Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Privileged, technically


I read recently of verbal communication that:
- 7% is based on content
- 38% is based on tone of voice
- 55% is based on nonverbal signals
Considering my linguistic abilities (and I include my native tongue in this), I take great comfort in the fact that the majority of verbal communication is, in fact, non-verbal.

I never quite know if it is due to my deficiencies, their lack of concentration or ignorance of basic vocabulary or a combination of all of the above, but conversations of late have taken on a surreal quality. Sometimes I will say a word or phrase and the unfortunate recipient will smile or nod knowingly, having no idea whether I have just commented on the weather, insulted his mother or - worse still - attempted to impart some word of “wisdom”. It reminds me of conversations in Italy as a child - not knowing the Italian word, I’d add an a, o or i to the equivalent English word and express it with an air of confidence and the ubiquitous wave of the hands. Sometimes working, often backfiring hilariously. 

Three of the four brothers were called together to discuss their recent behaviour in school. Delinquent activities were - to the delight (and relief) of their exasperated teachers - on the decrease, but grades were in free-fall. Zero-sum schooling.

The discipline we had put in place for general misbehaviour in school was a complete withdrawal of privileges in the rescue house (no films, no video games etc) until behaviour improved. It was a serious discipline for a serious situation that - we explained - was not to be tolerated. In order to keep our word, privileges had to be restored, therefore. I explained that I was reluctant to do this, however, because of the obvious trade-off that had occurred. I think I used the word technically about three times during the thirty minute discussion - as if being lawyerly about it all would make the slightest bit of difference. 

A twelve year old should, I think, be familiar with the word technically, but maybe not a ten year old. At the end, as the three were getting up to leave, R looked up at me and rather sheepishly said:
“So we do have our privileges back?”
E stopped in his tracks, swung his head around and beat me to the response.
“Technically.”
BONUS Bacon:


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