Social Techniques

Ruesch, Jurgen 1948. Experiments in Psychotherapy: I. Theoretical Considerations. The Journal of Psychology 25(1): 137-169.

Psychotherapy today is essentially an experimental investigation of the conditions and methods which are believed to change human behavior. In spite of the efforts of scientific societies to train their members uniformly in therapeutic skills and concepts, there exists a tremendous gap between what is said and what is actually don. There are almost as many methods as there are therapists. This discrepancy between accounts of the procedures and actual happenings is, in part, due to the difficulties encountered in formulating the non-verbal components of psychotherapy. It seems fair to state that a large number of factors effective in change of human behavior are non-verbal. Therefore, it seems to follow that an attempt should be made to investigate systematically the non-verbal components of psychotherapy. It is the aim of the author to prepare with this paper the theoretical grounds which will enable him and others to carry out a long-term research project in psychotherapy. (Ruesch 1948: 137)
This was of course the same guy who first used "nonverbal communication" in a book title.
The hypothesis employed in investigation of therapeutic methods rae dependent upon the theory of personality used. The hypotheses outlined below are oriented around the concept of social techniques, that is the adjustment patterns used in social interaction. Since adjustment and changes in adjustment constitute learning in the widest sense of the word, the theory was adapted also to problem of social learning. (Ruesch 1948: 137)
I knew metacommunication could easily be related to learning, but it's good to know that social techniques can be as well. I wonder how much overlap there is between these terms.
Experimental research now in progress is directed at formulating more precise the choice and timing of therapeutic procedures in relation to the specific needs and situations of the patient with special reference to the non-verbal tools used in influencing human behavior. (Ruesch 1948: 137-138)
How is this different from Dale Carnegie's teachings?
1. Freedom of physical, mental, and character symptoms indicating the successful management of internal and external conflicts. It is expressed in freedom of shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety, and appropriate channelization of anger and tension. (Ruesch 1948: 138)
I don't think I've ever seen this form of the word "channeling". Though Estonian kanaliseerimine is the exact equivalent of canalization, and more frequent.
Maturity is the result of successful growth. In the course of development the individual has to face the "biological reality" such as aging, fulfillment of reproductive functions, and facing adverse events, as well as the "cultural reality" which prescribes how these functions have to be carried out and which symbols and behavior patterns have to be used. (Ruesch 1948: 139)
The Biological Construction of Reality. I would abbreviate "biological reality" to bio-reality, since "logos about bios" refers to the field of science, rather than living matter in itself.
(a) The acquisition of general social cues deals with organization in time, space, energy economy, initiation of activity, and action bearer. Expressed in different terms one can say the child learns when and where to respond, how much of a response to make, to proceed or to wait, and to carry the response out by himself or having it carried out by others.
(b) In a second step special social cues are acquired which are related to specific situations. These are then combined in clusters and the individual learns the meaning of rôles. Basic orientations promoting the development of rôles are: (1) Intimacy or orientation along a horizontal coordinate which determines the closeness or distance to other persons. (2) Prestige or orientation along a vertical coordinate which determines superiority or inferiority of self with regard to others. (3) Identity or orientation which determines similarity or difference from others. (4) The family rôle which determines the behavior as son, daughter, brother, or sister, mate, father, or mother, and finally, as member of the in or out group. (Ruesch 1948: 141)
Useful, though I cannot think of a way to integrate these terms with phatic studies at the moment.
Social Technique: The combination of responses, cues, and rewards with regard to situations which involve human beings, results in what one might call social techniques. The emphasis of a social technique varies with its purpose, that is, with the history of its development. There are techniques designed to facilitate the practice of a certain instrumental action such as exhibitionism, for example; there are techniques stressing the rôle of an individual as superior or inferior, and there are techniques designed to handle the other person in terms of exploitation, preservation, or annihilation. (Ruesch 1948: 142)
If "social techniques" are to step in for phatic processes, then these must be considered carefully. Facilitating certain practice amounts to co-operation; role attenuation is superfluous at the moment, and the latter part about exploitation, preservation, and annihilation is completely cryptic at the moment.
