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Four ways of communication Four ways of communication
by Joseph Gatt
2019-10-21 09:44:53
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Professor Deborah Tannen identifies two ways of communication: what she calls “rapport talk” (conversation which emphasizes the relationship between two people) and “report talk” (conversation that involves reporting the news to other people.)

I identify four ways of communicating around the world: “militarized talk” (I also call it “order talk”) along with “rapport talk” along with “report talk” along with “failed talk.” I'll give examples and commentary on each.

Militarized talk or order talk.

The Koreans hate me. Or maybe they like me now. But they would have killed me if they could. One of the reasons was that I use “report talk” or convey precise information in the form of news when they use “order talk” or conveying information in the form of orders. Here is an example of conversation between two militarized people, then an example of conversation between rapport talk and order talk.

communi01_400Militarized talk example

Husband comes home.

Husband: Is dinner ready? (notice he doesn't greet his wife)
Wife: Rice and curry. Eat!
Husband: Don't serve too much!
Wife: Bring the salt and pepper! It's bland!
Husband: Did our son do his homework?
Wife: …
Husband: Tell him to bring me the newspaper!

Wife tells son to bring father the newspaper

Husband: Bring me radish!
Wife: Careful not to spill your food!

You get the idea.

Now a rapport talk person talks with a militarized person

American husband comes home to his Korean wife.

American husband: Honey! How was your day?
Korean wife: Dinner's ready. Eat!
American husband: Today I'm not feeling well. My stomach's upset...
Korean wife (interrupts): Go to the supermarket and get two boxes of toilet paper.
American husband: Now? I think I have to go all the way to Wall Mart!
Korean wife: go, go, also bring a box of tissues and two bags of red pepper.

You get the idea.

“Militarized talk” is common in Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and in a lot of places in East Asia. It's also common in some French families and in some families with a military background. Notice that in militarized talk people rarely discuss their life problems or report the news. They do tend to welcome information and many complain about “being in the dark” because so few people share information.

Militarized talk also has specificities at work and in the classroom. At work, talk tends to involve the boss controlling everything from how his employees dress to the exact wording of what they should tell clients. In militarized schools, the teacher will lecture by saying “do this” and “never do this” and “never do this mistake” and so on.

Rapport talk

In tribal societies like Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, along with Latin America, chatting doesn't involve sharing information as much as it involves constantly defining relationships between two individuals. That is people will constantly be telling each other “I really like you!” and “I'm so reliable!” and “you can count on me if you need anything!” and “I can fix anything you want” and “why didn't you call me sooner, I would have helped you out!”

When I live in tribal societies, I get bullied a lot. As an Israeli (if you want to call me that) I'm not comfortable clearly defining relationships with other people. I'm comfortable sharing news and information with other people. So people in tribal societies accuse me (and Jews in general) of being “cold” and “distant” and “arrogant” specifically because I'm not comfortable telling people “I like you” and “you're my friend and brother” every five minutes. So I often get accused of having hidden motives, when there are no hidden motives.

Also, because rapport talk involves constantly defining the relationship between the people talking, a lot of times, when one person is angry at another, they will drop hints rather than saying things out flat. So they might say “I know someone who went to prison for smoking in his living room in the United States” when what they really mean is “please don't smoke in the living room, either go to the balcony or get out to smoke.”

Example of rapport talk

Husband comes home

Husband: Today I've had so much shit at work you wouldn't imagine. They told me I was not reliable! Me? Not reliable? If it weren't for me they'd be bankrupt! How dare they? And you honey, why aren't you saying anything? You also think I'm not reliable?

Wife: (pauses and hesitates, then with a soft effaced voice) you're... um... reliable

Husband: You hesitated! You agree with them? I did everything for you! I feed and clothe you! If it weren't for me you would have married an asshole! You parents would have forced you to marry that prisoner!

Wife: What about me? I'm not feeling well! I worked 20 hours a day for the kids! And if it weren't for me you'd be starving!

Husband: With my money I could eat at 5 star hotels for a lifetime. You're not even thankful. Ah! Say it! You're not thankful!

Wife: I'm thankful! I know you work hard! But I also work hard!

Husband: I know! But don't say I'm not reliable! If I were not reliable you'd be living in shanty towns!

Wife: You are reliable! But please take me into consideration!

You get the idea!

Report talk. 

North Americans, a lot of Europeans and Australians and New Zealanders tend to communicate with “report talk” that is share news without trying to define the relationship or give orders. People tend to say what's on their mind, and will share any information they can. Information tends to attempt to be clear and complete, and if possible accurate. People lie to each other of course, in some cases people can try to define relationships, but very often, people share as much information as they can and try to take informed decisions.

For this, militarized societies accuse us (report talkers) of “talking too much” and “revealing company secrets” and “sharing confidential information” while people from tribal cultures accuse us (report talkers) of being cold, selfish and distant.

Example of report talk

Husband comes home to the wife

Husband: hey honey! (Kisses wife)
Wife: How was your day sweetie?
Husband: Had it a little rough at work today. John didn't show up so I had to do his work. But he did my work last time. So now we're even.
Wife: You must be exhausted! What did you have for lunch?
Husband: Only had time for a tuna sandwich. What did you have for lunch honey?
Wife: Becky brought us lasagna at work. We had that with Amy and Becky. Tasted really good. Becky knows how to make her lasagna.
Husband: and how did your day go?
Wife: Andrew is on a field trip so I just sat and did nothing. Was boring.
Husband: The new Avengers movie just came out. How about we go to the movies and check it out.
Wife: I have plans. It's Amy's wedding next week. Have to shop for a dress. Wanna come help me out?
Husband: Nah! I'm gonna finish that Stephen King novel. Been trying to finish it for days. I'll also catch up with the Big Bang Theory.
Wife: please come honey. You know how to pick my outfits.
Husband: It was just this one time. I get anxious at malls.

You get the point.

Finally, and briefly, failed communication

In “failed societies” like in societies hit by natural disasters or in concentration camps or in prisons, survival is the main goal. So the main features of failed communication is constant lies and deception, avoiding any form of rapport with anyone, and keeping key information to yourself. So you have to learn how to read between the lines and gestures, and psychological tricks are very common. It's a sad form of communication.

Example of failed communication

Man 1: Where's Dan.
Man 2: Who's Dan?
Man 1: Your cell mate.
Man 2: I don't know that guy.
Man 1: You know the tall bald guy.
Man 2: What's for dinner tonight?
Man 1: Pizza with everything on top.
Man 2: From Pizza Hut?
Man 1: Fuck you! You're wasting my time
Man 2: I have to run. Got a phone call
Man 1: There are no phones!

You get the idea.


    
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