[Sort of a log] All Things Communication (previously titled: the language called communication)

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[Sort of a log] All Things Communication (previously titled: the language called communication)

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 14:10

First things first :): I started this thread before I rationally learned how to always use brevity instead of non-necessary verbosity. Wasn't able to do it in a purely intuitive way before.

Even before that event, there was a number of brevity posts.

The Brevity Only part starts here:

https://forum.unilang.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=56140&p=1126045#p1126040

I think that even the very verbose posts do contain some useful information, too. But you have been warned :D.

Also, this log is in "no more output without input" mode now.
                                   

Now this thread just might turn out to be one of my most beloved ones.

(Before replying, it could be a good decision to fully read this first post to know what exactly this is all about.)

The topic is conversation, or more specifically:

- reading between the lines
- avoiding misunderstandings and prematurely jumping into conclusions
- patterns of behavior

And it isn't really related to knowing how to say something in Spanish or French for example.
Instead, this is about how languages in general are used to convey certain meanings.

(Now why did I choose this subforum and not another one?
Because I am currently learning more about a language that I already know to some extent, but there still is room for improvement. And that one simply is called communication. Not kidding.)


By whom is this log being written?

By someone who is, at the time writing, half of a geek with some social abilities that he still needs to improve.

What about the contributions of other users?

This log isn't meant to be a monologue at all. On the contrary. While I am not actively asking (as in "please help me finding more mosaic stones that belong to the bigger picture of communication"), I do appreciate finding every single of those stones that really fit in. :wink:

What could be an example of something that wouldn't be helpful?

There also is something that would be against the purpose of this thread. An example would be to tell me that, "it simply is plainly wrong to drink tea with/without sugar".

I do have many points of view that agree with those of the vast majority and with what is called "the mainstream". And I do have others, too, that differ. I do not automatically call something right just because the majority says so, but I also don't automatically call it wrong just for the purpose of differing from them either.

So if somebody told me that "it simply is inappropriate to drink tea with/without sugar, period" after I would post something related to Tea Drinking Communication, this wouldn't be the most helpful approach.

On the other hand, if you told me that it is considered wrong by the majority of the inhabitants of a certain country, or even worldwide (in case there is something like "the majority's worldview view on drinking tea with/without sugar"), then this definitely can be one of those mosaic stones I am looking for.

The same also applies to other subjects, and even to things like, "what about starting a conversation about the pros and cons of black tea vs. green tea with someone you don't even know yet?". If you told me something like, "this simply is a no-no and there is nothing left to say", then this wouldn't really be helpful. But if you told me that this and that is the majority's view, then this, again, definitely can be one of those (many) mosaic stones I am looking for.

What exactly do I plan to post in this thread?

Two things:

- Observations of mine, or things I read, about these three topics (reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings and premature conclusions, patterns of behavior).

- Direct questions to you all reading it about these topics.

But again, I am not asking in the way of "please, can you help me?". This thread is meant to be something that is of mutual benefit.
Last edited by SomehowGeekyPolyglot on 2018-12-16, 20:07, edited 14 times in total.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 14:30

Some starting thoughts to get the stone rolling:

- I really do care about this (very big and broad-scope) topic.

- It could take some time, but it is worth it.

- One of the subtopics that interest me the most is how to increase the ability of reading between the lines, and of realizing that, at least for many people with a "standard" point of view, there could be something additional written between them that didn't come to my mind.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby księżycowy » 2018-11-05, 14:40

Speaking of social skills, it's a bit off putting to read "you people" in your posts. It would soften the feel of your messages to simply said "you". There are other solutions too.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 14:47

księżycowy wrote:Speaking of social skills, it's a bit off putting to read "you people" in your posts. It would soften the feel of your messages to simply said "you". There are other solutions too.


Eh, how come? :wink: Only started this thread a few minutes ago and there already is some input. Happy! :D

When I initially wrote "you people", I did so because I wanted to emphasize that it is meant for all of those reading it. I couldn't really do the same with "you" only I guess. But I changed it to "you all".

Because English isn't my first language, and because this whole thread is about learning new things, too, I'd also like to know what the (possible) negative connotation of "you people" exactly is.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby księżycowy » 2018-11-05, 14:50

It's a tone thing. It implies a separation between the speaker and the listeners, and implies a superiority on the part of the speaker. I'm not saying this was your intention, but that's how it sounds to this native speaker.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 14:52

księżycowy wrote:It's a tone thing. It implies a separation between the speaker and the listeners, and implies a superiority on the part of the speaker. I'm not saying this was your intention, but that's how it sounds to this native speaker.


First (new) mosaic stone.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 15:04

księżycowy wrote:It's a tone thing. It implies a separation between the speaker and the listeners, and implies a superiority on the part of the speaker. I'm not saying this was your intention, but that's how it sounds to this native speaker.