Adjustment and Adaptation: Adaptation changes inherited ways of behavior through selective breeding or survival of the fittest. Adjustment is the behavior pattern used by an individual for the process of tension or excitation reduction. Maladjustment, hence, is a process which in turn does not succeed in tension reduction, but, on the contrary, leads to an increase in excitation. (Ruesch 1948: 142)
There is a definite point of contact here between social techniques as means of adjustment, Malinowski's phatic communion in terms of breaking silence and reducing tension, and D. Carnegie's whole "disarming" ordeal of smiles and enquiries about interests and happiness.
In the older age groups insight may precipitate a breakdown if an individual becomes aware of having missed out on life. Since social adjustment seems to be related to successful identification with those who fulfil their biological functions, therapy in the older age groups becomes a matter of facilitating identification with younger people, while therapy in children is related to facilitation of identification with the parents. In adults the task is essentially one of letting individuals fulfill their biological tasks and obtain gratification through real experiences rather than through identification. (Ruesch 1948: 149)
I think this kind of approach will lead to frustration when the intergenerational differences become insurmountable, perhaps due to technological or cultural development. My grandmother never did learn to use computers, even though she had almost two decades to do so. Even I am "technologically old", and this is manifest in my reluctance to use Vine, Instagram, Yik Yak, Tinder, etc. because they seem like services that children (and people who wish to be children, i.e. popular entertainers) use.
Assessment of Social Techniques: Social techniques are the techniques of mastery designed to handle interpersonal relations. Successful adjustment depends upon the number of techniques available, their flexibility, the ability of the individual to perceive relevant cues, to generalize and to discriminate, that is to perceive reality without distortions. Over-generalization, over-discrimination, distortion of existing and projection of imaginary cues into the situation, as well as lack of diversification of techniques, leads to maladjustment. Distortion of cues and rôles is easy to remedy, while individuals with few and unsatisfactory social techniques are difficult to handle. Those who only use one social technique in their human contacts can hardly be handled at all. (Ruesch 1948: 152)
There seem to be several definitions of social techniques floating around in this paper. Generalization and discrimination are defined above, and shoud be re-considered when reviewing this section. The last sentence is emphasized because D. Carnegie reportedly used only one social technique, i.e. he resolved to lengthy quotes mostly found in his books.
Hysterical types: In the hysterical type we include those individuals who use dramatization, exhibitionism, masochism, and infantilism as a means of obtaining love and affection, and as a tool of domination. They are incorporative types whose destructiveness is hidden at first. Their prevalent social technique is identification, combined with an inability to tolerate difference. They have to be identical with others. (Ruesch 1948: 153)
Is there a list of social techniques somewhere? I can't find "identification" as a separate item in any of the extensive lists in this paper. It is mentioned in relation with learning, then in terms of age (quoted above), and in the latter parts of the paper with regard to the patient's identification with the therapist.
At this high level of organization several different types of techniques can be distinguished. In approaching a person or situation the techniques are designed to test out the unknown, to attract and to appease the suspicious and hostile feelings of other persons; to unthaw or seduce, to promise or to flatter. These techniques serve the purpose to prepare the situation for the next step, namely, to establish a workable relationship between the various persons concerned. These techniques vary according to the rôle that the person assumes, but a guiding factor is the maintenance and stability of the once established relationship. From gratification of other people's wishes to establishment of common interests, from promises made for the future to implied threat in case the relationship is not maintained, there is a wide assortment of techniques. Conversely avoidance, isolation, and distance techniques are void if the establishment of a relationship shall be prevented. At times it is necessary to prepare the detachment from persons or situations when they have outlived their usefulness. Induction of fatigue or anger in the other person, making one's self unattractive and undesirable, as well as threats are frequently used for this purpose. Finally we have the techniques of annihilation used against those who do not lend themselves for establishment of a relationship. The interfering persons are annihilated either by verbal, physical or economic means. (Ruesch 1948: 156)
This is the paragraph Ruesch paraphrased (or simply shortened) for the "Synopsis". This paragraph is in effect why I took up reading this piece.
Therapist as anticipated source of affection. In this distortion the therapist is expected to give warmth, interest, advice and time. The seeking of guidance is a mere pretext inasmuch as cues are not taken over and identification does not take place. The therapist is conceived as an inexhaustible source which can be milked indefinitely, and anger arises in the patient only if this type of support is not forthcoming. (Ruesch 1948: 157)
This also applies to Carnegie's ideal businessman, who will consciously take the role of a source of affection.
