What Not to Say

There's an interesting article in USA Today (August 7) that talks about weddings. In a box there are tips on what not to say if you're the mother of the groom: Don't criticize the bride, put your son in the middle, speak negatively of the bride's family, act like someone you're not, talk about the newly marrieds having kids. These suggestions, btw, come from Sharon Naylor's Mother of the Groom. This got me thinking that we don't talk enough about what not to say in our textbooks and classrooms. Generally, our instruction is of the what to do type, not the what not to do type and when you think of it, both seem equally important. And so I thought that a useful experience might be to ask students to generate "what not to say" lists for a variety of occasions--to the son at the funeral of his mother, to a new mother, to a new physician, to new neighbors who moved in next door, to the neighbors' children who make too much noise, to the interviewer's assistant as you wait to be interviewed, to the aging aunt who has to go into a nursing home, to your partner after the worst date in your life, and on and on, depending on your specific students and specific teaching goals.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Joe. Isn't it also interesting, the volumes which ARE communicated by the act of of doing/saying NOTHING. Example, a parent showing disapproval by not replying to a child's demand. It is also fascinating what the silences communicate across cultural bounds. Music would not be music without the silences between the notes. The rest between the notes is what changes it from noise to music. I know that this is not what you are addressing in "What not to say.", but I find it interesting and parallel to your point.

I will read some of your textbooks. I have been away from academia for some time now and I don't know what's current. When I was studying communications, Edward Hall was my guru.