ILO: Express the spiritual principle of ethical communication.
After learning more about the plain language movement, collaboration in writing, business genres, and ethics in professional communication, relate this to your walk as a Christian. How does business communication relate to your faith? In what ways does that help or hinder you in the marketplace? What challenges have you faced in terms of communication ethics, and how will you conduct yourself as a workplace communicator?
14.6: Speaking Ethically and Avoiding Fallacies
1. Demonstrate the importance of ethics as part of the persuasion process.
2. Identify and provide examples of eight common fallacies in persuasive speaking.
What comes to mind when you think of speaking to persuade? Perhaps the idea of persuasion may bring to mind propaganda and issues of manipulation, deception, intentional bias, bribery, and even coercion. Each element relates to persuasion, but in distinct ways. In a democratic society, we would hope that our Bill of Rights is intact and validated, and that we would support the exercise of freedom to discuss, consider and debate issues when considering change. We can recognize that each of these elements in some ways has a negative connotation associated with it. Why do you think that deceiving your audience, bribing a judge, or coercing people to do something against their wishes is wrong? These tactics violate our sense of fairness, freedom, and ethics.
Manipulation involves the management of facts, ideas or points of view to play upon inherent insecurities or emotional appeals to oneâ€™s own advantage. Your audience expects you to treat them with respect, and deliberately manipulating them by means of fear, guilt, duty, or a relationship is unethical. In the same way, deception involves the use of lies, partial truths, or the omission of relevant information to deceive your audience. No one likes to be lied to, or made to believe something that is not true. Deception can involve intentional bias, or the selection of information to support your position while framing negatively any information that might challenge your belief.
Bribery involves the giving of something in return for an expected favor, consideration, or privilege. It circumvents the normal protocol for personal gain, and again is a strategy that misleads your audience. Coercion is the use of power to compel action. You make someone do something they would not choose to do freely. You might threaten punishment, and people may go along with you while the â€œstickâ€ is present, but once the threat is removed, they will revert to their previous position, often with new antagonism toward the person or agency that coerced them. While you may raise the issue that the ends justify the means, and you are â€œdoing it for the audienceâ€™s own good,â€ recognize the unethical nature of coercion.
As Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his advocacy of nonviolent resistance, two wrongs do not make a right. They are just two wrongs and violate the ethics that contribute to community and healthy relationships. Each issue certainly relates to persuasion, but you as the speaker should be aware of each in order to present an ethical persuasive speech. Learn to recognize when others try to use these tactics on you, and know that your audience will be watching to see if you try any of these strategies on them.
Eleven Points for Speaking Ethically
In his book Ethics in Human Communication,Johannesen, R. (1996). Ethics in human communication (4th ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. Richard Johannesen offers eleven points to consider when speaking to persuade. His main points reiterate many of the points across this chapter and should be kept in mind as you prepare, and present, your persuasive message.
Â· use false, fabricated, misrepresented, distorted or irrelevant evidence to support arguments or claims.
Â· intentionally use unsupported, misleading, or illogical reasoning.
Â· represent yourself as informed or an â€œexpertâ€ on a subject when you are not.
Â· use irrelevant appeals to divert attention from the issue at hand.
Â· ask your audience to link your idea or proposal to emotion-laden values, motives, or goals to which it is actually not related.
Â· deceive your audience by concealing your real purpose, by concealing self-interest, by concealing the group you represent, or by concealing your position as an advocate of a viewpoint.
Â· distort, hide, or misrepresent the number, scope, intensity, or undesirable features of consequences or effects.
Â· use â€œemotional appealsâ€ that lack a supporting basis of evidence or reasoning.
Â· oversimplify complex, gradation-laden situations into simplistic, two-valued, either-or, polar views or choices.
Â· pretend certainty where tentativeness and degrees of probability would be more accurate.
Â· advocate something which you yourself do not believe in.
Aristotle said the mark of a good person, well spoken was a clear command of the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion. He discussed the idea of perceiving the many points of view related to a topic, and their thoughtful consideration. While itâ€™s important to be able to perceive the complexity of a case, you are not asked to be a lawyer defending a client.
In your speech to persuade, consider honesty and integrity as you assemble your arguments. Your audience will appreciate your thoughtful consideration of more than one view, your understanding of the complexity, and you will build your ethos, or credibility, as you present your document. Be careful not to stretch the facts, or assemble them only to prove yourself, and instead prove the argument on its own merits. Deception, coercion, intentional bias, manipulation and bribery should have no place in your speech to persuade.