The Verbalization and Echo Principle
Verbalization of the patient's adjustment pattern or formulation of what he or she did, or repetition of what the patient said means that an intellectual grasp through auditory perception is attempted. The action of the patient is verbalized (symbolized), and different rules apply to conscious perception of verbalized behavior than to action behavior itself which is unconscious. Through verbalization the patient sees himself in a stereoscopic picture of self in which action, which was extended over various places and considerable time, is condensed in order to be perceived all at once. (Ruesch 1948: 161)
Concourse, intervention type (as opposed to supervention).
The initial contact with a patient is usually characterized by a benevolent skepticism on the side of the therapist, and a friendly, slightly distant and cautious attitude on the side of the patient. If the subsequent attitudes of both therapist and patient are flexible, and if both react appropriately to the circumstances and to each other, the interaction elicits in the two persons a feeling which may be characterized by the word "rapport." Persons with strong and integrated personalities are capable of establishing better rapport than those who are unable to judge reality on its merits. (Ruesch 1948: 164)
Maybe it would benefit phatic studies if I looked into studies of rapport.
The Non-verbal Interpretation Principle
Speech in itself may on occasions not lend itself as a tool of communication. Interpretations then have to be given in terms of actions rather than words. This type of interpretation is considerably more difficult. It implies that the therapist through facial expression, gesture, implications, and actions, has to convey the meaning to the patient. This is especially true in infantile individuals who never were able to associate words with emotions or actions. In these cases therapy consists essentially in connecting for the first time emotions with verbal expressions. Communication thus is reduced to the type of interaction used with babies and pets. None the less it is a rather expressive type of communication. (Ruesch 1948: 165)
I'm considering writing a critique of local "body language experts", who take it upon themselves to connect emotions and actions in public photographs (e.g. of presidents shaking each others hands and whatnot) with verbal descriptions. The major fault in their approach is that they hold the connection between words and actions to be self-evident, given their "expertise" in body language discourse. But they neglect the fact that those photographs have their own rules, and people in those photographs are not acting naturally. This paragraph seems to hold to key to my critique: concourse in itself is insufficient.

Ruesch, Jurgen 1949. Experiments in Psychotherapy: II. Individual Social Techniques. The Journal of Social Psychology 29(1): 3-28.

In the study of personality of patients suffering from post-traumatic head syndromes, chronic disease in general, duodenal ulcer, and thyroid conditions, it became more and more apparent that in these particular psychomatic conditions social contact seemed to constitute a significant factor in occurrence, reaxercebation, and convalescence. (Ruesch 1949: 3)
His own research from mid- to late-1940-s proved this convalescence. Consequently, Ruesch is considered one of the early promulgators of psychosomatic medicine.
Since traditional personality assessment, dynamic analysis, and description of the social situations encountered by these patients did not encompass fully the features of human interaction, the concept of social technique was introduced. It can be defined as the methods used by individuals or groups for approach, management, separation, and annihilation of other people. The concept includes overt behavior in the service of interpersonal relations, the intrapsychic mechanisms used for this purpose, as well as the motive which induces a person to relate himself or herself to others. (Ruesch 1949: 3)
Here it appears that what is approached, managed, and terminated is not social contact but other people themselvels.
The evolution of the concept of social techniques reaches from ancient poet and philosopher to modern scientist. Machiavelli, for example, described the procedures of diplomacy, ruling, and domination, and men like Cervantes in Don Quixote, Goethe in Werther, Zola in Nana, illustrated beautifully a number of typical social techniques. Though the philosopher-scientists like Comte, Spencer, Le Bon, Durkheim, and Tarde were interested in group relations, they did not emphasize individual interaction. (Ruesch 1949: 3)
Doesn't "social technique" become too broad a concept in this historical overview?
The term social technique was finally coined by Tolman who emphasizes the essentially instrumental or ancillary character of the social response, which contrasts with the concepts stressing drives, needs, or traits. (Ruesch 1949: 4)
This is Tolman's "Drives Toward War" (1942: 118).
An individual is successful if his social techniques are so flexible, so perfect, and so appropriate that he can handle all the situations to be encountered. (Ruesch 1949: 10)
And Carnegie replaces this with "speaking acceptably", which is a reduction, to say the least.
Approaching, meeting, avoiding, isolating, or annihilating other people successfully requires a great deal of skill. Persons using such techniques show a high level of development and maturation, in as much as the general orientation of these individuals is directed towards the object. (Ruesch 1949: 11)
Of course Ruesch refers to Carnegie. Of course. Was it, after all, a coincidence that when I set myself to study further about social techniques I also thought of Dale Carnegie?
