The problem with causes and language of uncertainty

This has nothing to do with my previous blog post, I’ve cooled down significantly (I hope).

As a sort of follow up to my question about a week ago on the usage of different words like “fault”, “blame” and “responsibility” and the differing effects they communicate, I think I’ll discuss a little here (but wth no one comments, its just like I’m talking to myself).

I’ve been reading some blog posts here and there, and a few bits have caught my eye (no wonder my eyes were itchy a few days ago). What intrigues me is the language which people use to bring their point across, although this has been disturbing me from years ago.

An example (sorry if I copy from your blog but don’t think you’ll read this anyway): “i think i have not blogged for quite some time, mainly bcoz my brother keeps on teasing me. He blabs everything to my parents. I got scolded by my mom after my bro “let loose” that i had a fight with a basketballer.”

Technically speaking I think this is a rather extreme example, but it classically elucidates how the causal system that we nowadays live in (i.e. the fact that we keep trying to find reasons for everything that happens) has created some conflict. Not saying that it is wrong (naturally we’d want to find reasons for everything), rather it is the tone that comes across that matters. In the above example, I’ve picked out a two portions – “mainly bcoz my brother …” and “got scolded by my mom after my bro …”. (Notice that even though this is rather extreme, there are many other people like that in perhaps more subtle manners)

The unsettling part about these statements is that it places responsibility, or rather blame, on a party for unwanted occurrences. Exactly like how you (perhaps) blame the fact that you didn’t study for your poor performances in tests, just that this responsibility is now transposed onto a human being. And this can be rather hurtful to the being at times. Often I have witnessed (sometimes even been involved in) some petty disputes that occur not because there is really something unduly problematic, but because of the fault being placed on someone who obviously does not fully deserve it. Of course, not only talking about interpersonal conflicts where blame should be shared, even when the blame isn’t, this happens. This harms the individuals’ emotions and destroys relationships unnecessarily.

What’s really wrong with this is not how we naturally try to absolve blame from ourselves (often referred to as “human nature”, I don’t like the usage of the term but won’t talk about it in this post). As we are all subjected to societal influences, this habit is within almost every single one of us, sadly, and thus we can’t blame this characteristic. The potentially hurting part is how someone communicates the feeling. The question I asked in the previous post actually has some linkage to what I’m expounding on today, though it isn’t the perfect example. What is the language that you utilise to communicate with others, especially when it goes on to sensitive issues where feelings might be compromised? I’ve seen many people in my lifetime using very direct manners of speaking (and perhaps blaming). I guess to the individual who understands the undertones instead of apparent meanings that would probably be a poignant wake-up call, but for the individual who doesn’t, something terribly wrong might happen to the affected party.

In English essays (and presentations), we’re taught to be direct. There’s little room for uncertainty; we rarely use “perhaps”, “maybe”, “in a sense”, “I guess” etc. if we really want to put our point forth to the audience. I’ve never agreed with this actually but I guess when you do want to “argue”, you’ve got to be certain. However, when the whole issue of feelings come into play, these “uncertain” terms are the essentials. Comparing the effect of these two statements: “It’s your fault that you didn’t prepare well” to “Perhaps one reason for this might be the lack of preparation”, the latter is undoubtedly more uncertain, but appears less direct and more diplomatic. Looking deeper into it, it is the relative uncertainty that the latter statement carries that makes the person who says it appear much friendlier and amiable, i.e. “perhaps” and “might” instead of the more pinpointing term “is”. Perhaps it is also the lack of a direct personal fault, i.e. “the lack of preparation” instead of “you didn’t prepare” that brings about a more tactful meaning across.

Consider such a manner of speaking, and maybe you’ll be understood better.

One for all, All for one, Venturez’ 06

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