Fallacies are another way of saying false logic. These rhetorical tricks deceive your audience with their style, drama, or pattern, but add little to your speech in terms of substance and can actually detract from your effectiveness. There are several techniques or â€œtricksâ€ that allow the speaker to rely on style without offering substantive argument, to obscure the central message, or twist the facts to their own gain. Here we will examine the eight classical fallacies. You may note that some of them relate to the ethical cautions listed earlier in this section. Eight common fallacies are presented in Table 14.5 â€œFallaciesâ€ . Learn to recognize these fallacies so they canâ€™t be used against you, and so that you can avoid using them with your audience.
Table 14.5 Fallacies
1. Red Herring
Any diversion intended to distract attention from the main issue, particularly by relating the issue to a common fear.
Itâ€™s not just about the death penalty; itâ€™s about the victims and their rights. You wouldnâ€™t want to be a victim, but if you were, youâ€™d want justice.
2. Straw Man
A weak argument set up to be easily refuted, distracting attention from stronger arguments
What if we released criminals who commit murder after just a few years of rehabilitation? Think of how unsafe our streets would be then!
3. Begging the Question
Claiming the truth of the very matter in question, as if it were already an obvious conclusion.
We know that they will be released and unleashed on society to repeat their crimes again and again.
4. Circular Argument
The proposition is used to prove itself. Assumes the very thing it aims to prove. Related to begging the question.
Once a killer, always a killer.
5. Ad Populum
Appeals to a common belief of some people, often prejudicial, and states everyone holds this belief. Also called the Bandwagon Fallacy, as people â€œjump on the bandwagonâ€ of a perceived popular view.
Most people would prefer to get rid of a few â€œbad applesâ€ and keep our streets safe.
6. Ad Hominem
â€œArgument against the manâ€ instead of against his message. Stating that someoneâ€™s argument is wrong solely because of something about the person rather than about the argument itself.
Our representative is a drunk and philanderer. How can we trust him on the issues of safety and family?
7. Non Sequitur
â€œIt does not follow.â€ The conclusion does not follow from the premises. They are not related.
Since the liberal antiwar demonstrations of the 1960s, weâ€™ve seen an increase in convicts who got let off death row.
8. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
â€œAfter this, therefore because of this,â€ also called a coincidental correlation. It tries to establish a cause-and-effect relationship where only a correlation exists.
Violent death rates went down once they started publicizing executions.
Avoid false logic and make a strong case or argument for your proposition. Finally, here is a five-step motivational checklist to keep in mind as you bring it all together:
1. Get their attention
2. Identify the need
3. Satisfy the need
4. Present a vision or solution
5. Take action
This simple organizational pattern can help you focus on the basic elements of a persuasive message when time is short and your performance is critical.
Speaking to persuade should not involve manipulation, coercion, false logic, or other unethical techniques.
1. Can persuasion be ethical? Why or why not? Discuss your opinion with a classmate.
2. Select a persuasive article or video from a Web site that you feel uses unethical techniques to persuade the audience. What techniques are being used? What makes them unethical? Discuss your findings with your classmates.
3. Find an example of a particularly effective scene where a character in your favorite television program is persuaded to believe or do something. Write a two- to three-paragraph description of the scene and why it was effective. Share and compare with classmates.
4. Find an example of a particularly ineffective scene where a character in your favorite television program is not persuaded to believe or do something. Write a two- to three-paragraph description of the scene and why it was ineffective. Share and compare with classmates.
5. Find an example of a fallacy in an advertisement and share it with the class.
6. Find an example of an effective argument in an advertisement and share it with the class.
7. Write a two- to three-paragraph description of a persuasive message that caused you to believe or do something. Share and compare your description with classmates.
Chapter 1.4: Your Responsibilities as a Communicator
1. Discuss and provide several examples of each of the two main responsibilities of a business communicator.
Whenever you speak or write in a business environment, you have certain responsibilities to your audience, your employer, and your profession. Your audience comes to you with an inherent set of expectations that you will fulfill these responsibilities. The specific expectations may change given the context or environment, but two central ideas will remain: be prepared, and be ethical.
Communicator Is Prepared
As the business communicatorâ€™s first responsibility, preparation includes several facets which we will examine: organization, clarity, and being concise and punctual.
Being prepared means that you have selected a topic appropriate to your audience, gathered enough information to cover the topic well, put your information into a logical sequence, and considered how best to present it. If your communication is a written one, you have written an outline and at least one rough draft, read it over to improve your writing and correct errors, and sought feedback where appropriate. If your communication is oral, you have practiced several times before your actual performance.
