Saturday, March 26, 2011

Talking: Mind the Gap


Talking, of course, is not always about telling someone something. Many times, it involves not telling something or telling only part of something or merely going through the motions of telling something. It may be solely for the talker's benefit and the audience is slightly more important than a chair but at least by being there, the audience - which doesn't have to listen - gives the talker an excuse to talk.

A great deal of talk involves the control of behavior; sort of a verbal pinball where if you say this, then he or she will respond with that. What you said was not meant to achieve anything but a desirable reaction.

Ethicists note that lying is a way of gaining control over another person. Talking certainly lacks lying's inherent ethical problem but it, along with communication in general, can be hugely manipulative. The trial attorney who asks questions of a hostile witness from various points in the courtroom hopes the jury will see a witness whose darting eyes signal deception. A certain level of deception is regarded by many as acceptable within that context. Juror beware.

Communication scholars say that we cannot not communicate. The message is far from a simple note. Often it is meant to influence and not to reveal. How it was said is important. Why it was said is key.

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