The Signs of Communication

With communication today, two extremities of communication exist: self-expression and speaking with discretion. Self-expression, or speaking openly on any topic without much censorship or use of etiquette, is common by most of the population. The second, opposite extreme, is speaking with discretion and saying very little in order to preserve one’s reputation. This is more typical of professionals and anyone of class, although it may not necessarily always the case. How are either of these improving the way we communicate? How are both of these skewing the line of civilized communication?

Self-Expression
The first extreme of communication is self-expression which has become an acceptable way to communicate today for most Americans. Unlike other countries, the United States does not have laws against hate speech. What a person says has no societal limitations in most settings. With this increase in self-expression, and decrease in societal parameters for civilized speech, the majority of the population feels they can say whatever they want—and for the most part they do. There is little thought put into what is said. Rather than considering how what is communicated might hurt or offend another, the priority is placed on voicing opinions without discretion, using uncivilized expressions, and being heard.

In the past, social standards influenced improper communication. In Roman and Greek cultures, speaking was seen as an art which had to be mastered before a person was given the right to speak on a topic. It could take years to master becoming an orator. The aspiring speaker had to first learn the art by studying the writings of philosophers, mastering grammar, and learning how to speak. In more modern times, within the United States, social standards set the acceptability of civilized speech and good etiquette. Even a minor comment could eliminate a person from social circles. Differences of opinion could certainly make for a worthy topic of discussion. However, being cordial was expected at a minimum for more vivacious discussions which could lead to arguments. It was possible for people to be accepted, although they might have differing opinions, and still be valued and respected with human dignity.

Within the last 50 years, there has been a shift to self-expression. The ability to say whatever is on a person’s mind is acceptable whether in person or online. There are hardly any limits to what a person may speak about. Open communication is seen as a way to provide transparency and the “honest story” of any person or situation. While this has many benefits, it crosses a line when dignity is stepped upon and boundaries are crossed. Consideration is necessary before speaking with regards to whom a person is talking to, if the topic is appropriate, and the choice of respectful words which are said for a pleasant conversation. Talking about anything can be very damaging. In fact, much of what people talk about has veered away from “ideas” and “intellectual topics”. Instead, what is more common is digressive speech such as gossip or speaking of topics which are inappropriate, very personal or sensitive in nature, or comments which might advertise the negative rather than focus on the positive. There is no preservation of the human dignity of a person. What needs to be said, is what is said, regardless of how it may hurt or offend the other person.

On social networks, a simple post can flare up into a war of replies within seconds. This trolling is often classified inaccurately as a “discussion” and “freedom of speech”. It would be better described as intolerance for a different view which triggers others chiming in to counter the post with an escalating degree of negativity and close-mindedness. These can occur even on simple posts that may not have any intent to attract opinions, but which result in a soapbox of negative, heated, responses. While self-expression allows for openness and problem solving, it can also open the door for adversity. Communication on digressive topics, and intentionally creating unnecessary conflict are examples of unhealthy communication. Speaking about anything without consideration of another person is rude and uncivilized.

The Power of Silence
The other extreme for communication is to choose to say very little or to remain silent. By speaking cautiously a person is more likely to preserve their good reputation. It also provides safety, by finding no partiality to any party or issue. The person remains politically correct by withholding an opinion. In many spiritual teachings, silence is perceived as golden. By remaining silent, a person can reflect wisdom. Remaining silent, a person does not reveal what they know or do not know. Likewise, by not speaking, there is less of a chance of speaking in an unintelligent manner, speaking offensively, or divulging information which should not be revealed. Remaining silent is also a way to absorb heated conflict, inappropriate speech, and to buy in time to respond with a more thoughtful response.

There is a time and a place to speak. George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”.  While we should speak out rather than remain silent on situations of injustice, on political views or ways that may affect our life, saying less, rather than more can be a way which contributes to civility. Voicing an opinion without consideration, can breed hate more than solve problems. This is where uncivilized speech occurs. In today’s culture, it is more likely that the freedom of speech is taken too far through the self-expression of uncivilized conversation. Self-expression can be the ignition of unnecessary conflict just to express an opinion. When freedom of speech is taken to this extreme, responding with silence can help swing the equilibrium of communication, bringing it back to more peaceful speech and civilized communication. Knowing when to speak and when not to speak is important.