The Prepared Communicator Is Organized
Part of being prepared is being organized. Aristotle called this logos, or logic, and it involves the steps or points that lead your communication to a conclusion. Once youâ€™ve invested time in researching your topic, you will want to narrow your focus to a few key points and consider how youâ€™ll present them. On any given topic there is a wealth of information; your job is to narrow that content down to a manageable level, serving the role of gatekeeper by selecting some information and â€œde-selecting,â€ or choosing to not include other points or ideas.
You also need to consider how to link your main points together for your audience. Use transitions to provide signposts or cues for your audience to follow along. â€œNow that weâ€™ve examined X, letâ€™s consider Yâ€ is a transitional statement that provides a cue that you are moving from topic to topic. Your listeners or readers will appreciate your being well organized so that they can follow your message from point to point.
The Prepared Communicator Is Clear
You have probably had the unhappy experience of reading or listening to a communication that was vague and wandering. Part of being prepared is being clear. If your message is unclear, the audience will lose interest and tune you out, bringing an end to effective communication.
Interestingly, clarity begins with intrapersonal communication: you need to have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to say before you can say it clearly to someone else. At the interpersonal level, clarity involves considering your audience, as you will want to choose words and phrases they understand and avoid jargon or slang that may be unfamiliar to them.
Clarity also involves presentation. A brilliant message scrawled in illegible handwriting, or in pale gray type on gray paper, will not be clear. When it comes to oral communication, if you mumble your words, speak too quickly or use a monotonous tone of voice, or stumble over certain words or phrases, the clarity of your presentation will suffer.
Technology also plays a part; if you are using a microphone or conducting a teleconference, clarity will depend on this equipment functioning properlyâ€”which brings us back to the importance of preparation. In this case, in addition to preparing your speech, you need to prepare by testing the equipment ahead of time.
The Prepared Communicator Is Concise and Punctual
Concise means brief and to the point. In most business communications you are expected to â€œget down to businessâ€ right away. Being prepared includes being able to state your points clearly and support them with clear evidence in a relatively straightforward, linear way.
It may be tempting to show how much you know by incorporating additional information into your document or speech, but in so doing you run the risk of boring, confusing, or overloading your audience. Talking in circles or indulging in tangents, where you get off topic or go too deep, can hinder an audienceâ€™s ability to grasp your message. Be to the point and concise in your choice of words, organization, and even visual aids.
Being concise also involves being sensitive to time constraints. How many times have you listened to a speaker say â€œin conclusionâ€ only to continue speaking for what seems like forever? How many meetings and conference calls have you attended that got started late or ran beyond the planned ending time? The solution, of course, is to be prepared to be punctual. If you are asked to give a five-minute presentation at a meeting, your coworkers will not appreciate your taking fifteen minutes, any more than your supervisor would appreciate your submitting a fifteen-page report when you were asked to write five pages. For oral presentations, time yourself when you rehearse and make sure you can deliver your message within the allotted number of minutes.
There is one possible exception to this principle. Many non-Western cultures prefer a less direct approach, where business communication often begins with social or general comments that a U.S. audience might consider unnecessary. Some cultures also have a less strict interpretation of time schedules and punctuality. While it is important to recognize that different cultures have different expectations, the general rule holds true that good business communication does not waste words or time.
Communicator Is Ethical
The business communicatorâ€™s second fundamental responsibility is to be ethical. Ethics refers to a set of principles or rules for correct conduct. It echoes what Aristotle called ethos, the communicatorâ€™s good character and reputation for doing what is right. Communicating ethically involves being egalitarian, respectful, and trustworthyâ€”overall, practicing the â€œgolden ruleâ€ of treating your audience the way you would want to be treated.
Communication can move communities, influence cultures, and change history. It can motivate people to take stand, consider an argument, or purchase a product. The degree to which you consider both the common good and fundamental principles you hold to be true when crafting your message directly relates to how your message will affect others.
The Ethical Communicator Is Egalitarian
The word â€œegalitarianâ€ comes from the root â€œequal.â€ To be egalitarian is to believe in basic equality: that all people should share equally in the benefits and burdens of a society. It means that everyone is entitled to the same respect, expectations, access to information, and rewards of participation in a group.
To communicate in an egalitarian manner, speak and write in a way that is comprehensible and relevant to all your listeners or readers, not just those who are â€œlike youâ€ in terms of age, gender, race or ethnicity, or other characteristics.
