Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Defining reality- a verbal way of asserting power

Here's my first instalment in my attempt to categorise power words. I want to consider some common words or memes which are often overlooked when considering power play in modern society.

"Actually", "really", "in fact", "in reality".  I believe these words are used to privilege the speaker's reality over the listener. The implication here is that there is only one reality, and that the speaker is being "objective". These may have the effect of raising questions about the validity of the listener's experience, perceptions or understandings.The word "realise" can be used here.

"She doesn't realise how unreasonable she is being".
" What actually happened was...."

Similar (in my humble view) are the words which define another's reality.
These are words which define another's thoughts, motives, intentions, and discourage self representation. I think that because of their offensiveness, they may create a environment which almost inevitably invites defensiveness. For example-

"You deliberately put away the milk when you knew I wanted to use it!" (notice the intentribution here)

"You think"  A blocking statement which has the effect of discouraging the listener from sharing their thoughts, because the speaker has already defined them without inviting comment.
"You think you're so smart"

It can also be used interrogatively to question one's motives or logic -

"What on earth could you have been thinking when you did that?"

"You're confused" is a common statement. Apart from defining someone else's reality, this statement ties a problem (confusion) to the subject's being, by using the "you're" or "you are"  attribution.

How often do you hear "You're confusing A with B" when you listen to an argument? Maybe a simple enquiry might reveal more of the speaker's reasoning. How about "When you say A how do you see it relating to my ideas which are.. B?" ? More respectful do you think?

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