Thursday, April 7, 2011

Narcissists and the Language of Babel

Quite a few years ago, I saw a documentary on TV about batterers. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the program or the expert being interviewed, but what he said I think is self evident to anyone who has ever tried to communicate with an abusive person.

What was it? He pointed out that in arguments between the victim and the batterer (not beatings, just arguments), the victim always argued circles around the batterer, beating him hands down. I mean she whupped him.

They actually captured examples on film, from counseling offices and even from cameras placed in the home.

This should be no surprise. Of course she whupped him to shame. Reason was 100% on her side. He either had to concede her points or be totally irrational and blow back a wall of gibberish and bullshit at her, like a character in a Monty Python skit.

Any fair and rational judge of the debate must award the victory to her, by pinning him on every point.

If you live or work with a narcissist, you know that all you ever get is fallacious arguments from them.

But we get so used to the irrational blather of these people that we grow tired of fielding it all and blasting it by exposing it for the nonsense and gobbdygook it is.

So we need to remind ourselves now and then that the way people use language can be a red flag.

I know of a narcissistic administrator who ordered his charges to do despicable and even illegal acts while remaining unaccountable simply by issuing these orders in the Biblical language of Babble.

What is it? It’s confused language, language that confuses things with what they ain’t. I have given examples of this before, like confusing patriotism with nationalism to make patriotism sound like a vice.

If you examine Babble closely, you see that it is nonsense, language as literally meaningless as the babbling of baby. Just noise. Blather.

Nonetheless, listeners get the message the babbler intends from it. How? Through the power of suggestion. And, as they say, Never understimate the power of suggestion.

It’s bullshit, in other words. What writers call gobbledygook. The chief tool of propagandists. A way of saying things without really saying them. A way shooting a sentence through the forest without nicking a single tree. A way to confuse the listener enough that he or she misses the absurdity in what you say.

It works because we are in the habit of fixing other people’s English on the fly. We must, because we all make errors in speaking even our native language on the fly. We start out a sentence one way, see it won’t work, and change some crucial grammatical element like the number of subject or the subject itself mid-sentence. Our listeners follow what we’re trying to say and correctly interpret the sentence anyway.

Experiments have shown that listeners naturally fill in words you leave out, without even realizing that you have left them out. They correct nonsensical phrases to make sense of them.

When, for example, Radar O’Reily rushes in crying, “Major Hoolihan went to get married to Japan!” we are but momentarily thrown overboard and instantly fix his sentence to “Major Hoolihan went to Japan to get married!”

Next time you’re listening to someone, pay attention to how many times you think, “Huh? Oh, he actually means this” or “He actually means that.”

That’s great. But when a particular person requires you to do too much of that, look out: it’s no accident. It just someone blowing a wall of blather at you.

It’s full of extraneous gobbledygook that makes it hard to follow what they are saying. Characteristically, these people put so many miles between the subject and verb, interrupting the thought with everything but the kitchen sink, that by the time your poor cerebral software gets the verb, it has forgotten what the subject was.

You are supposed to get confused and think, “Well, I don’t understand it but it must make sense.”

No it need not make sense! Run a logic check on everything people say before you let it into your head.

The administrator I mentioned above wasn’t nervous at all before an audience. To the contrary, he was in his glory. And he was perfectly capable of speaking perfect English to an audience when he wanted to. But when he wanted to avoid responsibility for what he was saying, he mangled his sentences; he left words and whole phrases out; he started sentences over so many times in the middle of one that there was no way to make English out of that gibberish. And don’t even get me started on the hints and innuendo. His charges understood exactly what he was telling them to do, though any direct quotes you could have supplied law enforcement authorities were nothing but innuendo and incoherent gibberish.

We see this now even in writing. It’s politically incorrect to expect even the most basic standards in email. Blowhards exploit this green light. When educated people, even writers and editors, cannot get through a sentence of email without some unbelievable spelling or grammatical error, or way-off misuse of a word, look out. They are doing that on purpose, to make it seem as though they typed this with blazing speed and cannot be held accountable for making sense or meaning what they say.

Why? Well, because this is email, Baby. And you know the rules of political correctness about email: we babblers can throw up smokescreens, confuse the issues, cloud the issues, sidestep the issues, and utter Nimrodean nonsense as freely in email as we do in speech. And it’s against the rules for you to call us on it. Ha-ha!”

And that’s why the victim blasts every argument of the abuser to smithereens. All she has to do is take his blather one piece at a time and say, “Huh?” exposing it for what it is – bullshit and irrational absurdity.

Narcissists and other abusers never do have a leg to stand on. Reason is never on their side. They never have even a single legitimate point to make. The wall of blather they throw at you is just an attempt to conceal that. It’s like the inky cloud an octopus exudes to conceal its escape route from a predator.

That’s why communication with a narcissist is impossible. Communication is another thing on that long list of things that the poor babies call “threats” to themselves. So, communication with them is impossible simply because they block it, throwing up this wall of flak to prevent anything you say from getting through.

By Kathy Krajco


Anonymous said...

The babbling of a baby is not nonsense. If you pay attention to their tone, facial expressions, and gestures, you can tell what they are saying . Either asking you a question, or making a statement. They just can't fully iterate with words so it comes out as " meaningless noise".