The Role of Conflict LO9884
Tue, 10 Sep 1996 21:05:20 -0400

Replying to LO9779 --

> From: Benjamin Compton <>
> Date: Thu, 05 Sep 1996 22:00:56 -0700
> ....I've been thinking about language, meaning, and communicating.
> I've created the following model to show the relationship between the
> three:
> L
> / \
> / \
> / \
> / \
> P ---M---P
> L = language
> P = People
> M = Meaning
> We use language to communicate words (language is the bridge between
> people), but the meaning of the relationship (however ephemeral that
> relationship may be) is found in the spaces between people. Given the
> historical and contextual differences among those communicating, the
> meaning of the relationship can be unclear. That is why dialogue is so
> important. It allows us to have a "free flow of meaning" thus enriching
> and clarifying the communication which is taking place.


You might be interested in reading some works by psychologists who take an
"intersubjective" perspective, such as Stolorow, or early proponents like
Laing (yes, he was discredited because of later stuff, but he had some
good, pertinent ideas). Your model looks a lot like what Laing talked
about, though I think he included language under all observable behavior
because we communicate non-verbally, too.

> At a deeper level I think we should consider why we even attempt to
> communicate with one another. Do we seek to communicate because we have
> an inherent desire to share life with others? If so, is language nothing
> more than an artifact of this desire? Or did language emerge first, thus
> causing us to have a desire to share life with others?

I'd look at this from an evolutionary perspective: what adaptive advantage
does communicating with others provide? I'd say we have an "inherent
desire to share life" because it is adaptive. I'd also say that language
comes from that "inherent desire", but it is no mere artifact.
Communication via symbols (as opposed to signs) has the potential for
great articulation, so the complexity of the communication and the
relationship can increase by orders of magnitude. And the adaptive
advantages of that are enormous.

> ....
> I don't think putting responsiblity on the sender or the receiver has
> any real benefit.

I think that you're confusing responsibility with blame here. If I'm
inarticulate and do not take responsibility for it, I won't be able to fix
the communication problem.




Jeff Brooks (

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