Finding the Balance with Human Dignity and Respect
Some social and professional settings still have standards for communication, although uncivilized speech is more popular. Realizing that there is a place for self-expression while maintaining a standard for civilized communication is the challenge which we face today. Many do not recognize digressive communication. Being desensitized by the current standard, hardly anyone today questions inappropriate speech which is on the tongues of most and found in media and by leaders. If culture continues to accept digressive speech, it is a reflection on our country, acceptability for digression and lack of etiquette, and is an insult to the right to the Freedom of Speech which we have. The First Amendment was created for Americans to speak up for freedom and liberties for all. With an acceptability of hate speech and speaking on digressive topics, society is infected with negativity, hate, unacceptability, intolerance for differences, immaturity, a lack of professionalism, and lack of human dignity. It shows an inability to communicate and interact with others. For a country which prides itself on being a melting pot, this is not congruent. Although not everyone will get along, there needs to be a greater degree of respect for differences whether it is race, belief, lifestyle, ability, economic or any other characteristic. Valuing differences and human life needs a higher tolerance and acceptance. Inequality will always exist, but human dignity needs to be upheld. Since the primary problem of unacceptability stems from inappropriate speech, correcting communication that is off-balance can help set society upright to a culture with a civilized standard.


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Books
Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties under the Law (America’s Freedoms)
by Ken I. Kersch

Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World
by Timothy Garton Ash

Free Speech and Censorship: Examining the Facts (Contemporary Debates)
by Harold L. Pohlman

Choosing Civility
by P.M. Forni

The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude
by P.M. Forni

The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It
by Os Guinness

Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration
by Teresa M. Bejan

Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation
by George Washington and Tony Darnel

Movie
Shouting Fire: Stories From The Edge Of Free Speech
Director: Liz Garbus
Documentary
Rating: NR

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How-To Phrase It: And You Can Quote Me PODCAST

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PODCAST SCRIPT

Hi, this is Clean Up Dallas with Culture and Kindness and today is June 6, 2020. Today’s podcast is: How-To Phrase It: And You Can Quote Me.

As you all know, it’s good to stay current with the latest news, or the “buzz”. And when it comes to knowing what is going on, you want to be the first to know. The top stories from the top sources—or if it is juicy enough, from any source. That’s right. The latest gossip, the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. It’s what keeps many going, even at the expense of another person’s life and reputation.

How do you distinguish what is gossip and what isn’t? The trick is knowing the difference between what is proper to talk about and what isn’t. If it is someone’s personal business or a sensitive matter relating to another person, there really is no excuse or positive reason to share it with another. Still unclear of what is acceptable and what isn’t? Here’s an example. Julie is talking to Mary about Joannie’s wedding coming up. She mentioned she is so happy they are getting married. That statement is not gossip as long as it is not a secret that they are getting married. It is a generic statement stating happiness for the couple. If she starts talking about details of Mary’s life, what she is doing, or scorning about why they shouldn’t get married, then that crosses the lines of gossip. Gossip can be on anything. It usually revolves around taboo topics such as sexual topics with regards to another person, financial matters, relationship issues, or medical information. Don’t assume that it is ok to talk about these things with another. It can be very hurtful, especially if it forms the mind of another person or becomes public knowledge. There are several types of gossip. Here are some definitions.

Gossip is the spreading of a truth or unconfirmed fact about someone

If a story is already circulating then it is a rumor. A rumor is a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

Slander is spreading untrue information about someone to damage their reputation.

If is published in print or online and is a false statement about someone then it is called libel.

And Propaganda is information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

All of these can cause defamation. Defamation of character is damaging the reputation or name of someone which can happen through any of these civil offenses which could be taken to court in a lawsuit. Talking about someone is not a light matter. Taken to an extreme sharing information about another person can severely damage a person’s life even to the point of suicide or murder. And you can quote me on that.

One way to determine whether what someone is sharing is gossip or not, is to check a few key things. Is the person sharing it with the good-will of the person it is about? Is the information necessary? Is the person you are talking to the source? Are they reliable? Why are they sharing the information? Is it for their popularity at the expense of another? How will you benefit from hearing what they are talking about?

If what they are sharing does not meet these or you feel uncomfortable, cut the conversation off and if it continues walk away. Telling the person that the information would not be appreciated by the person it is about,  is one way to indicate that what they are sharing is inappropriate.

