I’m very happy with the response to my post on Werewolf Levels. Some people told me they found the concept helpful in naming a thing they’d already felt. Other people proposed objections or refinements. In one case, someone was able to tell me they felt Werewolfy, which helped me give them the reassurance they needed to continue the interaction. This is a roundup of some of the responses. Continue reading
"She sent me a signal; just a subtle one, that someone not used to reading verbals would miss. Most people are terrible at reading verbals."
Verbal vs nonverbal communication
Until fairly recently, I had little ability to read nonverbal communication, which meant that I had little wiggle room on one of the principal axes of communication. But I still needed to communicate with people. So I looked for patterns in their behavior. Tried to remember explicit preferences they’d stated, notice when they responded positively or negatively to a thing, and infer the preferences revealed by the things they sought out or tried to avoid. I formed explicit mental models of how people behaved, which were generally modifications of my model of how people in general behave. This is the story of how I learned that this ability is not universal.
An Euremembered Story
One of the students at a magical school is a werewolf. Every full moon, he transforms into a dangerous monster that attacks anyone around him. He sneaks out once a month to undergo this painful and terrifying involuntary transformation in secret, because he doesn't want to hurt anyone. But he is terribly lonely.
He has friends, but they don't know that he is a werewolf. He wishes they would come with him and help him through his terrible night, but it would be dangerous to them. It's not something he can ask of them. It's okay to be lonely and hurting. It's not okay to injure your friends.
Can he simply tell them his secret and let them make the choice? That would be wrong too. If it were guaranteed to fail at obtaining help, it would just make his friends feel selfish and guilty about abandoning him in his night of pain. If it were guaranteed to succeed, then it's coercing his friends into doing something dangerous for them, that may not be worth the good it does for him. And if two options are immoral, a coin flip between them is also immoral.
Can he hint at it? Can he let people see him going out off the school grounds, away from people, to lock himself into a hidden shack for his transformation? No, for the same reason. If telling people is immoral, so is giving them evidence.
So he keeps his secret. He actively keeps his secret. Every full moon, he prominently goes to the school healer's office, and sneaks out the window. If someone asks, he was sick.
And a few other students wonder why their friend gets disappears from the dormitory one night every month. Then they wonder why he gets sick every month. He won't tell them. He won't even hint at it. He gets angry and tells them to mind their own business.
So they do what a true friend does: