Another communication rant, with questions at the end.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you might recall that I’ve mentioned phatic communication in earlier posts, beginning with this one. There are many things we say
that mean little or nothing, and I’ll start with a few examples.
Example (1) Polite, phatic exchange
Most obvious example: polite little nothing phrases that don’t mean anything like what they say literally.
“How are you?”
(translation: “I’m recognizing your presence, but don’t necessarily want to talk to you for any length of time. Just to be fair, I’m giving you an opening to tell me about anything that might have come up, but please don’t.”)
“I’m fine, yourself?”
(translation: I might be dying of cancer, but don’t want to talk about it right now, not with you, anyway. Just returning the salute.”)
Now, suppose that one of them is on the witness stand some weeks later:
Q. Mr Skeeb, I understand that on March 18th, you got into the elevator with your supervisor, Mr. Boohah, as you were leaving work, is that correct?
A. Yes, that’s correct.
Q. Do you recall what your conversation with Boohah consisted of at that time?
A. Nothing much. He said “How are you?”, I said “Fine.” That’s about it.
Q. So you confirm that you said you were “fine” at that time, is that correct?
Q. And we have just heard your co-worker, Mr. Willbash, tell us that as you were getting ready to leave that day, you remarked to him that your back was “killing you”, because of a herniated disk. Is Mr. Willbash reporting that correctly?
A. Yes, that’s my recollection too.
Q. So you lied to Mr. Boohah when you said you were “fine”, is that correct?
A. If you want to call it that, I suppose.
Q. And if you lied about that, do we have any reason to believe any of your testimony here today?
You get the idea by now, I hope. Of all the billions of conversations that happen on this planet every day, very few have participants who are conscious that they might some day have to explain everything they say under oath. Continue reading