Communication and its pitfalls

The world in the 21st century exists as a global village where people and governments are engaged in conversation through language use. Conversation in the forms of talks and verbal negotiations has proved more effective, for instance, in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, than any other means of conflict resolution. The world is in search of global peace, not by arms race anymore, but by communication through a distinctive language use. Summits and conferences are held by heads of government to foster world peace and security. The art of meaningful communication process has remained the only useful means of attaining this human desire.

However, there are pitfalls in relational communication referring to the Grice Maxims of Cooperative Principles. It is revealed that adherence to the maxims are not only significant but their violation has crucial impact on communication. Effective inter-personal communication is the essence of living, and as such, human beings engage daily in it by language use. We align with Adegbija (1999:86) who states that ‘human beings daily engage in interactional talk or conversation… it is difficult to conceive of effective functioning in any human society without interactional talk’. However, linguistic communication does guarantee effective functioning in the society only when certain norms of linguistic interaction are observed. These norms refer to what Grice in Levinson (1985:101-102) labeled the maxims of Cooperative Principle. These relational suggestions will impact positively on the practice of effective communication and ultimately make human relations, as well as the society function much better. These maxims as outlined by Grice are : Quality, Relevance and Manner. A higher percentage of relational pitfalls has been linked to the flouting of these maxims. Let’s take the examples of communication below:

Between parent and child

Parent: Where are you coming from?

Child: I went to the grocery store down the road.

Parent: So what did you buy?

Child: My teacher asked me to turn in my assignment next tomorrow. Dad can you help out? I’m having a tough time on the topic.

Parent: I asked what groceries you picked up from the store.

Child: Oh dad! Yes I bought beverages, dairy products and veggies.

Parent: Alright son…

Between boss and subordinate

Boss: There’s a client who’s requesting our company investors policy. Take your time to explain our policy to him.

Subordinate: Yes sir.

Boss: And please don’t divulge the profit sharing ratios at once. That can wait later.

Subordinate: Noted sir.

(On the next business day)

Boss: John, what’s the client decision on our investment policies?

Subordinate: He’s having cold feet in deciding if he wants to continue with the investment proposal.

Boss: Cold feet? Your job is to convince clients to invest in our products without any fear of losing their cash investments. As a professional public relations officer, I expected you to convince intending investors. The investment shares and other incentives attached should be re-iterated to them.

Subordinate: Sir, you actually told me not to disclose the profit and shares to the client outright.

Boss: (Furious) You should be able to think on your feet and react to client’s questions based on the direction of discussion. This’s unprofessional and a gross display of incompetence on your part. Next time a client develops negative reviews on our company policies, you will be fired! Get that straight John…

Subordinate: No.. no.. noted sir. Sorry sir…               

From the above, we can see real communication problems generated as a result of not following conversational principles. The violation of the maxims of quantity, relevance and manner by the interlocutors affords them to express their attitude both to the speaker and the topic or issue at hand.    

Also, it leads the hearer to presume that the speaker is hostile, difficult to understand, not cooperative and non-chalant. The hearer is then forced to withdraw from further linguistic interaction with the speaker. The resultant ripples of such withdrawal are better imagined. Communication has not only broken down, human relation and interaction are fraught with misunderstandings, suspicions, confrontations and strife.

‘I don’t see Ojudu, Adeyeye as enemies despite of attacks’

  Therefore, if we are aiming at forging meaningful and deeper relationships with family, friends and colleagues we must strive for quality information on subject matter, quantity and the relevance of the topic of discussion with our hearers and lastly the manner in which the topic is discussed. Hence, communication is all what makes the world network, interact and advance.

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