In the American South, this has racial overtones. My Maryland-born father cringed every time my Bronx-born stepmother said "you people" to the staff at their resort in Virginia. Like SGP's, her dialect lacks an explicit plural like y'all or you guys and she was just trying to express her gratitude to all the staff when speaking to a single representative. But what it sounded like to him (and quite likely some of the Black staff members as well) was "you Black people".

SomewhatGeeky, are you familiar with Gricean maxims? These represent an attempt to capture as succinctly as possible some of the factors at play in these situations.
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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby księżycowy » 2018-11-05, 15:17

When I want to stress the plurality of "you" I tend to opt for "everyone" or "anyone" depending on the context.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 15:31

linguoboy wrote:
księżycowy wrote:It's a tone thing. It implies a separation between the speaker and the listeners, and implies a superiority on the part of the speaker. I'm not saying this was your intention, but that's how it sounds to this native speaker.

In the American South, this has racial overtones. My Maryland-born father cringed every time my Bronx-born stepmother said "you people" to the staff at their resort in Virginia. Like SGP's, her dialect lacks an explicit plural like y'all or you guys and she was just trying to express her gratitude to all the staff when speaking to a single representative. But what it sounded like to him (and quite likely some of the Black staff members as well) was "you Black people".


So you are saying that her dialect, like mine, lacks an explicit plural like y'all. :wink:
Could you also tell me (and this is a fully On Topic Question here) what my exact dialect would be?

linguoboy wrote:SomewhatGeeky, are you familiar with Gricean maxims? These represent an attempt to capture as succinctly as possible some of the factors at play in these situations.


No, I am not familiar with these. But I just added them to my queue of what I plan to read.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 15:36

SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:Could you also tell me (and this is a fully On Topic Question here) what my exact dialect would be?

Non-native English?

From reading your posts I get the impression of a European aiming for colloquial General American. A couple of the interference errors (e.g. "after I would post something") are clues to the fact that your native variety is German, but only to someone familiar with the language.
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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 15:43

linguoboy wrote:
SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:Could you also tell me (and this is a fully On Topic Question here) what my exact dialect would be?

Non-native English?


Yes, exactly.

linguoboy wrote:From reading your posts I get the impression of a European aiming for colloquial General American. A couple of the interference errors (e.g. "after I would post something") are clues to the fact that your native variety is German, but only to someone familiar with the language.


Your estimation is quite close. But aiming for General Purpose International English instead. :wink:

In case you would also like to mention the Germanism that snuck in, you could do so, if you wanted.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 15:45

SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:In case you would also like to mention the Germanism that snuck in, you could do so, if you wanted.

I just did!

I that context we would use the simple past, not the conditional.
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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 15:48

linguoboy wrote:
SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:In case you would also like to mention the Germanism that snuck in, you could do so, if you wanted.

I just did!

I that context we would use the simple past, not the conditional.


And this even is interlinked with that whole communication and traditions matter.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 16:11

Some say that all that matters about communication is what the recipient understands ("Kommunikation ist das was ankommt" in German).

Others, including myself, would consider this to be too black/white-ish.

So this would be the time to ask my first question (out of possibly several others to come):

How can both the sender (of something being communicated) and the recipient come closer to each other?
What can the sender do to avoid a possible misunderstanding?
And what can the recipient do?

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 17:05

I would say that the single greatest cause of misunderstandings that I've observed is the sender assuming the recipient has access to the same context for their message that they do.

As Grice and others have observed, humans are masterful at drawing complex conclusions from very limited information. This can easily go awry, however, sometimes catastrophically so. I've witnessed (and participated in) entire conversations where one participant had a different idea of the subject of discussion (whether it be a person, a situation, a political topic, etc.) than the other. Because there's so much underspecification in each utterance, it's easy for the recipient to come up with an interpretation which fits their understood context even if it means rationalising away apparent inconsistencies.

My older brother, for instance, has a tendency to free associate during conversations. Sometimes it's very obvious that he's changing the subject and other times it's more ambiguous and the recipients struggle to find some way of connecting his latest contribution to the rest of the conversation when really the connexion is just a very personal association in his mind.

On the other hand, I have several friends who can be very literal-minded and struggle with indirectness. They don't necessarily make the inferences I anticipate they will, and this can be frustrating in its own way. One, for instance, never assumes he's being invited to attend an event unless you explicitly say so. So just saying, e.g. "It'd be nice to have some company" isn't enough for him to assume that it's his company you're speaking of.
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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 19:31

linguoboy wrote:I would say that the single greatest cause of misunderstandings that I've observed is the sender assuming the recipient has access to the same context for their message that they do.


