Mitigated Speech

Mitigated Speech

Christopher Murphy · 6 September, 2020

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Explain what motivated speech is.

Craig Geis:

“Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers describes mitigated speech as any attempt to downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is being said.”

“We mitigate when we're being polite, or when we're ashamed or embarrassed, when we are not experienced, unsure of ourselves, or when we're being deferential to authority. Mitigating speech is not necessarily bad but we have to understand when it is appropriate and when it is not.“

Study: Fischer and Orasanu

The linguists Fischer and Judith Orasanu once gave the following hypothetical scenario to a group of airline captains and first officers and asked them how they would respond:

My thoughts…

Discovering this idea – of mitigated speech – was life-changing for me. To put it bluntly: It enabled me to approach negotiations – especially in hierarchical situations, with management, for example – and be more resolute in my requests.

Instead of using hints, ”the hardest kind of request to decode and the easiest to refuse,” [] I used obligation statements (where possible) and commands (if necessary).

Understanding the effects of mitigated speech – in some cases life-threatening – enabled me to better communicate in situations where I might otherwise have been over-ruled.

This is particularly important to understand when the reason you’re being over-ruled isn’t logically thought through or strategic … or where there may be serious consequences.

All of this is important to understand as you progress upwards (hopefully) in your career.