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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Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties under the Law (America’s Freedoms)
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Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World
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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
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Shouting Fire: Stories From The Edge Of Free Speech
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Words & Phrases: How To Phrase It

How you speak matters, and so does knowing ‘when to chew it’. The Freedom of Speech does not mean it is acceptable to say just anything. Slander, defamation, and verbal abuse are abuse of the freedom of speech and are even a liability for a civil lawsuit. Knowing how to speak properly makes a difference in employment showing good communication skills. Thinking before you speak gives you a chance to form what you have to say in the most positive and polite manner. This infographic and podcast shares information on how to express what you have to say in a civilized way.

Download the Infographic: How-To Think Before You Speak: Words and Phrases

Are you left tongue tied because of rude speech? Are you wondering how to lick the rudeness? Join Clean Up Dallas with Culture and Kindness as host Cheryl Vaca presents the podcast: Tongue Tied: How To Lick the Rudeness by Using Better Etiquette. Identifying offensive ways of speaking in everyday conversations is a way to improve communication with others. Raise the standard for civilized communication by striving to speak respectfully and with good tact. Be Cultured. Be Kind.

Listen to the Podcast:
How-To Phrase It: And You Can Quote Me

Read the Script for the Podcast:
How-To Phrase It: And You Can Quote Me PODCAST


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How to Say It, Third Edition:
Choice Words, Phrases, Sentences, and Paragraphs for Every Situation

by Rosalie Maggio

Wish List for the Hopeful

Hope is positive thinking with the anticipation and expectation something will occur. It is a belief in what can happen, what is possible, and the good of what is believed will come. People who have hope have spirit of positiveness which is open to the possibilities of what can be rather than focus on the negative. Besides personal hope, there is also hope from doing good for others. For those who believe in karma, good actions toward another will result in a good outcome for them in areas of their life. They might be compelled to be kind toward others with the hope that their good works will benefit themselves in the long run because ‘what goes around comes around’.

Hope It’s Said Right

In How It Is Stated: When it comes to kindness and hope, a kind person will spread hope to others in the form of good will and good wishes. “I hope you feel better”, “I hope you get to come”, “I hope you are able to.” It is almost a form of a simple prayer because it asks for kindness to happen to another with belief when said sincerely

In How It Sounds: There is also an excitement which can come with having hope. This excitement can be contagious in anticipation for what is hoped for, and sometimes the combination of hope can be so strong that it actually will happen. When children squeal in excitement that they hope they can go to Disneyland, over the course of time, if it’s feasible, it’s likely what they hope for may very well happen. People want to fulfill the hopes and desires of others. When you state what you hope for, there is a chance it may happen. The same occurs with God and petitions, or prayer.

In Its Resilient Belief: When facing challenges in life, a person may have persevering hope which carries them through a trial helping to endure the most difficult parts. There also is the undying hope some have which will not go away. This can be a form of negative hope. There are times when having hope is not good to continue with. Usually this is in the form of certain relationships. One person may feel things should continue or hope for a change, and while this may seem heroic to have undying hope, unless there is a realistic possibility, it can be unhealthy—because there really is no hope.

Hoping well for another is a form of kindness. List how many times you think of others and have good, sincere wishes for them. Here’s hoping it’s plentiful! Maybe you are in a position to fulfill a hope that someone has. No time like the present of the season!

Clean Up Dallas with Culture and Kindness
@cultureofkind


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Wake Up to Hope: Devotional
by Joel and Victoria Osteen 

Facing Your Giants: God Still Does the Impossible
by Max Lucado

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times
by Max Lucado

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World
by Max Lucado


Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer
by Beth Moore

Hope for Today Bible

by Joel Osteen


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How to Respond to a Compliment

When someone pays you a compliment, it should brighten your day! Often we respond to compliments with negative statements. For example: “Wow, you did a great job!” may be replied to with “No, it really isn’t that good”. If a person gives you a compliment, that should be seen as a positive truth! The correct way to respond is to keep it short and simple and just say “Thanks!”. Here’s how:

  • Acknowledge a compliment by saying “Thanks!”
  • Appreciate it
  • Express how it made you feel
    “You are very kind.”
    “Thank you! That’s nice of you. That really means a lot.”

@cultureofkind


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