Speaking in Code

“I just can’t give any more, sorry.” But of course he can. He just doesn’t want to. By saying “can’t” instead of “won’t”, however, he appears powerless and thus absolves himself of responsibility; as a result, we don’t even consider the matter of blame.

“That’s not gonna happen.” Okay. So informed, we move on. But in most cases, the accurate, honest, statement would have been “I don’t think that’s gonna happen” or “I don’t want that to happen.” By presenting an opinion as fact, the speaker has diverted our attention from evidence and reasons. Why don’t you think that’s going to happen? Why don’t you want that to happen?

“We need to bring our product in line with contemporary standards.” The royal “we” effects a diffusion of responsibility, deflecting accountability from the individual who’s speaking. “Need” is a lie: we won’t die without it. But “need” is far more compelling than “want” – it’s harder to refuse. To “bring in line” suggests cooperation, rather than obedience. “Contemporary” sounds so much better than the “old” standards, and “standards” implies something that’s received official, i.e., expert, approval. Really, he’s just saying “I want you to do what I want – this.” And that would be much easier to say “No” to.

“Hey now, what kind of way is that to talk?” Code for “I don’t want to hear those words” – to which the person might simply respond, “So?” Instead, he or she feels chastised.

The manipulation is done so smoothly, it’s impressive. I have enough trouble getting clear about my true meaning, I couldn’t possibly engage in the simultaneous translation these people seem to do so effortlessly in order to cover their truth and manipulate us into assent, or at least out of dissent. They load their language without even thinking. How can they be so quick, so clever?

They’re not. They are doing it without even thinking. They’re not translating from A to B – they’re going right to B; they’re not even aware of A. I’ve been attributing far more consciousness than is warranted. It’s not that they’re thinking more (let alone, more quickly) than me. They’re thinking less. They’re not thinking at all about what they’re saying, about how they’re saying it. Consider that when I point out what I think they really mean, when I decode what they say in order to challenge or simply clarify, they insist I’m reading too much into a simple choice of words – I’m over-analyzing. Truth is, they’re not analyzing enough. Or at all.

But still – how is it they are so unconsciously manipulative? It just comes ‘naturally’. And that is far scarier than thinking they do it intentionally. All those manipulative phrases – these people are simply saying it the way they’ve been conditioned to say it, or, more accidentally, just the way they’ve heard others say it.

So it’s not that I’m a relative moron at strategic behaviour – it’s that somehow I missed out on that conditioning. Probably because I’m not a male. And I consciously rejected any parallel conditioning directed to females.

So here I am. Either taking what people say at face value and being manipulated left, right, and centre, or trying to decode everything. Of course, by the time I decode what they’ve said, B into A, they’ve said something else. And when I respond directly to A, they think I’ve gone off-topic. So I have to explain that their B is a translation of A. But they don’t want to hear it. I suppose I could just respond to their B with a B of my own – but to do that, I have to decode their B into A, figure out my response to it, then encode my A into a B. And by the time I’ve done that, they’ve left. Which is just as well.



Skip to comment form

    • Abby on September 25, 2012 at 2:33 am
    • Reply

    Here from IBTP. Love it.

    • Embee on October 31, 2012 at 10:23 am
    • Reply

    Love this. Also a Blamer. And your post on sports? Hilarious! Especially your depiction of men’s floor routines.

    • ptittle on November 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm
    • Reply

    Hey, Abby and Embee, good to have you here! Did you see my lengthy post at Twisty’s new blog about setting up another home for the blametariat? I’ve received no responses yet, so I’m assuming there’s no interest…or that commenters typically don’t, perhaps at least on that post, read the previous comments…

    In any case, feel free to browse my ‘gender issues’ archives here – love to discuss!

    • lyra112 on August 9, 2013 at 2:41 pm
    • Reply

    this is really interesting– wonder how this applies to the realm of asking for and giving sexual consent

    • ptittle on August 10, 2013 at 10:42 pm
    • Reply

    oh wow, that’s an interesting question. please work up an analysis and post it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.