December 28, 2015
Hi and welcome to this video. In this video I want to talk about the second part of communication skills. In the last video, Communication Skills Part 1, we talked about the speech acts and the first three speech acts. They were:
And so in this video I want to talk about the second half of the speech acts. And the second half includes:
Do you remember I said that most of our interactions with other people involved requests, offers and promises? With this second set of speech acts, we enhance and add detail to our interpersonal communication with others.
Assessments & Assertions
Assessments are typically what we would consider opinions, ideas, thoughts, and judgements. When we use assessments what we’re doing is describing the way we see, interpret and perceive the world around us.
Assessments are used by each of us to make sense of the world around us. When we share our opinions with others through conversation what we are doing is sharing our particular worldview. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that it’s a “true” worldview or a “correct” worldview. It just indicates a preference.
Assertions on the other hand are what we would consider facts, data, details, reality. Whatever the case may be, facts are something we use to ground assessments. Assertions can be measured using an agreed upon standard.
As an example, weight is a standard measurement scale that we use. When we say a digital camera weighs 765 grams, it can be verified and measured independently. For some individuals, that’s a “heavy” camera and for others, it’s a “lightweight” camera. “Heavy” and “lightweight” are assessments and indicate the preference an individual has for weight of a digital camera.
Another example is that of buying gifts. When you wish to give someone a “nice” gift, what does that mean? Does it mean that a “nice” gift should cost a certain amount of money, or have a certain weight, or a particular colour, or size, or texture and so on?
In our conversations with other people, when we make requests, offers or even commit to helping other people out, what we’re doing is using assessments and assertions to qualify those requests.
Assessments, which are opinions, thoughts or ideas, are not “wrong.” They aren’t “right” either. As we go through life, as we meet people and as we interact with the world, we make assessments. We make assessments about the weather, or sports, food or relationships or whatever causes us to become interested.
Assessments are simply beliefs that we have learnt, consciously or not, from our environment. We acquire these beliefs from our parents, our peers, our teachers, our religious leaders, our coworkers, friends and those we come into contact with on a day-to-day basis. These beliefs are the way we look at things in our life. In fact you could say that assessments are what colour our lives.
One interpretation that I want to share with you is that assessments are about past experiences which help us to create our future behaviour. In this sense assessments can help us navigate life more easily, with confidence perhaps, and in a way that keeps us safe. But at other times these assessments can also keep us from growing as unique, individual human beings that we are.
Now we come to the speech act of declarations. What are declarations exactly? Quite simply, declarations do one of 4 things. Declarations:
- Begin (“I love you…”)
- End (“You’re fired…”)
- Resolve (“I sentence you to prison…”)
- Evaluate (“Yes…” “No…”)
What I shared just above was a very brief exploration of declarations! In my opinion, each of the speech acts itself constitutes a significant period of study, practise and understanding. Declarations are either valid or invalid depending on the authority we have to make them.
If you are a judge, then you can sentence someone to prison and have that enforced. If, however, you aren’t a judge, the ability and authority you have to send someone to prison is non-existent.
In our personal lives, we make many declarations about our preferences, likes and dislikes about a variety of domains in our lives. The declarations we make, either silently in our heads or voiced publicly, determine how we show up in our interactions with others.
To summarize this video, we learnt that assessments are “opinions” or “judgements” on how each of us perceives events and interactions in our lives. Assessments are grounded or ungrounded via assertions, or independent, agreed-upon standards or measurements. Declarations can be very powerful because they tend to create a new range of possibilities simply by voicing them.
I want to reiterate that learning how to improve your communication skills means to practise these six speech acts in your conversations. One declaration that can serve you in your learning is to declare yourself a “learner” or “beginner” in the art and skill of communication.
How well you are able to make declarations, assessments, and assertions determine your level of competency and mastery of your communication skills. I hope this video has been helpful to you and if you have any questions or comments please share them below.
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