How to Talk Right

Is there really a right way of talking? Can we actually know how to listen and respond accurately? Is there a hope our conversations won’t end up frustratingly empty, banal, or worse yet, useless?

Paul Grice proposed four maxims by which we can gauge conversations. Before you frown or get cynical, give his maxims a try.

1. Quality – Be truthful.

  • Do not say what you believe to be false
  • Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

2. Quantity

  • Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).
  • Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

3. Relation – Be relevant.

4. Manner – Be Clear

  • Avoid obscurity of expression.
  • Avoid ambiguity.
  • Be brief.
  • Be orderly.

How do you find his suggestions? Too stiff? Impractical? Or safe? I don’t think he has discussed everything in detail such as finding and sharing common interests,initiating topics, turn-taking, and changing the subject of talk. Yet keeping his tips in mind while we are talking won’t hurt.

1 Comment

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