The technique presupposes the assessment of the own and the other person's rôle - considering simultaneously the cultural or situational frame of reference. Since operation at such a mature and sophisticated level has been described exhaustively in novels only a few examples of such techniques will be mentioned:
Approach:Testing out.
Unthawing by - display of friendliness, absence of threat.
Attracting through exhibition.
Preservation:Satisfying the other persons needs.
Threatening reprisal for leaving.
Indirect threat by exaggerating consequences of leaving.
Detachment:Withdrawing reward and not satisfying needs of other person.
Isolating self or others.
Annihilation:Symbolic through words.
In reality through action.
(Ruesch 1949: 11)
It is not surprising that in later conspectus Ruesch removed "Annihilation". It makes sense that it's there early on, since Toman's book is titled Drives Toward War after all, but the suggestion that "annihilation" (in modern parlance, "ruininc") of someone else's life is even an option - be it physically or socially - is unacceptable.
Avidant techniques. The avoidance of feelings of guilt, fear, and shame in connection with social situations is the goal of this technique. The avoidant attitude is called a fear if the avoidance is concerned with high places, open spaces, water or other similar concrete situations. If, however, a person avoids intense emotions in connection with situations originally wished for, he might be called a phobic character.
The development of avoidant techniques is related to the inability of the individual to manage anxiety-producing situations. The conflict arising from the parent's prohibition and the child's wish to pursue an activity results in fear. Avoidance of fear is the next step. Gradually strict avoidance of all anxiety-producing situations may lead to "model behavior" of the child. However, the underlying instinctual impulses are obviously not gratified and management of the conflict is not attempted. The reward obtained for model behavior induces the individual to generalize his avoidant attitudes in all social contacts, his cues being the feelings of anxiety, fear, shame, or guilt which have to be avoided, rather than the cues obtained from the environment regarding like or dislike of the person or object encountered. In personal contact one finds an impoverishment of cues, a restriction of verbal communications to the conventional, and rationalization that things are done out of consideration for the other person. Subjectively, one gets the feeling of not being able to get to grips, which frequently arouses one's own anger, making the first person even more avoidant. (Ruesch 1949: 14)
I wonder if I'll ever write that Goffmanesque exposition on #avoidance I've planned for so long.
Social climbing. In social climbing individuals handle interpersonal relations in such a manner as to receive increase in prestige from their association with other people. The prerequisite of this approach is the selection of acquaintances and friends who have a higher social status. The climber always climbs up on other people as a bear does on a tree. His activities, his possessions, and his friends are selected with the purpose in mind to please the class, the clique, or the group which we wished to join. On the other hand, the people in higher social status will judge the climber by his conformance to their standards. Thus the climber subordinates all his wishes and desires to the chosen task, and lacking genuine convictions, interests, or friendships, he will as an opportunist change people, activities, and attitudes, if increase in status is connected with such a change. He impresses the public as a smooth operator, his aim being to please people with his superior status, keeping people of lower status away from himself. (Ruesch 1949: 15)
How to Win Friends with higher social status and Influence People by succumbing to their wishes, desires, and interests.
When social climbing becomes a dominant and generalized social technique, the individual does not recognize his limitations. He assumes that he can learn anything if he is intelligent and has the opportunity. But this conclusion is a fallacy. The climber was born into a different group than the one he wishes to join. It will require more energy, effort, and learning to join this group than to maintain membership if one was born into it. The older the climber gets the more difficult learning and adaptation become, and the less acquired features will be integrated into the personality structure. The term "nouveau riche" illustrates such a situation. (Ruesch 1949: 16)
Who is Tommy Wiseau? The man can't master the English language but wishes to make a groundbreaking Hollywood film, becoming a Disaster Artist in the process.
