05 June 2010

what we talk about when we talk small

A friend, who immigrated to U. S. as an adult, asked me how one is supposed to speak politically correct inside the diverse work force of a modern global corporation. This post replaces all diversity and sensitivity training!

Talk about:

Big time sports, especially pro football, pro basketball, and major league baseball.
Shopping, restaurants, which store is having a big sale this week.
Family and home life and recreation, in general and positive and briefly.
Work, in general and positive and briefly.
Stupid pet tricks.
Weird things that children say.
The news headlines--only the headlines.
The weather.
The latest hit TV show, the latest big song/artist, the latest dance craze.
The latest hit movie if it is rated G, PG, or PG-13 (the latter only if the advisable material is violence--not PG-13 language or sex situations).
The only subject it is safe to complain (a little) about is traffic.
What you miss about home if that is more than five hundred miles away.
What you miss about being younger if you are less than twenty years older.

Do not talk about:

Politics (especially company politics).
Religion (especially any religion not your own).
Race, ethnicity, gender (especially any race, ethnicity, or gender not your own).
Anything that happens in any bedroom or bathroom.
Anything negative about work.
Any personal health or appearance problems--weight, wrinkles, hair loss, pimples, disease (especially sex transmitted disease).
Aging and death.
Anything that happens in the doctor's office. (Especially the psychiatrist's office).
Drugs. (Especially illegal or psychiatric drugs).

This makes it seem like we may be running through a mine field every time we open our mouth. We are. We need to think before we speak. That is part of what we are being paid for. Some say that communication effective and efficient is the single most valuable job skill. I happen to think those people are wrong, but I only do technical jobs. The Sociologist Nan Lin has done extensive research on job talk, effective and ineffective. His research has great news for people who only do technical jobs. Such people have the almost trivial duty to limit their conversation to:

News headlines

i.e. for some of us this task is an order of magnitude easier. I mentioned Nan Lin's work, as well as some other occupational Sociology research in this previous post.


Lewis Mumford on extractive industry workers in Technics and Civilization.

"Apart from the lure of prospecting, no one entered the mine in civilized states until relatively modern times except as a prisoner of war, a criminal, a slave." (p.67)

"No less notorious than the slatternly disorder of the mining town are the drinking and gambling that go on in it: a necessary compensation for the daily toil." (p.72)

"Taking mining regions as a whole, they are the very image of backwardness, isolation, raw animosities and lethal struggles. From the Rand to the Klondike, from the coal mines of South Wales to those of West Virginia, from the modern iron mines of Minnesota to the ancient silver mines of Greece, barbarism colors the entire picture." (p.73)

Lewis Mumford was English gentry. If you work in the oil industry, there is a sense in which Lewis Mumford and his class are our social superiors. It might be a good idea to not mention topics like this at work.

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.