Assuming the Worst

One of my favorite forms of crazy making is the presupposition.  It is a clever use of language that enables you get a double message across without lifting a finger.  It’s guaranteed to make the hearer uncomfortable.  All that is required is that you make an innocent sounding statement which is based on a very negative assumption.

GGW accordion player 001Even the most outrageous presupposition can meet its mark because the message puts its recipient in a double bind.  “Have you quit drinking?” is a good example of the outrageous presupposition.  What can anyone but a tea totaler respond?

A point blank demand, such as, “Did you think I needed to quit drinking?” can still be met with crazy making denial.

“Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way!  You’re very sensitive about it!”

The other day an acquaintance said to me: “I’m so glad to see you have come out of yourself.”  I chalked it up to the artless things we say on when we’re in an uncomfortable social situation and  want to fill air time.  But, it occurred to me later that the person who made the artless comment is an artist – a communications expert.

Similar comments I have heard are, “You sure look better!”  and “Boy, you are such a nice person now that I know you.”

Socially, it’s not acceptable to say,  “It’s about time you did something about your clothes!”  or  “Gosh you seemed like an ass when I first met you!”

That might give me a chance to respond with,  “I don’t think you’re in any position to judge.  When I met you I was pretty sure you had emotional issues and I couldn’t wait to get away!”  But, funny thing!  I would never say any such thing.  I wouldn’t insinuate it either!

After all, what purpose does it serve to tell someone they made a bad first impression?    What does it accomplish to tell someone they looked terrible last time you met?  Hmmm, let me think… The only purpose it serves is to make them feel bad.

If that’s what you are aiming for, the nasty presupposition can do a fine job and chances are you won’t have to take responsibility for what you say.  But if you are interested in Enlightened Interaction, what use do you have for verbal itching powder?

Presuppositions can also be used for promoting good feelings.  They aren’t as clever when used positively, but the feelings they induce are so much more productive.

“Where do you find such interesting bits of information?”  sends a compliment with the question.

“You look better than usual,” lets a person know she’s outdone herself instead of making her think you are surprised that she looks decent.

And, by the way, I want to know what workout you have been doing.


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