Generalization of this technique of identification can, of course, gradually lead to a "social technique of identification." It is met with especially in girls with ambivalent attitudes towards both sexes. Their childhood history frequently reveals one punitive, authoritarian, and not loving parent, and one weak, indulgent parent who gave sufficient love and who compensates for the punitiveness of the other parent. These rather immature individuals are unable to form any lasting love relationships because of their fundamentally ambivalent attitudes. On the other hand, they are socially rather in demand because of their infantilism, which renders them externally attractive and youthful. Their readiness to identify is frequently misinterpreted as seduction. Their keen interest is felt by man and woman to have aggressive and paralyzing character. They form friendships easily, but the ties are just as easily dissolved. They are not interested in machines or techniques, but in people, therefore they are found around hospitals, social and welfare agencies, and in personnel work. The initial ease of identification gradually becomes the only means of human relations. (Ruesch 1949: 19)
Isn't this a description of the type of personality that Carnegie encourages?

Ruesch, Jurgen 1972[1948a]. Social Technique, Social Status, and Social Change in Illness. In: Sebeok, Thomas A. (ed.), Semiotic Approaches to Human Relations. The Hague; Paris: Mouton, 158-172.

Character formation is the result of interaction between the individual and his environment, and the most important factors in the environment are human beings. In disease, human contact is not only responsible for the spreading of epidemics, but the eotions elicited during and after interaction between persons may influence exacerbation of and recovery from illness. Duodenal ulcer cases, for example, demonstrate clearly the relationship between interpersonal relations and disease. (Ruesch 1972[1948a]: 158)
Psychosomatics. Also, modern psychology is bent on researching the connection between social isolation and various illnesses. This connection could be written about more extensively. I'm not sure how much Ruesch is referred to in such research, but a Rueschian approach could very well be possible.
Interaction between human beings can be conceived as being the result of social techniques of the individuals involved. The term social technique, therefore, would include all the methods used by an individual in approaching, managing, and handling other persons. Among the various interpersonal approaches known to be used in adulthood, we can distinguish between the long term techniques on the one hand, and those used as interpersonal tactics or the short term techniques on the other. Under long term techniques, one might mention social climbing or prestige seeking, maintenance of superiority and dominance, nurturance (mothering or fathering), conformance, co-operation, competition, rivalry, dependence, social decline, self-abasive, avoidant, isolating, aggressive-destructive techniques, and acquisition or use of others. Among the short term techniques one might mention testing out, unthawing, startling, joking, teasing, flattering, offending, seducing, threatening, bribing, and pitying. Though space precludes in this article to describe techniques in any detail, there are a few common factors worthy of consideration. (Ruesch 1972[1948a]: 158-159)
I'm more interested in short term techniques. But I wonder if it would be a good idea to compare Ruesch's social techniques with Marcel Mauss's "techniques of the body".
The observation, the nature, and the management of cues is largely a social and cultural function. The cue, so to speak, constitutes the link between culture and individual. What makes persons of one and the same culture alike is the awareness, observation, and response to the same cues. A cue can be defined as a symbol or signal perceived in a complex situation which in helpful in solving the problem for the individual. It serves the purpose to reinforce or attenuate drives. (Ruesch 1972[1948a]: 159)
Although I'm a bit dismissive of the four essential components of social techniques (drive, cue, response, and reward) because it's too behaviouristic for my taste, this bit here about the sociocultural nature of the cue could aid in integrating the intercultural facets of phaticity in a sensible manner.
The individual may have learned the necessary responses to master life, but the cues change their meaning from culture to culture. It follows that the more diversified and flexible the techniques of an individual are, the more likely he is to survive in the new environment. The learning of additional cues, the reinterpretation of existing cues, and the relearning of multiple cues and roles can be successful if the individual is able to fall back upon a backlog of diversified responses. If, however, cues and responses are neither diversified nor flexible, acculturation is difficult or impossible. In addition, the same response may be rewarded in one culture and punished in another. (Ruesch 1972[1948a]: 168)
What is needed is flexibility, adaptability, and a constant learning of novel metacommunicative means.

Ruesch, Jurgen and A. Rodney Prestwood 1972[1950a]. Interaction Processes and Personal Codification. In: Sebeok, Thomas A. (ed.), Semiotic Approaches to Human Relations. The Hague; Paris: Mouton, 305-344.