How do you prepare yourself for propaganda? It may not be as frequent as gossip, but it is gossip and defamation at a larger level when it targets a specific person. The person’s name doesn’t even need to be named to do damage. Propaganda is a biased opinion which is spread to promote a point of view. In worse cases it can be taken to every retail store, business, public and private venues, and organizations. Many retail stores are easily swayed to use their businesses as a means to support opinions that have absolutely nothing to do with the business. Yet, although this may seem highly illegal, the only way to find justice is by a civil lawsuit, and in many cases it would prove to be a futile effort. For an average person, this type of “gossip” spreading through propaganda can cause discrimination, shut down opportunities for work, cause homelessness, targeted hate, organized crime, hopelessness and more. One would think in huge cases like this, someone would stand up, but as with any gossip or selling of information, it can snowball like an avalanche and gain steam to become the popular voice regardless of the details or meaning behind it. There is something wrong with society when this goes against one individual without means for defense and such damage is done. Business owners and managers of any business should really take a look at what they allow in their business. Significant fines should be placed on them, besides the fact that customers should refuse to shop at stores that do this. The personal social platform should not be at the retail stores. The stores are there to sell the products they have and maintain their brand image. Several stores claim by promoting propaganda from the community it supports their business as they become a hub for the latest update—at the expense of the life of an innocent party. This is a real issue in the DFW area and probably not just in DFW but throughout our country. It is taking Freedom of Speech the wronggg way, and for all those who have participated either on the business end or as customer eagerly wanting the latest morsel of juicy news as they shop, the quote needs to go elsewhere.

Quote me on it, there’s a lot of clean up to be done with the standard in DFW. Besides the news and who’s talking, phrases need to be set aside and highlighted. What phrases do you use when you communicate? We easily can slip into derogatory remarks, discriminatory name calling, or other phrases which can be said and hurt others. Cleaning up the expressions you use can really make a difference in the people who are around you. Why cut people up? Use words of praise frequently and politically correct ways to speak. Discriminatory name calling can often be thought of as racial, but it can be sexual, belief related, intellectual, about social status, or a number of other things. People love to make fun of people for some reason, mostly for popularity and to build their ego, or as a way to control or empower another person. This verbal injury blow is a form of abuse, especially when it is repeated. It is easy for it to catch on with others and suddenly another person is isolated out as a target to be made fun of. You are in control of what you say and you have the power to make a positive impact with your words or to negatively impact someone.

Soap and scrub the dirty words and phrases which are of bathroom humor, sexual humor, racial in nature or other lower standards. Speaking well increases your social standing with those who want to be around you, as well as professionally.

Not everyone sees the damage they cause as much as they seek being cool and their seek own popularity. Instead of speaking and listening to the latest hearsay, why not get to know the target and find the good qualities to speak about instead. It’s better to win friends who may be different than you by taking time to understand them rather than slamming them down with gossip, insults or name calling. Reach for the higher standard by finding acceptability and compromise rather than mocking others to tear them down.

And if you hear any of this, don’t let the cat get your tongue! Speak up and politely correct when you hear comments such as these. Here are some suggestions of ways to stop gossip:

  • Change the subject
  • Say something positive about someone who is the target of the gossip
  • Confront the gossip by pointing it out
  • Point out missing information
  • …and you can also turn gossip into prayers

Just saying—saying it better by speaking well about people is where winners are at. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. But how you phrase it and what you say matters.

And you can quote me.

Interested in improving your relationships in how you speak? You won’t want to miss the podcast Tongue Tied on June 24 which will discuss the importance of speaking well. We also have 2 excellent books selected for our book club this month which give tips on improving your conversations and speaking well. Clean Up Dallas with Culture and Kindness’ book club this month on June 27. The first book discussion will be held at 2pm on Facebook live as we try out the new video Meeting Group for our chat and discuss The Lost Art of Good Conversation A Mindful Way to Connect with Others and Enrich Everyday Life By: Sakyong Mipham. Following this at 3pm, we’ll discuss this month’s second book  30 Days to Taming Your Tongue. What you SAY (and DON’T SAY) Will improve your relationships by Deborah Smith Pegues. Be sure to RSVP to join the discussion!

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