It is about having access, yes, and also actually accessing that context too. Because sometimes the first happens without the second.

As Grice and others have observed, humans are masterful at drawing complex conclusions from very limited information.


Mosaic stone (not intending to say these words every time I find one of course... could be way to repetive. :wink:)

And... could you tell me why this thread from its very start created much more input than I expected?

This can easily go awry, however, sometimes catastrophically so. I've witnessed (and participated in) entire conversations where one participant had a different idea of the subject of discussion (whether it be a person, a situation, a political topic, etc.) than the other.


Not entirely sure if I got that one right. Is is about thinking one person that the discussion is about, e.g., Donald Trump while the other one was thinking of Barack Obama? Or did you mean something else?

Because there's so much underspecification in each utterance, it's easy for the recipient to come up with an interpretation which fits their understood context even if it means rationalising away apparent inconsistencies.


And it is impossible to simply come up with an All Purpose Solution for this problem.
But there are several approaches of at least reducing both the amount and the degree of interpretation.

My older brother, for instance, has a tendency to free associate during conversations. Sometimes it's very obvious that he's changing the subject and other times it's more ambiguous and the recipients struggle to find some way of connecting his latest contribution to the rest of the conversation when really the connexion is just a very personal association in his mind.


Any concrete (even made-up) example for this pattern of behavior?

On the other hand, I have several friends who can be very literal-minded and struggle with indirectness. They don't necessarily make the inferences I anticipate they will, and this can be frustrating in its own way. One, for instance, never assumes he's being invited to attend an event unless you explicitly say so. So just saying, e.g. "It'd be nice to have some company" isn't enough for him to assume that it's his company you're speaking of.


Now this is about the "modularity" of words, i.e. considering each word a module that first and foremost means nothing beyond its very own meaning on its own. (I don't disagree, because this is how languages work. The opposite would be something like the Humpty Dumpty Principle in case you ever heard about it. But it is of course of utmost importance to also look at the result of these word's combination).

So he would be thinking of "some" and "company", and the result is the very literal combination of these two words. For anything beyond it, he needs an additional clue. But how exactly can he get it if it doesn't become clear to him at first glance?

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-05, 19:46

Some additional thoughts:

- As for the sender, he can strive to choose his words accurately while also remembering what is commonly associated with them. So it wouldn't help that much if he told someone else that yesterday he spoke to a ... shark :roll:, even if it in reality was about a "real estate shark" (which is a term that some use instead of real estate agents).

- He also can keep in mind that not all the people have the same levels of understanding.

- And as for the recipient, he can keep in mind that not all the people have the same level of being able to carefully select the most precise wordings.

- Also, he can think of the fact that sometimes people have a very different background than, for example, his own one. So they sometimes would speak about things in a way that is difficult to understand at first.

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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 20:46

SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:And... could you tell me why this thread from its very start created much more input than I expected?

I doubt it.

SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:
This can easily go awry, however, sometimes catastrophically so. I've witnessed (and participated in) entire conversations where one participant had a different idea of the subject of discussion (whether it be a person, a situation, a political topic, etc.) than the other.

Not entirely sure if I got that one right. Is is about thinking one person that the discussion is about, e.g., Donald Trump while the other one was thinking of Barack Obama?

That's one example.

Last weekend there was a massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was all over the news here in Chicago and people were talking about it on social media, so when I messaged a friend living near Pittsburgh, I took for granted that he'd heard about it. He hadn't, though, since he'd only just gotten up. But he tried to find a referent for "that synagogue" and seized on the nearest thing to hand, which was a video I'd sent him previously. He figured the video (which he hadn't watched) must include footage of a synagogue. This made his responses seem a little odd to me, but then again, I had no reason to think that he hadn't heard about the shooting or to think that if he hadn't, he wouldn't just ask "What synagogue?" instead of assuming he knew.

SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:Now this is about the "modularity" of words, i.e. considering each word a module that first and foremost means nothing beyond its very own meaning on its own. (I don't disagree, because this is how languages work. The opposite would be something like the Humpty Dumpty Principle in case you ever heard about it. But it is of course of utmost importance to also look at the result of these word's combination).

Except that it's a basic principle of linguistic communication that you can't get the intended meaning by looking only at the component parts.

The Humpty Dumpty Principle is valid in a sense because all that's necessary for successful communication is for both the sender and the receiver to derive the same meaning from an utterance within a particular context. The actual form of that utterance is completely arbitrary. Intimate friends often work out a personal code whereby certain words and phrases come to take on complete different meanings to what they have in ordinary discourse.

