In other words, oral exchanges involve many different elements that can influence, sometimes decisively, the success or failure of the interaction. Many of these elements have to do with the psychosocial characteristics of those who participate in the interaction, with the way in which these characteristics are selected, activated, and interpreted in the specific course of the exchange in question.
The way in which people «set out» to interact, the roles or roles they choose from among their possibilities, what position they adopt with respect to the situation in which they find themselves, how they manifest their qualities -and which ones they manifest- and how they interpret the positions of others are often crucial aspects for the initiation and development of face-to-face oral interactions. Goffman has studied in great detail the «rituals» that shape oral encounters, from the most spontaneous to the most institutionalized.
When an individual introduces himself to others, they are usually trying to obtain information about him or bring up information they already have about him. They will be interested in his general socioeconomic status, his self-concept, his attitude towards them, his honesty, etc. Although obtaining some of this information may be almost an end in itself, there are usually quite practical reasons for obtaining it.
Information about the individual helps to define the situation, allowing others to know in advance what to expect from them and what they can expect from them. With this information, others will know better how to act in order to provoke a desired response in him (Goffman, 1956: 1). To understand the complexity of the presentation of the person, Goffman proposes concepts such as «image» (face), «territory» or «positioning» (jogging). According to what image is activated and accepted, what are the limits of distance or intimacy that are established and allowed, and what position is adopted with respect to others and with respect to the topics being dealt with, it will be necessary to develop or not one type or another of politeness strategies -positive, negative, or covert- that make possible an acceptable development of the interaction.
The phenomenon of silence is tributary to the distinction between private and public conversations. It implies a way of evaluating our public conversations according to what we say in our private conversations. Silencing involves recognizing that something that is present in our private conversations is not expressed or revealed in our public conversations. Silence is different. By it we simply mean the absence of speech. Being silent does not necessarily imply being silent. It is just as much a matter of not speaking.
Argyris argues that being silent is a common phenomenon in organizations. It implies the recognition of a gap between private and public conversations, or between what people think and what they say. This gap between thinking and saying has a profound impact on the ability of organizations to act effectively, significantly distorting communication and limiting the performance of their members and the organization as a whole. As we have reiterated before, individuals are better reflected in what they think than in what they say. And when the gap between what they think and what they say is significant, their performance is distorted.
I invite everyone to read Matias’ post on the topic of the day.