Monday, January 26, 2009
In Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Outliers, there is a fascinating profile of cultural effects on plane crashes. He shows how pilots from cultures with a high "Power Distance Index" have a much greater risk of being involved in a crash. These people demonstrate a severe deference to authority and have a hard time effectively communicated even important information to their social superiors. They tend to create confusion by overly mitigating their speech.
You might notice your own tendency to not only soften your tone when you speak to your boss or a police officer, but you might also beat around the bush and downplay certain facts. Perhaps you'll use phrases like "It's no big deal, but..." or "If it's not to much trouble,..."
I wouldn't advocate disregarding respect for authority. It's important to recognize your place and act accordingly, but it's also important to be clear and direct. Furthermore, when dealing with children or underlings, it's important to listen and encourage directness. Both parties will appreciate it. Assert yourself properly while waiting your turn, applying proper manners and using proper language. But above all, say what you mean and make your primary focus communication. If you have something to get a across, don't mince words.
To further expand on Franklin's virtue of silence. Not only should you avoid trifling conversation, but mitigated speech in serious conversation as well.