ozarque (ozarque) wrote,

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Verbal self-defense; arguments resulting from sensory mode clashes

I thought it might be useful to post a dialogue that would serve as an example of a typical argument resulting from clashing sensory modes.

[Defining my terms: A sensory mode is the lexicon (vocabulary) and bodyparl (NVC) items that are linked with a specific human sensory system. Like "I see what you mean" for sight; "That's music to my ears" for hearing; "I can't put my finger on the problem" for touch; "That novel really stinks" for smell; and "What a sweet little business!" for taste.]

Suppose we have a typical American-English-speaking middle-aged couple; let's call them John and Jane. John is sight-dominant; Jane is hearing-dominant. Suppose that John's mother is in the hospital, and Jane has just come back from visiting her....

John: "Well, how did Mother look?"
Jane: "Oh, she sounded just like her old self! She was talking and laughing as if she'd never been sick at all. You'd have been pleased, John."
John: "Okay; that's good. But how did she look?"
Jane: [Pause.]
John: "Jane, it's not a trick question. Did she look okay?"
Jane: "Sure. Sure she did. And she sounded wonderful."
John: "Was she wearing the new robe we got for her?"
Jane: "Uh..... You know, I didn't notice."
John: "You mean you spent a whole hour with my mother and you can't even tell me what she had on?"
Jane: "No. No, I can't! I didn't notice. We were talking, John, and laughing .... and I was so glad that she seemed so much better. I didn't pay any attention to what she was wearing."
John: "But that's ridiculous!"
Jane: "John, what difference does it make what she was wearing?"
John: "It's important!"
Jane: "Why? Why does it matter?"
John: "Look, it matters to me!"
Jane: "Fine. From now on, I'll stay home and you go visit your mother!"

This sort of argument is a typical sight/hearing clash. It may be that if Jane weren't being pressured she would have been able to remember what her mother-in-law was wearing. Maybe, maybe not, depending on whether her ranking for the major sensory sytems is hearing/sight/touch or hearing/touch/sight. If sight comes last for her, it's probably true that she simply didn't store that item of information in her memory.

If John were touch dominant instead of sight dominant, he'd have a different problem. An eye person can ask, "How did she look?" and an ear person can ask, "How did she sound?" The touch dominant person doesn't have a convenient analogous question to ask.

Tags: verbal self-defense

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