Really only two people.

There’s his manager. Even engineers know they can’t bite the hand that feeds them, so unless your engineer is prepared to stand in front of you and admit to being fired for insubordination, he must bite his tongue whenever his boss says something stupid. If you’ve ever read Dilbert, you’d think that this might be a pretty frequent occurrence for your engineer – and you’d be right!

Managers should have some people skills. Anyone who took the time to develop these skills likely had to sacrifice on their technical learning time, and is therefore an inferior engineer! So every engineer works for an idiot! Please be patient with him when he comes home fuming – you probably wouldn’t understand what he’s been through today.

Then again… you probably understand very well what happened, at least from the manager’s perspective!

And the other person who can make your engineer brood? It’s you! The person he wants to spend ALL his spare time with (lucky you!).

Now, you’re probably thinking, “But I haven’t said anything that should cause him to brood!”

In truth, if he weren’t an engineer, you would be right. But, he IS an engineer, who takes ALL your words literally. If your last words weren’t 150% positive, he’s likely to take everything you said as a personal attack on his intelligence, character, or self-worth.

Use constructive criticism. Sandwich every concern with good observations on either side. At this point, an example might be helpful. Let’s assume that he hears you complaining about having no place to put anything down when you are reading, so he makes you a table.

Great! Only the table is massive, capable of acting as a prop in the elephant show at the circus. You are, shall we say, a bit less than impressed!

A perfectly valid response might be, “How stupid can one man be? I wanted a small end table for the living room! I wouldn’t put this in the attic! What a waste of wood and time!”

We recommend a slightly less direct approach!

Try, “Honey, I love the way you are thinking about my concerns. Next time, could you give some consideration to the possibility that I might need to move the table, for example to clean under it. But I do appreciate how an end table made out of 4×4 mahogany is going to last several lifetimes.”

Believe us, say it in an even tone and he won’t have a clue that there’s any sarcasm in your message at all!

As always, you should be grateful for your engineer. Every one of your friends worries about what they would do if their husband talked too much. You don’t have their problem, now do you?

Finally, be thankful that you didn’t marry an accountant. No matter how bad it might be, your engineer at least has a sense of humor. Smile, and enjoy another day full of wonder.

You are welcome!