How the ‘useless' words of 'small talk' saves lives.

☎️ In a 999 domestic violence call, the caller gets help without making a request ☎️

A short thread with @Richardson_Emm busting two #communication myths in one go.

1. Thread. 🧵
2. If a person threatening violence can hear you on the phone, using ‘small talk’ - in this case, saying "y'all right" at precisely the place where it would routinely appear in an ordinary conversation - will help you sound like you’re having an ordinary conversation.
3. The caller uses her tacit knowledge that saying "y'all right" (or similar, like “how are you”) at this point in a call is routine and ordinary, helping the conversation sound routine and ordinary.
4. Asking 'closed' yes/no questions allows the call-taker to elicit relevant information from the caller, who - for overhearing third parties - could be talking to anybody.
5. The *systematic organization* of social interaction - what people typically say and when - enables the caller to sound like she is talking to someone other than the police (to whoever is overhearing her conversation) and the call-taker to support that to happen.
6. "How are yous" and "y'all rights" and the specific slot they typically occupy (or are omitted from, or are dispensed with) in social interaction tells us a LOT about what kind of conversation this is going to be.

Every turn is data:

7. And the actual use of yes/no ('closed') questions is more nuanced than binary assertions about 'open/closed' questions. Social interaction shows us this every day. It also shows that we know this implicitly, even if we don't say it in comms training!

8. Here's a final example - a 911 call in which the dispatcher asks 'yes/no' questions to enable the caller to get emergency help. The caller produces turns designed and precision-timed (including in overlap) to sound like ordering pizza.
9. Conversation analysis #EMCA shows us how crucial it is to analyse REAL talk, as it is used, to re-consider compelling but flawed assertions about how #communication works.

For more on 999 calls, watch this space for @Richardson_Emm's research @AIFL_Aston

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More from @LizStokoe

22 Mar
“How do open-ended questions improve interpersonal communication?”

TL;DR: They do not.
Let’s explore a common #communication assumption about 'open' and 'closed' questions with some data to see what they look like, and what they do, in real interaction.
1. Thread. 🧵
2. Google "open and closed questions” and you’ll find loads of articles and (often written or hypothetical) examples about them - tweet 1 is just one of many.

As @d_galasinski pondered recently: “I wonder who is responsible for fetishising open questions.”
3. When we examine questions as they are actually used - ‘in the wild’ - we find that yes/no (‘closed’) questions routinely receive more than ‘yes/no’ in response.

And just because a question is ‘open’ doesn’t mean it'll be answered.

Let’s see some examples.
Read 18 tweets
25 Feb
"'How are you?' These are the three most useless words in the world of communication."

This compelling (but wrong/daft) assertion is the kind of thing people think they know about talk but don't.

It's one of many communication myths that we should bust.

1. Thread.
2. "How are you" is often deemed a 'pointless' or 'filler' question, to which the socially acceptable answer might be a lie ("fine, how are you?").

"How are you" should not be taken as an opportunity to "discuss the crushing reality of existence."…
3. Here's two friends starting a telephone conversation. It's rapid, what they do is rapid, reciprocal, recurrent, and recognizable – almost banal.

But every turn in this conversation is data, telling us about the kind of conversation it's likely to be.
Read 12 tweets
10 Jan
Regarding the UK gov's new Covid campaign (“Act like you've got the virus”), I was asked on @SkyNews yesterday if “there is a problem with compliance now in terms of people adhering ... is the message is clear enough?”

Preparing took me down messaging rabbit holes.

2. On Friday night, to prepare for the interview, I duly looked at @DHSCgovuk's campaign.

Prof Whitty speaks to camera: “We must all stay home. If it is essential to go out, remember wash your hands, cover your face indoors, and keep your distance from others.”
3. The new campaign combines March 2020's strap-line – “Stay Home>Protect the NHS>Save Lives” with new messages (e.g., about the new variant).

“We all NEED” (below) is not the same as Whitty's “We MUST” - or the very clear "You MUST stay at home" text message from March 2020.
Read 17 tweets
16 Nov 20
🚨New #IndieSAGE paper🚨

1. From Stay Home to Stay Alert, UK government messaging has been much discussed during the #COVID19 pandemic. #IndieSAGE has analysed its effects (March-Oct 2020) and makes recommendations for a communication reset.


🧵 Image
2. It is through language that #COVID19 laws, regulations, rules, and guidance are written - which must be understood, interpreted, and acted upon by people. Precise messaging is easier to understand and act upon.

For instance, what counts as 'mingling'?

(@AdamWagner1) Image
3. While 90% of people believed that “Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” was clear, "Stay Alert" was immediately challenged, rejected by other UK nations, criticized, satirized, and - crucially - not understood by 65% of people. Image
Read 14 tweets
11 Sep 20

1. Why does @IndependentSage recommend maximizing remote learning at #Universities from the START of term?

Does SAGE agree?

Does the UK Government #FollowTheScience? And will Universities?

2. #IndependentSAGE agrees with SAGE that, in Autumn in HE, “significant outbreaks are likely" that "could amplify local & national transmission"; that "this requires national oversight”, & that “asymptomatic transmission may make these harder to detect”.

3. Our report published yesterday maps, in detail, the overlap between SAGE and #IndependentSAGE's principles and recommendations, and is summarized below:

Read 16 tweets
27 Aug 20
🧵 #COVID19 and the discourse of 'anxiety' 💬

1. People are ‘returning’ or ‘going back’ to work and good employers are putting safety measures in place.

In the mix, we're witnessing the division of people into categories: ‘comfortable’, '(ir)rational', 'reluctant', ‘anxious’.
2. Today sees an overt push/threat to stop #wft

#TomorrowsPapersToday @hendopolis
3. If I do my job from home for a while longer, which I'm lucky enough to be able to (although my partner, a keyworker, is not), I reduce transmission risk for myself AND others - by being one less body to d i s t a n c e from, need a mask for, etc.

Read 13 tweets

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