Social Interaction Via Language – The Co-operative Principle in Conversation

The usual underlying assumption in conversation is that the participants are co-operating with each other. But are they? Always? Did you ever have a conversation that was not only ineffective, but it left you completely unfulfilled and bamboozled?

I know. Been there, done that.

The reason for this is probably quite simple. Either you or your interlocutors failed to abide by the co-operative principle in conversation. This principle was laid out by Paul Grice (1975) and consists of his four famous maxims:

  1. Quantity: Provide only as much information as is required, no more, no less.
  2. Quality: Say only which you know to be true, do not deceive, do not say things you believe to be false or for which you lack evidence.
  3. Relevance: Be relevant.
  4. Manner: Be clear, logical, brief and orderly.

Following these 4 simple maxims will probably lead to improved understanding and more rewarding exchanges. (By the way, with regard to no.2, do you know what “hedges” are? 🙂 )

For more training/coaching on this and other communication topics, do not hesitate to ask.

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