ERIC Number: ED396566
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1996-Jan-5
Reference Count: N/A
Silences Which Elicit Reversals in Business Meetings.
An ethnographic and linguistic study conducted at a high-technology corporation examined decision-making in managerial meetings, focusing on the effects of silences following a proposal on the maker of the proposal. An opinion is that such silences signify a negative evaluation of the proposal, inviting the proposal maker to alter his position. Observation of meetings took place over 16 months. First, the form and dynamics of decision-making in this context are described, noting that when a negative evaluation of a proposal is given, the group's activity becomes more complex, generally eliciting a "reversal" from one or more participant. A key theme examined here is avoidance of direct disagreement, which the researcher proposes is signified by silence. Silences appeared to carry three meanings in the meetings examined: thought in progress; confusion; and disagreement. Analysis of the activities after silences found that the most common move was a reversal. Other actions included another version of the proposal (made by the original proposal maker), a negative assessment (made by someone else), or metapragmatic comments, when an impasse is evident. Examples from transcripts are offered. Several themes are identified: participants' orientation toward mutual alignment; face and affiliation; and caution. Contains 15 references. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (70th, San Diego, CA, January 1996).