Communization and communication are directly subservient to the social needs of an individual and indirectly subservient to the physiological needs. Biologically, social contact is a prerequisite for procreation and raising of children. Sharing and co-operation are the result of communication; they extend the sphere of influence of an individual and help to overcome the limitations of a single person. In our modern Western civilization, shelter, food, and care of infectious disease, etc., have freed the individual from worrying too much about satisfying his physiological needs. However, his social needs are increasingly greater and more involved. Today's problems of mental health are therefore more often related to disturbances in the sphere of social needs and mechanisms of communication than to disturbances of physiological needs. It follows that the contribution of the psychiatrist towards helping his patients to achieve successful social interaction consists of aiding them to master the appropriate means of communication. (Ruesch & Prestwood 1972[1950a]: 326)
Thus, both communication and communization, as well as sharing and co-operation, serve mechanisms of preservation.
Expressed in more abstract terms, one might say that initially a directional factor is assessed dealing with proximity and distance of events in space and time, predicting approach and withdrawal of persons and likely influence of their actions. A second set of observations deals with information related to self-preservation or violation or violation of bodily integrity or its social extensions. Assessment will determine whether or not the other person is apt to trespass onto one's own body or territory and whether interference processes are necessary to cope with the situation. Only when interference processes have been ruled out are processes of communication likely to proceed. (Ruesch & Prestwood 1972[1950a]: 326-327)
This is where phaticity meets territoriality (or, specifically, proxemics).
The process called communization exposes people to similar experiences and although they do not transmit to each other feelings or thoughts, they know that the other person has some understanding because of the common experience. This establishes certain bonds of good feeling, bringing people together into a group. (Ruesch & Prestwood 1972[1950a]: 327)
Bonds of good feeling or bonds of personal union? It does seem that Ruesch took over Morris's term but applied it on Malinowski's phatic communion.
Communization cannot wholly substitute for communication. But it does establish a common, though incomplete, frame of reference under which premises interaction can proceed. (Ruesch & Prestwood 1972[1950a]: 327)
The overall effect of communization.
Next comes the clarification and establishment of a mutual frame of reference which consists essentially of checking whether the other participants have a concept of oneself; their "you" should coincide with what one think of oneself, the "me". In other words, participants must attempt to verify the characteristics attributed to other persons, in order to have a clear picture of reality. If this can be done successfully by all participants a common frame of reference is established. Each person then understands the function of the other. Once this preliminary clarification has taken place, the individual frame as well as the common frame of reference established, the transmission of messages can proceed smoothly. (Ruesch & Prestwood 1972[1950a]: 327)
Is this "reality testing"? Because it sounds like "history taking". The point being that you first form certain impressions of other people and then attempt to verify these impressions.
Communication is the process through which intentions, feelings, and thoughts of one person are transmitted to another. Prerequisite to such process is a wish to communicate. Most people with a motivation in favor of communication have at their disposal necessary means for converting thoughts and feelings into signals so that they may be perceived and understood by the other person. In successful communication the person transmitting a message is especially concerned with the effects of the message and whether it has been received and understood in a satisfactory manner. In communication, therefore, we deal with a circulation process, in which a message is transmitted, its impact upon the receiver is observed, and only when the sender is fully satisfied with the perception, and the receiver with the sending, can the cycle be considered completed. In contrast, people who engage in unsuccessful communication are those who tend to send, or broadcast only, without regard for reception and audience. (Ruesch & Prestwood 1972[1950a]: 328)
Compare to "willingness to communicate" in the Relevance Theory approach to phatics. Also, the latter part about broadcasting should apply conversely to Dale Carnegie's ideal "receiver only" (a good conversationalist who primarily just listens).
Co-operative interaction is the result of a long series of preliminary processes consisting of various assessments, possibly communization, and ultimately communication. In co-operative interaction the participants in a social situation are willing to accept their roles and to implement these roles with appropriate action. The implementation of successful communication serves two purposes. First, it is intended to gratify basic and usually physiological needs of an individual. Secondly, it is intended to gratify through co-operative interaction social needs such as recognition, group membership, and the like. Thus, in co-operative interaction the multipolar determination of roles will lead to actions meaningful to several persons, which will insure gratification of various needs. Once such a co-operative system will insure gratification of various needs. Once such a co-operative system has been established, self-regulatory mechanisms tend to perpetuate its existence, at least so long as it insures the gratification of these needs. (Ruesch & Prestwood 1972[1950a]: 328)
Could "recognition" here stand for Carnegie's need to feel important?

Parker, Gail Thain 1977. How to Win Friends and Influence People: Dale Carnegie and the Problem of Sincerity. American Quarterly 29(5): 506-518.

