The Ugly Side of Communication

ugly faceI am mainly concerned with good communication, as in clear direct say-what-you-mean-and-mean-what-you-say communication.  But we all know that there’s a bad side to most things, including communication.  Bad communication comes in several forms.  One form of bad communication is unclear, unintentionally vague and therefore misleading communication.  Another form of bad communication is purposefully misleading, manipulative, intentionally divisive – this form is bad in the truest sense of the word. This latter bad communication is today’s focus.

Two articles in the recent news highlights this type of bad communication.  The Chuck Hagel nomination for Secretary of Defense by Obama is one such example. While Obama says, “My number one criteria in making [this] decision was simple – who is going to do the best job in securing America.” But that’s not the real communication.  The truthful communication is that he is picking the nominee most likely to align with him in his agenda to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and beyond.  While this is not in itself a bad thing, what is unfortunate is that he cannot state his real reason overtly, and so must disguise it under the bad communication of “the best job in securing America”.  The standard rhetoric tries to generically appeal but is so tired that no one hears it anymore.  Whether you agree or disagree with Obama’s politics, everyone knows them for what they are.  And to stay alive (i.e. be successful) everyone in politics, not just Obama, has to say and do certain things on the surface with the real agenda just underneath the surface.  So it becomes ‘politics as usual’ – a very nasty strain of bad communication.

The second article of example turns my stomach. It is the James Holmes preliminary hearing as the prosecution tries to serve justice in the terrible Aurora shooting case.  This psychopath who calmly killed 12 innocent moviegoers and wounded 58 others remained unemotionally detached throughout the hearing. This was likely on the advice of his defense attorney, so a mental illness plea can be entered to get him deemed not guilty.  When you take that many innocent lives for whatever reason (a voice in your head told you to do it), you must pay the price for your actions.  This was far from mental illness – it was sanely premeditated.  He is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, yet a headlines grabbing attorney (c’mon, who would really want to defend this case?)  wants to try to find a loophole to circumvent justice being served.    Is it really worth giving up your soul simply to “win”?

Many attorneys, like most politicians, have strong communication skills. But when these strong skills are used for less than wholesome purposes – to push a personal political agenda or to free an individual who has wrought such devastation – it can be considered an abuse of those skills.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  Direct, clear, concise communication is usually desirable, but that needs to be qualified as desirable when working towards a valid purpose. When an industry such as politics or the legal system has evolved to use rhetoric skills for a “valid” but perhaps immoral purpose, one has to wonder about the terms of success in the society in which we currently live.

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