Today I find myself thinking about healthy communication and conversations I have had, or have tried to have. I like to exchange ideas with other people. I like to listen to what they think, to their opinions, and to gain insights into how they structure their realities. Curiosity is a central motivation in my interactions with other people. There is always something to be learned.
Listening to another person’s opinions with curiosity and tolerance is not the same as agreeing with them. This is where communication can really get sticky for me. After listening attentively, and with tolerance, to someone else’s opinion, I expect that they listen to my opinions with equal attentiveness and tolerance. Sadly, with some people, this reciprocity does not seem possible. I do not know why this is so, the reasons may be as varied as the people who are unable to equitably communicate.
How do leading and loaded questions fit into my line of thought on healthy communication? Well, I suppose I am making the case that they are not healthy forms of communication, and should not be used by well meaning people. In fact, I make a case that they primarily used as instruments of domination, and at times coercion. Let me explain.
First, I will define the terms I am using to explain my meaning.
“toleration; open-mindedness, broad-mindedness, forbearance, liberality, liberalism; patience, charity, indulgence, understanding.”
“a question that prompts or encourages the answer wanted” Dictionary
“leading question or suggestive interrogation is a question that suggests the particular answer or contains the information the examiner is looking to have confirmed.” Wikepedia
“contain implicit assumptions (such as “Have you stopped beating your wife?” indirectly asserting that the subject has beaten her at some point).” Wikepedia
“The traditional example is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Whether the respondent answers yes or no, they will admit to having a wife, and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed.” Wikepedia
The Fallacy of Many Questions:
“a question that has a presupposition that is complex.”
“One form of misleading discourse involves presupposing and implying something without stating it explicitly, by phrasing it as a question. For example, the question “Does Mr. Jones have a brother in the army?” does not claim that he does, but implies that there must be at least some indication that he does, or the question would not need to be asked. The person asking the question is thus protected from accusations of making false claims, but still manages to make the implication in the form of a hidden compound question. The fallacy isn’t in the question itself, but rather in the listener’s assumption that the question would not have been asked without some evidence to support the supposition. This example seems harmless, but consider this one: “Does Mr. Jones have a brother in jail?”
In order to have the desired effect, the question must imply something uncommon enough not to be asked without some evidence to the fact. For example, the question “Does Mr. Jones have a brother?” would not cause the listener to think there must be some evidence that he does, since this form of general question is frequently asked with no foreknowledge of the answer.” Wikepedia
When I am interacting with another person, and they use leading or loaded questions, or fallacious assumptions, I am instantly aware that they are not seeking to listen to my opinions with tolerance.
So, for instance, when I make the statement, “walkers are better than talkers”, which I did in a recent interaction, and the response begins with “do you think that…” and continues with a series of concepts and arguments that have absolutely nothing to do with what I think, well then, that person is revealing to me that they are seeking to assert their own ideas above all else, and have no interest whatsoever in what I think.
In such a case, where leading or loaded questions, and fallacious assumptions, have been used as a technique by one party, there is little point in continuing the interaction. Tolerance is not healthy, when it is only extended in one direction.
From where I sit, using leading and loaded questions, and fallacious assumptions, is an act of verbal aggression.
I feel sadness, deep sadness, when I come into contact with people who interact using these tools, tools which I find deceitful. The sadness is magnified immeasurably when someone with a good heart uses these tools, without understanding their inherent violence.
Just had to get this onto the page and out of my head, and my heart!
Date: 1:00 PM EST Wednesday 20 November 2013
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 103.4 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Wind: SE 17 km/h
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
Bible, Matthew x. 16.