Obviously it's convenient for more general communication to have widely-agreed-upon meanings for words and utterances, but these are all still subject to pragmatic interpretation. In English, for instance, we have the tool of sarcasm, which an American comedian once described as "like witchcraft to folks from rural Georgia" for its ability to make any phrase mean exactly the opposite of what it appears.
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Re: The language called communication: reading between the lines, avoiding misunderstandings, patterns of behavior

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-06, 4:24

linguoboy wrote:
SomehowGeekyPolyglot wrote:And... could you tell me why this thread from its very start created much more input than I expected?

I doubt it.


But I can try to explain it myself. It simply could be due to the fact that there are some people around (including yourself) who are more interested in this topic than the average "John Doe" would be.

linguoboy wrote:Last weekend there was a massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was all over the news here in Chicago and people were talking about it on social media, so when I messaged a friend living near Pittsburgh, I took for granted that he'd heard about it. He hadn't, though, since he'd only just gotten up. But he tried to find a referent for "that synagogue" and seized on the nearest thing to hand, which was a video I'd sent him previously. He figured the video (which he hadn't watched) must include footage of a synagogue. This made his responses seem a little odd to me, but then again, I had no reason to think that he hadn't heard about the shooting or to think that if he hadn't, he wouldn't just ask "What synagogue?" instead of assuming he knew.


This pattern is about taking certain things for granted, even if there would be a reason for not doing so. And something like this can happen rather often. For this thread's purpose I'd like to mention that the previous sentence isn't superfluous or anything, even if it reminds me of Pointing Out The Obvious. But sometimes very obvious things have to be mentioned in order to think about something beyond them.

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Pattern of behavior: Considering Things As What They Seem At First Glance

Postby SomehowGeekyPolyglot » 2018-11-06, 5:37

Pattern of behavior: Considering Things As What They Seem At First Glance

Many people simply take a short look at something, and then they consider things to be what they seem at first glance. This doesn't even include looking at the whole situation and the bigger picture.

Now it is very clear that often, things can simply seem to be something they aren't in reality.
This pattern isn't at all about that "it seems to be this and that" part.

But it is about the approach of the people who have this specific pattern of behavior. They are basically thinking, "it seems to be like this, so I simply say that this is the truth about this matter until the opposite has been proven".

An example would be what I one day read somewhere on the Internet. Someone mentioned that when others talk to him in a language that he doesn't understand, he assumes that it is an insult. But he made it very clear that by "assuming" he doesn't mean "knowing that there is a high probability (like 70% or 80%) that it really was an insult, while also acknowledging that possibly that person spoke in another language for one out of several other reasons".

(Side note: It is rather obvious that at least in very many situations, there wouldn't even be such a thing as a 70% probability of foreign words being an insult...)

Instead, he used the term "assuming" for "considering those foreign language words as an insult because they seem to be one at first glance, then saying that the truth about this matter simply is that the other person offended him until the opposite has been proven, and also acting on his "knowledge" of being insulted by insulting the other person himself or even spitting in his face etc.".

For those who consider this pattern (Considering Things As What They Seem At First Glance) as something that simply all humans would do: It surely is very wide-spread. But not everyone does it the same way. There are people, too, who would rather think, "It seems to be like this, so in several situations, I would do certain things because of the high possibility that it really is like this. Nevertheless, I am not at all considering my first impression as the truth about this matter until the opposite has been proven. This is because I never got any certainty about it in the first place. And without certainty, I cannot call it the truth".

I do know that these explanations are a bit verbosity-dense, in addition to also being somehow compact at the same time. If what I wrote didn't make sense to some of those who are reading it, they simply can tell me so that I would rephrase it or explain it some more. As I said, I do not intend this log to be a monologue. And even if it was one, it would still be very important to me that everything can be understood by all of you.

Any "right or wrong" discussion on whether it is a good thing to have this or that pattern of behavior would be entirely outside the scope of this log. I am writing posts like this one for the purpose of continuing to learn and also review the language called communication.

Questions:
What are the reasons and motivations of those who have this pattern of behavior, i.e. Considering Things As What They Seem At First Glance? What are their reasons for considering them to be what they seem at first glance, rather than acknowledging that even if they got a certain impression, there are many things they cannot be sure about until taking a closer look at them?

What are their reasons for considering their first impression as "the truth until the opposite has been proven" and also acting on what they call "certainty", as in the case of someone who would be "certain that he has been insulted until the opposite has been proven" and then insult the other person himself or even spit into his face, rather than acknowledging that even if there is a high probability and he possibly needs to do some actions because of it, this still isn't the same as being certain? (Just in case anybody would get me wrong right now: I neither like the idea of insulting someone back even if he himself said something that certainly was an insult, nor the idea of spitting... :) :ohwell: ).

And if you have anything to say about what previously has been mentioned on this log, you could do so, too. Whenever I post something new, I do it for the purpose of continuing. But that doesn't mean at all that you cannot refer to previous posts.


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