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Title: Playing the game of communication: enhancing skills through a reading of literature
Authors: Kaul, Asha
Pandit, Anuradha
Keywords: Managerial Communication;Cooperative Principle
Issue Date: 10-Nov-2008
Publisher: Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers
Citation: Kaul, A., & Pandit, A. (2008). Playing the Game of Communication: Enhancing Skills Through a Reading of Literature. Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers, 33(2), 1-13.
Abstract: Managerial communication/conversation in organizations is difficult to capture in its complexities. Even if attempts are made, the outcome is rarely, if ever, natural and spontaneous. How then do we proceed with an understanding of: • the principles to be followed • the conversational goals adhered to/violated • the goals of conversationalists? A noveau approach can be to study the nuances relating to conversation by using drama as a heuristic device to gain an understanding of the complexities governing structure of communication, goals of participants, and application of conversational principles. We argue that there is little difference between simulated and naturally occurring talk in managerial situations. Researchers have been skeptical about the use of literature for an understanding of conversation in the managerial context. To validate the feasibility of our discussion, we borrow from the arguments postulated by literary critics who state that irrationalities in life can best be explored by reading of literature which paints on its canvas, life in its multiple facets. We have narrowed our focus from life to communication and have presented an understanding of managerial conversation through reading of dialogue in plays. Arguments have been posited against the extension of conversation in plays to first, real-life talk and second, real-life talk in management. To a certain extent, the arguments are justified, if the process is restricted to understanding of conversation through a reading of syntax and semantics. Some researchers hold a divergent view (Mura, 1983) and argue in favour of the significance of pragmatics that is, the use of language to communicate: not the linguistic competence of the ideal speaker but the practical use of language in communication. Similarly, we extend our understanding beyond the syntactical and semantic comprehension of conversation by observing the interplay of two well-established principles of conversation: Cooperative (Grice, 1975) and Politeness (Leech, 1983). Through application of these principles to three different plays— The Zoo Story, Endgame, and The Chairs— we demonstrate how the approach can suitably be used for an understanding of managerial communication. Application of the principles to the plays reveals that: • The purpose of the talk determines the adherence to or violation of the Principles. • The context or situation is equally important in determining the adherence to or violation of the Principles. • The “repair” mechanism always follows violation of the Principles. This mechanism ascertains that there is a need/desire for the conversation to proceed. In naturally occurring talk within the managerial context, the purpose for the exchange can be either task or relationship centric/oriented. In the former, the emphasis is on accuracy of details— the factual correctness with the right quantum of information. Maxims of politeness, in such scenarios, can be forsaken as the ultimate goal is achieving cooperation. If, on the contrary, the purpose is relationship orientation, politeness and its maxims are perforce adhered to. The strategy of “repair” is applied in instances where and when the need for exchange is higher than the desire to “save face.” As it is difficult to recreate a conversational situation, the reading of the same through plays provides great depth and insight into effective and ineffective strategies. This paper provides an alternative method of looking at managerial conversation and understanding the nuances governing talk in the organizational setup. For further understanding, managers and practitioners can: • view stylistic devices as question-answer sequences, repetition, etc., in plays • study the use and efficacy of stylistic devices • extrapolate the findings to managerial talk • devise a model for effectiveness in naturally occurring talk using managerial backdrop.
Description: Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers, Vol. 33, No. 2, (April - June, 2008), pp. 1-13
Appears in Collections:Journal Articles

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