Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Statement Analysis Lesson: "You're Hopelessly and Endlessly In Love With Me!"
"Oh, yes," she laughed, "I lose sleep dreaming of you. Ha! Get over yourself!" she said with a smile .
What does Statement Analysis make of sarcasm? What about flirtation? Witty banter?
"If you don't take out the garbage right now, I'm gonna kill you!", mother said to 17 year old son.
We do not conclude that should the garbage not be taken out, mother will murder her son. But what do we think of such statements?
Even casual follow up questions will show that the language comes from somewhere. I once interviewed a mother who did say such phrases as, "I'm gonna kill you" to her children, who were well younger than 17 and, although they appeared 'numb' to the words, the numbness, itself, was of concern. She eventually said that she fantasized about killing her children, how easier life would be, how she could not meet a man because of them, and how she was perpetually broke and exhausted.
She also made a promise to herself to stop using such phrases to her children as she considered things. I believed her and respected her honesty.
We recognize that language does not come from a void, but somewhere. It reveals us.
We are known by our words.
Just a half-generation ago (or so), people marveled over the length of the World War II marriages. "How could someone just agree to marry from letter writing?" was a common question. At that time, people may have forgotten just how powerful the written word is.
They no longer wonder.
The advent of the digital age has not only given us a new world of written communication.
Unlike the beauty and elegance of penmanship, however, we have marks on a screen, often with deliberate misspellings and shortened or abbreviated words, yet, even as the scales tip left or write, we move with them, fluidly, and analyze for truth.
For example, if an email is written without the pronoun "I" as its norm, we will note the sudden insertion of the pronoun "I" as being very important.
In the "Secret Life of Pronouns" study the author found that many executives, when giving directives, omit the pronoun "I", which caused the conclusion to be that missing pronoun "I" is a signal of leadership.
Perhaps it is something along these lines.
1. "I am glad to welcome you on board and I congratulate you on your promotion."
2. "We are sorry but we have to let you go. Budgets have been..."
I find that some in upper management don't hesitate to use the word "I" in positive emails, but quickly run to "we" when the news being delivered is not so pleasant. Statistically, more upper management may drop pronouns, but the conclusion of the matter may not be that "leaders don't use the pronoun "I" very much", not because they are leaders, but because they are not committing to responsibility. I would want to learn the context of the emails where the pronouns were absent, and view them against the same writer's emails where the pronoun "I" is present.
In all cases, where the subject avoids the pronoun "I" in his email means that if the pronoun "I" does show itself, take notice because it is important information.
You would be better served, even in the realm of sarcasm, to listen carefully to the words one chooses, even while being humorous.
We have all been in the uncomfortable position where a husband and wife play the "passive/aggressive" "I am only kidding!" game while taking shots at each other. Listen carefully to the words chosen. That which is said in jest, itself, has an origin.
The words, themselves, may guide you even more so than the tone. As to the married co-worker "just kidding", it may be that he is on a fishing expedition and casting out his line to see what his bait might bring in.
"Many fish bite if you got good bait, I'm a going fishing, ma's a-going fishing and my baby's a-going fishing, too..." Americana folk song.
I would wager, if asked, a cup of coffee that the woman who said she was "losing sleep" wasn't completely joking.
Next, Intent in Analysis.