Thursday, July 19, 2012

Avoiding responsibility, and comparing people- not good?

So I will keep going in my elaboration of power words, and my crude attempt to categorise them-

Words which attribute responsibility rather than share it. 

An example of linguistically inviting another to take full responsibility for a problem is
"You misunderstood me", rather than the preferable sharing of responsibility..."We have had a misunderstanding"

Another is "You didn't listen to a single thing I said" or.. "I asked you to do this and you went and did the complete opposite" Once again a naeieve question can go a long way here.. "After our discussion I was expecting A, but what you did was B. I had hoped to communicate X, so I was surprised. I want to know how this misunderstanding happened (maybe I wasn't clear enough). I would be interested in what you heard and understood about what I said..."

I believe that by the speaker admitting the possibility that they might have contributed to the misunderstanding the agenda shifts slightly from blaming to problem solving.

Words which measure others comparatively.

"Too". A comparative term which can be used to imply that the listener's quality does not measure up to the "norm", either defined by the speaker, or by the culture, of which the speaker sees themselves as a representative.

 "You're too sensitive" "You talked about that for too long". If comparison is necessary, an alternative could be "She's busier than I would like to be" rather than "She's too busy". An alternative to "He's too loud" could be "I sometimes/often find it hard to have my say when he's around" as I find it hard to interrupt him. (Does this seem too (!) cumbersome or unnatural? ....Good- many problems in our communication I believe stem from the hurry to be expedient- that's how a 'doing' culture works compared with a 'being' culture)

 If comment must be made I believe consideration of how the other person would comfortably describe themselves is most respectful. For example, rather than "She's too sensitive", consider " She can tune in easily to other's feelings" "She finds negative judgements hurtful" "over-....." or "under-.. .." Prefixes used to rate a quality or action and compare it unfavourably to a standard.

"You're over-reacting" "She's over-sexed" Such statements leave little room for appreciation of difference. These prefixes are best avoided. "Enough" eg- "She doesn't do enough around the house". This defines the desirable or "appropriate" amount of something and discourages expression of alternative views. "Enough said". "Much" can have a similar effect eg: "She doesn't do much around the house". A preferable alternative is to describe what is done without making valued judgements. eg. "She does the ironing and cleaning. She employs a cook for the meals".

 "His response was inappropriate".
Preferable alternatives are descriptions of the event contextualised by reference to the reality to which they are being compared. For example, instead of "inappropriate", consider "She looked hurt and seemed silenced by his response. If it were me, I would not have said that because based on what I know about her previous reactions I would have guessed that such a statement would affect her that way". This leaves at least a little space to compare expectations and assumptions.

Some other negative examples of comparative words are- "extreme", "inadequate". "That was an extreme reaction" "That was inadequate". I reckon these are best avoided as labels, but could probably be introduced as theories followed by a "what do you think?"

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