Friday, November 27, 2009

i-TFTD #231: On Conversation

i-TFTD #231: On Conversation

#231-1. The real art of conversation is not saying the right thing at the right time, but leaving the wrong thing unsaid at the most tempting moment.

(Thanks to D. Karthikeyan for sharing this.)

231-2. "Diplomacy is nothing but a lot of hot air," said a companion to French statesman Georges Clemenceau as they rode to a peace conference. "All etiquette is hot air," said Clemenceau. "But that is what is in our automobile tires; notice how it eases the bumps."

(Thanks to Amlesh Kanetkar for sharing this.)

231-3. What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.
-Salman Rushdie, writer (b. 1947)

Not saying wrong things sounds simple but the problem is our judgement of what is wrong. There are clues that could help: (i) if the temptation to say what has occurred to me is felt as a compulsive need to impress (ii) if I intuitively sense that my point could be misconstrued and thereby rendering my communication i! neffective (iii) if I have received feedback to tone down or polish my speech. The simple act of pausing and examining whether something should be said and if there are better ways to put it across would itself help.

It is fashionable in todays business world to deride diplomacy and praise straight talk but in reality bluntness seems to get most people into trouble. Etiquette is just a commonly agreed form of symbolic interaction that occasionally degenerates into meaningless ritual when used without u! nderstan ding its spirit. Every organization culture, every subgroup and every layer of management has its own coded language that one is expected to learn gradually through observation and imitation. Some rare books or articles elucidate this but they tend to sound too cynical.

On the other hand, too many people take what they think to be a safe option of keeping
their dissenting views unstated. This does have serious consequences but that is not visible. Healthy debate is the hallmark of a progressing society.

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