Revealing Secrets

In the latest issue of Communication Monographs (June 2009)Tamara Afifi and Keli Steuber have an article on the strategies that people use to reveal their secrets. What I like best about this article is the extensive list (25 items) of these strategies and the great idea this suggests for a class discussion/exercise: how do you reveal your secrets? Or create scenarios and ask students to explain how they'd reveal the secret. Self-disclosure is always one of the great classroom topics. The main categories identified in the Afifi-Steuber study are:
1. Preparation and rehearsal (e.g., testing out the secret with other people)
2. Directness (e.g., telling the person)
3. Third party revelations (e.g., telling one person who would likely tell the target person)
4. Incremental disclosures (e.g., revealing the secrets in small parts)
5. Entrapment (e.g., revealing the secret in anger or in an argument)
6. Indirect mediums (e.g., disclosing the secret in email)

It Makes You Wonder (Again)

Thanks to the media's reminder, let's add still Senator and still married David Vitter, an acknowledged client of a Washington madam, to our list of relationship hypocrites. While he patronized prostitutes, he voted to ban same-sex marriage and to ban gay adoptions. Again, you have to wonder how these people deal with these disconnects. Their definition of "family values" must be a really strange one.

Friendship, Gay and Straight

Here's an interesting article on friendship between gay men and straight men, a little researched area of interpersonal relationships. The largely anecdotal article covers the difficulties in such relationships and the advantages of such relationships.


Sanford and Family Values

Let’s add one more name to our list of hypocrites—Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina. He has now admitted to an affair while at the same time voting to ban adoptions by gay men and lesbians and is on record as being against same-sex marriage and even against civil unions for same-sex couples. Apparently, betraying his wife and three children—to say nothing of the people of South Carolina and the country as a whole—is consistent with his idea of “family values”. Sanford, you’re a great poster boy for Bigots, Inc.
This is just one more bit of support for the hypothesis advanced earlier: people who find fault with the relationships of others (in this case, to the point of voting to make them illegal) are those experiencing dissonance and dissatisfaction with their own relationships.

Gender Bias

Here's an interesting article arguing that there is discrimination against female playwrights BUT the discrimination is the work of women, not men. Briefly, identical scripts with male and female names attached were submitted for evaluation. Men rated the scripts with male and female names exactly the same; women rated the scripts by women lower and those by men higher. Even if we know the word is not the thing, the label is not the item, the map is not the territory, we seem to act as if they are one and the same.


It Makes You Wonder

Everyone has by now heard of Nevada Senator John Ensign’s admission that he had an affair with a campaign staffer, Cynthia Hampton, whose salary as a staffer doubled and whose 19 year-old son was put on the payroll when the affair began. Not unrelated to this is Ensign’s attack on same-sex marriage and his defense of the Federal Marriage Amendment. It makes you wonder if there’s not some connection between those with relationship “problems” and their condemnation of the relationships of others, especially those relationships that differ from what they want people to think they have or believe in.
Long married, Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who was caught not so long ago for solicitation in a men’s airport bathroom (he pleaded guilty to “disorderly conduct”), was also an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage and of general civil rights for gay men and lesbians. It makes you wonder.
And of course we all remember the case of Jimmy Swaggart, media minister and outspoken critic of fellow media minister, Jim Bakker, for his indiscretions, and who spoke long and loud against civil rights for gay men and lesbians, was caught with prostitutes more than once—even after his tearful speech of apology: “I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgiveness.” WOW! It makes you wonder.
As a working hypothesis, I wonder if this would work: Those with relationship dissonance are more critical of the relationships of others (especially relationships that are different from their own) than are those without relationship dissonance, with the degree of dissonance experienced being positively correlated with the quantity and forcefulness of their criticism. Alternatively, one might hypothesize that relationship satisfaction and the criticism of others’ relationships (that is, the degree of dissatisfaction with the relationships of others) would be negatively correlated; the more satisfied one is in one’s own relationship, the less critical that person is likely to be toward the alternative relationships of others.
Yes, it makes you wonder. Why are people like Ensign, Craig, Swaggart—and these are just three (who are familiar to us because they made the front pages) out of a likely host of others—so against the granting of civil rights for gay men and lesbians? What are they trying to protect?


To Catch a Liar

Here's an interesting update on the ever-present question: can you really tell when someone is lying? The article appears in Communication Currents and is written by Tim Levine from Michigan State.


Listening Doctors

An article entitled “If all doctors had time to listen” in Sunday’s NYTimes makes the point that patient care would be improved if doctors had the time to listen—no doubt. But, they also need to be taught the skills of listening, a competence that I suspect many doctors consider too obvious to even consider learning and likely believe they already have such competence. Of course, the rest of the world knows differently. Imagine a doctor who listens actively!


According to a survey conducted by Technorati and reported in Sunday’s NYTimes, 133 million blogs were created since 2002. But in the last 4 months, only 7.4 million have been updated. That's less than 6%!

Communication Currents

The June issue of Communication Currents is now online and includes essays on online free speech, women's rights, and the ways in which secrets are revealed--among other things. Take a look.