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October 29, 2003

Language of Manipulation

A book excerpt from linguistics professor Suzette Elgin:

"The problem with classifying any variety of language behavior as manipulation is that to do so assumes the existence of a variety of non-manipulative neutral behavior to contrast it with. But there is no such thing. The idea that neutral language behavior exists is a myth; it feeds and supports our treasured image of ourselves as Nice People.

All language is manipulative; all language is attempted persuasion. Any time you talk, you are attempting to persuade the others present to listen to what you have to say, rather than talking themselves; you are taking and holding the floor. When you talk, you want to be listened to, believed, respected, appreciated, accepted, agreed with. No matter how much you may wish to be neutral in your communication, you cannot not manipulate. AS SPEAKER, YOU ARE CONTROLLING THE CONVERSATIONAL SPACE, WHETHER YOU LIKE THAT IDEA OR NOT. And you cannot escape by refusing to talk, either; unilateral silence is one of the most manipulative forms of language, and one of the most negative.

Since you cannot choose between manipulative and nonmanipulative communication, your only choice - unless you are willing and able to withdraw totally from all human interaction - is the choice between skilled manipulation and unskilled manipulation. It is my firm opinion that since you must manipulate others with your language, it's best for you to know what you are doing and do it with skill. The ethical questions then become questions of (a) your motivations and (b) the potential for abuse."


( from Success with the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense )

Posted by dotpeople at October 29, 2003 07:50 PM