Sunday, 28 January 2007

5:3 How do friends communicate?

Often the best form of communication with friends is, surprisingly, silence. Friendship is not only about what we do say, but even more importantly about what we do not. True friendship occurs when 'information' is conveyed by absences. The striving is to convey as much as possible indirectly, ‘between the lines’.

The reason why such negative communication is important is that it requires a greater closeness than positive communication. The greater the distance between sender and receiver, the more the need for explicitness and directness. Only when two or more people share an enormous amount can the much more economical negative communication take place.

All speech is an exercise of power because there is a speaker and a listener. So the more blatant and explicit the message, the more difficult it is to exercise discrimination, that is free will, in receiving the message. An explicit order, as in the army, is the worst; it is flatly coercive, binding, demanding obedience.

On the other hand, the kind of indirect, negative, allusive communication which is a peculiar characteristic of friendship allows ideas to flow and feelings not to be bruised. He or she is presented with an opportunity to draw conclusions, "Perhaps you would like to consider..." This approach has several advantages. It avoids infringing the integrity of the other person; acts are apparently entered into with free will, as the contracts of rational actors. Thus we do not say ‘you must do this’, when asking a friend for a favour, but ‘I wonder if you could possibly…’

This strategy is necessary where free and independent individuals are inter-acting. In an advanced, open and balanced society where fear is minimal, cajoling, requesting, persuading is all that can be done. People are not slaves, or even clients. They have to be enticed very gently and indirectly into proper friendship, and they cannot be forced to remain. They can refuse friendship or take their friendship elsewhere.

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