Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Verbal Self Defense

"If you REALLY loved me......"  

An excellent book on communication is The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, Suzette Haden Elgin
Below is an excerpt that contains the nugget of the wisdom in her books:

From BusinessSpeak, Suzette Haden Elgin

"Only a Wimp Would Let That One Go By!"

Over and over, I hear this kind of objection: "I understand what you're saying... But I just could not let that person get away with it!" (Because the bait in the particular attack was so cruel or so totally false or in some other way so intolerable to the victim.)

There are two basic misunderstandings here. First, you should expect the bait [in verbal attacks] to be like that. Of course the bait is going to be as outrageous as the attacker can make it. Of course, if the attacker has personal knowledge of something that will be especially hurtful to the victim, it will be used as bait. When you go fishing, you don't bait your hook with something that will bore the fish; you choose whatever you think is most likely to get the fish's attention. "Verbal Aggressors" are doing the same thing. They choose the bait not to hurt you, but to hook you; the hurt is just an unavoidable side effect. Attackers want your attention; they want to demonstrate that they have the power to get and keep your attention; they want from you an emotional reaction that is evidence of that power. They will always use as bait whatever they think is most likely to be impossible for you to ignore. This should not surprise you in any way; certainly it should never surprise you into making a strategic error.

Second, it's an error to think that letting the bait go by without challenge is "letting them get away with it." No matter what is in the bait, it's the trivial part of the attack.

Think about it. You had a plan for how you were going to spend the next 15 minutes or so. There were things you wanted to do with that time. But the attacker has a different plan: that you will spend that time engaged in an undignified verbal fight in which you demonstrate how easy it is for the attack to pull your strings and make you dance. Doing that -- not ignoring some ridiculous insult -- is letting the attacker get away with it. No matter how the fight itself ends, the loser (and wimp) is the person who provides the attacker with Victim Service, and the attacker who can get you to provide that service is the winner.

From The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, Suzette Haden Elgin:

 Managing the Verbal Attack Patterns (VAPS) of English

Vaps are English language patterns used to demonstrate power over a targeted victim by (a) capturing and holding their attention and (b) evoking a highly emotional response. They have two parts: an open attack (the "bait") and one or more attacks sheltered in presuppositions. For example:

A. "If you REALLY cared about your job, YOU'D get to work on TIME!"
B. "WHY don't you ever LISTEN to me when I talk to you??!"
C. "EVen a person YOUR age should know SOMETHING about stocks!"
D. "SOME people would FIRE you for coming to work dressed like a THUG!"
E. "YOU'RE not the ONLY person who has PROBlems, you know!"

Rule One:
Ignore the bait.

Rule Two:
Respond directly to a presupposition.

For example.......

"If you REALLY loved me, YOU wouldn't waste MONEY the way you do!!"
"If you really LOVED me, YOU wouldn't waste MONEY the way you do!"

(The first part of the attack presupposes "You don't love me"; the bait is, "You waste money.")

Recommended Responses:
"Of course I love you."
"When did you start thinking I don't love you?"

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