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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 16-May-07

 


Wednesday 16-May-07

Absolutely talking

Some people, and you may know a few, are always putting their necks in a noose by making bold assertions that may later come back to bite them. They typically work on the principle that if they speak as if something is true then they will be believed -- or at least not challenged. But then someone pipes up with a challenge to what they said and they must either back down and lose face or do battle. Either way, the problem could be avoided if they made more careful use of language.

A reason for this polarization is that they want to differentiate themselves and stand out and so take a more extreme position than they really hold, in the hope of moving others more in their direction. But all they often achieve is reactance and opposite polarization.

A common method of avoiding this trap is to add qualifiers to everything you say, for example rather than saying something. 'is' you might say it 'seems' or 'could be'. This gives a way out if you are criticized but is using floppy language and can make you seem defensive and uncertain.

Another way of avoiding the critical quagmire is to talk from the personal position. When you talk from your own position you use phases like 'I believe' and 'In my experience' to express a clearer truth.

Yet another approach to avoid extreme terminology is to use relative language. Instead of using extremes, use a comparator. Thus, for example, instead of talking about the 'best', talk about 'better'.

A sad thing about absolute opinions is that in some professions they are becoming dangerous. If a doctor makes a firm diagnosis they know they can get sued if it is wrong. As a result they, and many other professionals who may be punished for having an incorrect opinion are using more and more qualifiers in their speech.

The bottom line, as in much communication, is that you should be aware of the modes of speech you are using and make deliberate choices based on the effect you wish to create.


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