DALE CARNEGIE NEVER BECAME AN EASY CONVERSATIONALIST, ACCORDING tho those who met him after he left the farm. In fact, he had a tendency to speak "in quotations, along with the qualifying phrases, mostly from his book, which he knows by heart." Even a cursory reading of How to Win Friends and Influence People suggests that the man whose name has become synonymous with a practical garrulity was never genuinely articulate. (Parker 1977: 506-507)
In this Carnegie is of course not an exception. It seems to be a common motive in this kind of discourse that people who are well versed in theory are rarely as well apt in practice. For example, I recall seeing a youtube video of Mark Bowden, the author of an excellent book on nonverbal communication preaching the virtues of confidence, all the while the man himself on video looks nervous, anxious, and sweaty.
In the name of a newly anti-romantic rhetoric, he reduced words themselves to gestures so that patterns of speech could be learned and relied on to affect an audience in predictable ways. For Carnegie, language was a means of conveying attitudes, not ideas, and a smile was easily worth a thousand words. When you smiled you disarmed a potential enemy. When you smiled and asked him what he thought, you proved yourself a brilliant conversationalist. And when you smiled and asked him what he wanted out of life, you had discovered the secret of selling, whether cemetery lots or yourself. (Parker 1977: 507)
It's because these questions are "disarming", isn't it? There's a very short step from here to the sexual predator with a video camera who first elicits women to talk about their sex lives and then elicits them to have sex with them for money. (I'm thinking of the pornographic series titled Public Invasion.)
It is not difficult to imagine why his advice was appealing, particularly when proffered in a classroom setting. The price of admission to a Carnegie course included a willingness on the part of each student to admit that he, like the adolescent Carnegie, worried about knowing what to say. Salesman who feared to knock on clients' doors, Rotarians eager to learn the secrets of the after-lunch speech, and clubwomen uneasy about chairing a meeting were (and are) the kinds of people who enrolled in Dale Carnegie's course. There they found others willing to admit to their own worst fears, and a protected environment in which to try out new presentations of self. Carnegie had discovered the power of the support group. (Parker 1977: 507)
A protected environment? Surely you mean a safe space?
In both substance and style, How to Win Friends and Influence People refrected the need felt by millions of twentieth-century Americans to develop a new kind of social radar and to learn those scanning and transmitting skills that Riesman, Glazer, and Denney have described as characteristic of the other-directed personality. (Parker 1977: 508)
This I noticed also. In contrast to the pathalogical case of the "broadcaster" who is only interested in speaking, Dale Carnegie encourages the kind of communication strategy focused on listening, only.
Dale Carnegie believed that if you paused to define a concept you risked losing your audience. Words for him were simply part of slogans; nuance, context, anything that might help the historian discover the precise origin of his ideas was pruned away in the interest of "straight talk." (Parker 1977: 508)
It may also be so because he hired a researcher to do the intellectual heavy lifting for him.
Carnegie was not interested in ideas, but rather in signals. For him the question of what to say to a new bride could be answered in terms of sign language, some combination of phrases and smiles that would suggest "I am capable, potent, able to provide." The connection in his mind between the ability to speak and the ability to assume one's place in the world as a man, between keeping up a conversation and everything else, is clear in his reminiscences. While other boys were stirred by tales of physical daring or financial legerdemain, Carnegie's ambitions were stimulated by the sight and sound of a Chauptauqua lecturer, a large man in a white collar whose lift seemed to consist of applause and train travel. Listening to his mellifluous voices, Carnegie realized the value of never being at a loss for pleasing words. Eventually he outgrew the fear that Sam White would cut off his ears, but he continued to believe that survival itself might depend on knowing just what, and what not, to say. (Parker 1977: 509)
He might have begotten the trend in communication theory that places emphasis on the survival value of communication. Even Jurgen Ruesch is not free of this sentiment.
If you smiled, looked people in the eye, and expressed an interest in what they were feeling, if you never snarled, nagged, attacked, or asserted your rights, you could survive. And as an American survivor you might hope for a nice car, a nice wife, and a nice home in a garden suburb. The rewards for improving your social radar were not the satisfaction of deep personal needs, but the maintenance of comfort and appearances. (Parker 1977: 510-511)
I think this is so because his book was oriented towards businessmen and their particular communication situation - an approaching man with something to sell who wishes to disarm you and come across as friendly so that you won't punish him for the approach and breach of otherwise dominant protocol of non-interference.


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