What Wasn't Said

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"the genius of this unrehearsed conversational language lies in its expressiveness; it's capacity to voice immediate sensations and impressions and feelings as between individuals"
pg. 64 Havelock The Muse Learns to Write

Oh, how so many people say what is directly on their minds. This 'unrehearsed' language can also get you into trouble. Often, rash feelings of anger, hurt, and resentment cause people to speak without really thinking. We have all probably cursed at our parents, or said something about someone when they were still in earshot. I'm sure all of us have been in a situation where a professor has said something that you considered overly critical or flat-out ridiculous. You probably wanted to get up and smack the person or storm out. I know for me personally, there were times in HS when I wanted to storm into the musical director's office and demand to know why I didn't get cast or to tell him where he could go. Something stopped me: common sense. Because I am a writer, I think about what I want to say, even in everyday life.

Writing stops us from making rash decisions that often turn out badly. Writing causes us to think about the words we communicate. And proof-reading (which we all do to research papers and blogs) allows you to think once more about what you want to say.

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2 Comments

ChrisU said:

For a long time, I had trouble coming to terms with the fact that I am a naturally quiet person. But at some point, people started pointing out that when I do speak, they can usually tell that I've carefully considered my words before I speak them. This was a great relief to me--it's nice to know that the things I say are appreciated by others even if it takes time for me to work up to saying them.

Of course, I sometimes fall into the trap you mention and say things I don't mean--everyone does. Thus, it's important to be ready and willing to apologize if we do say something inconsiderate.

You're right, Danni, that oral communication can be volatile and risky. But here's some food for thought... even after I had written my dissertation (300 pages, several full revisions stretching out over several years), and had my draft approved, I still had to spend an hour being grilled by my professors. And SHU's English major includes a final oral presentation -- you give a prepared speech for 10 or 15 minutes, and then your adviser and another faculty member will ask you specific questions.

I've never seen a student fail to graduate because of their oral performance, but I have served on committees where the student has had to re-do the oral presentation because he or she was too defensive, too willing to change position in the face of criticism, or completely incoherent. So it's the very fact that oral communication is so close to the surface, so connected to the emotions, that makes the oral exam such a valuable way of evaluating just how well a student has internalized the critical thinking processes that a college degree is supposed to impart.

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