In business, you will often communicate to people with certain professional qualifications. For example, you may draft a memo addressed to all the nurses in a certain hospital, or give a speech to all the adjusters in a certain branch of an insurance company. Being egalitarian does not mean you have to avoid professional terminology that is understood by nurses or insurance adjusters. But it does mean that your hospital letter should be worded for all the hospitalâ€™s nursesâ€”not just female nurses, not just nurses working directly with patients, not just nurses under age fifty-five. An egalitarian communicator seeks to unify the audience by using ideas and language that are appropriate for all the messageâ€™s readers or listeners.
The Ethical Communicator Is Respectful
People are influenced by emotions as well as logic. Aristotle named pathos, or passion, enthusiasm and energy, as the third of his three important parts of communicating after logos and ethos.
Most of us have probably seen an audience manipulated by a â€œcult of personality,â€ believing whatever the speaker said simply because of how dramatically he or she delivered a speech; by being manipulative, the speaker fails to respect the audience. We may have also seen people hurt by sarcasm, insults, and other disrespectful forms of communication.
This does not mean that passion and enthusiasm are out of place in business communication. Indeed, they are very important. You can hardly expect your audience to care about your message if you donâ€™t show that you care about it yourself. If your topic is worth writing or speaking about, make an effort to show your audience why it is worthwhile by speaking enthusiastically or using a dynamic writing style. Doing so, in fact, shows respect for their time and their intelligence.
However, the ethical communicator will be passionate and enthusiastic without being disrespectful. Losing oneâ€™s temper and being abusive are generally regarded as showing a lack of professionalism (and could even involve legal consequences for you or your employer). When you disagree strongly with a coworker, feel deeply annoyed with a difficult customer, or find serious fault with a competitorâ€™s product, it is important to express such sentiments respectfully. For example, instead of telling a customer, â€œIâ€™ve had it with your complaints!â€ a respectful business communicator might say, â€œIâ€™m having trouble seeing how I can fix this situation. Would you explain to me what you want to see happen?â€
The Ethical Communicator Is Trustworthy
Trust is a key component in communication, and this is especially true in business. As a consumer, would you choose to buy merchandise from a company you did not trust? If you were an employer, would you hire someone you did not trust?
Your goal as a communicator is to build a healthy relationship with your audience, and to do that you must show them why they can trust you and why the information you are about to give them is believable. One way to do this is to begin your message by providing some information about your qualifications and background, your interest in the topic, or your reasons for communicating at this particular time.
Your audience will expect that what you say is the truth as you understand it. This means that you have not intentionally omitted, deleted, or taken information out of context simply to prove your points. They will listen to what you say and how you say it, but also to what you donâ€™t say or do. You may consider more than one perspective on your topic, and then select the perspective you perceive to be correct, giving concrete reasons why you came to this conclusion. People in the audience may have considered or believe in some of the perspectives you consider, and your attention to them will indicate you have done your homework.
Being worthy of trust is something you earn with an audience. Many wise people have observed that trust is hard to build but easy to lose. A communicator may not know something and still be trustworthy, but itâ€™s a violation of trust to pretend you know something when you donâ€™t. Communicate what you know, and if you donâ€™t know something, research it before you speak or write. If you are asked a question to which you donâ€™t know the answer, say â€œI donâ€™t know the answer but I will research it and get back to youâ€ (and then make sure you follow through later). This will go over much better with the audience than trying to cover by stumbling through an answer or portraying yourself as knowledgeable on an issue that you are not.
The â€œGolden Ruleâ€
When in doubt, remember the â€œgolden rule,â€ which says to treat others the way you would like to be treated. In all its many forms, the golden rule incorporates human kindness, cooperation, and reciprocity across cultures, languages, backgrounds and interests. Regardless of where you travel, who you communicate with, or what your audience is like, remember how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your communication, and act accordingly.
As a communicator, you are responsible for being prepared and being ethical. Being prepared includes being organized, clear, concise, and punctual. Being ethical includes being egalitarian, respectful, and trustworthy and overall, practicing the â€œgolden rule.â€
1. Recall one time you felt offended or insulted in a conversation. What contributed to your perception? Please share your comments with classmates.
2. When someone lost your trust, were they able earn it back? Please share your comments with classmates?
3. Does the communicator have a responsibility to the audience? Does the audience have a responsibility to the speaker? Why or why not? Please share your comments with classmates.
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