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Conversational Dilemmas and Human Communication (Essay Sample)


the task was to write an essay on an aspect of human communication. an audio transcript had been provided, from which a conversational dilemma was to be analyzed. the sample aims to show the writer's analytical skills


Conversational Dilemmas
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Human communication can get complicated. Communicators are driven by intentions, and to pass their message across, they have to create meaning. Depending on how the targeted audience perceives the intentions and the meaning, it is possible to talk of success in communication or communication breakdown altogether. Sometimes our intentions differ from the ultimate meaning perceived by the audience. This creates a situation where an individual finds themselves at pains to explain themselves; what their intentions were and the actual meaning of what they said or wrote. When the audience cannot buy one's explanations, apologizing and offering further explanations becomes inevitable. At times, a bit of ambiguity can help in such situations. Although not on a daily basis, it is the norm for one to get in a conversational dilemma at one point or another. When one is unable to extricate themselves from it, the situation can get embarrassing. In the following discussion, an audio transcript where a conversational dilemma has taken place will be analyzed.
To understand the concept of a conversational dilemma, consider the audio transcript where a conversational dilemma is experienced. A guy B finds a lady friend sulking. Upon inquiring the cause of the sulk, B is informed by the lady that he had told her she was stupid. B tries to justify himself by claiming that he did not mean whatever he had said and that he was suffering from anger at the time of making the said remarks. The lady insists that B always thought she was stupid. B however, repeats his justification that he was angry. The lady reminds B that he had always said that people express their true thoughts during the moment when they are angry. At this juncture, B is lost for words. He is limited in terms of options as his earlier opinions have left him in a bind. He is in a conversational dilemma. Denying he was angry after what the lady has just told him would be contradicting himself. Claiming that the lady misunderstood him earlier would be like an attack; he would be claiming that she is this stupid person who does not even understand what it means to be angry. Conversational dilemmas may happen to anyone but the challenge as demonstrated in the audio transcript, is usually how to extricate oneself from them. However, there are ways in which the person in the audio transcript could have extricated themselves.
Korobov (2005) observes that there are two ways in which one can free themselves from a conversational dilemma: creating a stage act or equivocating. In the case presented, creating a stage act would have resulted in negative consequences especially considering these are people who look as if they are rather intimate. One could be polite and say the reality the way it is and in the process risk offending the feelings of the other persons, or they could lie and in the preocess go against their established personal values while simultaneously risking detection. A sure way of freeing oneself from a conversational dilemma without having negative consequences is through equivocation.
By defintion, one is said to be engaged in equivocation whenever they express what they mean without necessarily meaning what they say (Sohn & Leckenby, 2007). Simply put, equivocation is like choosing to be deliberately ambigous with regard to one's communication intentions. In this case, the person listening must choose the meaning of what is being said from several meanings possible. Normally, equivocal messages will have phrases or words that have double meaning. This kind of conversation is good for a person caught in a conversational dilemma as it is neither deceptive nor uncooperative (Gibbs, 1999). Equivocation is a great way of saving face. For example, if one receives a gift they think is awful but do not want to offend the person proffering the gift, equivocation would be a great way to respond in case they are asked of their opinion about the gift. In this case one may tell the person offering the gift they are thoughtful instead of lying to them or telling them that they did not like the gift.
The case presented is one of a conversational dilema. It is easy for one to confuse between a conversational dilemma and communication dilemma. The former may be viewed as an example of the latter but the vice versa is not necessarily true. By definition, a communication dilemma may be viewed as referring to a situation whereby individually rational decisions result in a collectively irrational outcomes in a group communication setting (Sense, 2005). The concept of communication dilemma may be viewed from two key perspectives: normative and utilitirian. A normative view emphasizes on the role of group norms and values in social identification and tends to characterize any under-contribution as being more of a motivational problem as opposed to a rationality concept. The utilitarian view on the other hand is rooted on social dilemma research and tends to view dilemma as being tension that is developed between collective interests and “rational” individuals (Sohn & Leckenby, 2007).
Communication dilemmas may be viewed as resulting from the social exchange taking place. Two basic forms of social exchange recognized in communication literature are restricted and generalized exchange. The former refers to a form of reciprocal exhange taking place between two individuals or two individual entities. An ex...
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