Powertalk and Other Language Categories

From Alpha Up Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

By now, many of us have read Venkatesh Rao's interesting column, linked (bot doesn't allow links) by TRPsubmitter, on different kinds of language in the workplace.

Already it is (bot doesn't allow links), mostly focused on the concept of the "PowerTalk" language... because communications in that language are the ones which cause real change.

However, in order to understand the concept of powertalk in general, we have to tease it away from examples that make it specific to "The Office" as a story, and the workplace as a setting, and create some more general definitions.

What are distinguishing characteristics of powertalk?

  • It is used to get something for oneself, rather than to convey information.
  • It can be truth or lies, according to the needs of the speaker.
  • It is plausibly deniable.

The distinguishing feature of sociopaths, or power players, if you will, is that they are fluent in powertalk. This sets them apart from the group Rao calls "Clueless", which we might call naive, or surface communicators, or spergs, in that this group mistakes powertalk for straighttalk.

Now, EVERYONE engages in straighttalk from time to time. How long does that machine bolt need to be? Where is Sausalito? Will you that be for here or to go? What were the results of our wind tunnel study? Straighttalk just means language used to communicate a piece of information.

But the distinguishing characteristic of the sperg is that they engage in straighttalk all the time.

The third type, whom Rao calls "Losers", which we might call "awakened" or "cynics", is that they are aware of the existence of powertalk, but are unable or unwilling to accept it as just a morally neutral reality, and to employ it to their advantage. Instead, they observe and often resent it. They are stuck in the question of whether powertalk is "good" or "bad", and unable to consider the "how" of using it.

They engage in straighttalk at times, but not always. They also engage in what Rao calls "GameTalk" which is like powertalk, but with out key difference... it is self-oriented.

In other words:

  • It can be truth or lies, according to the needs of the speaker.
  • It is plausibly deniable.
  • BUT unlike powertalk, is it used to make oneself feel better, or feel a certain way that one wants to feel. Instead of being oriented towards external goals, it pursues internal ones.

So, having taken a slightly different spin here, what does this get us?

Several startling but enlightening conclusions:

  • Women are usually far more skilled at powertalk than men. Most of them instinctively understand that you don't say things because they're true, you say things to get what you want. If they're true, that's just a coincidence.
  • Women's alternative to powertalk is usually gametalk, men's is usually straighttalk.
  • This means that where and when men or women are successful and in power, they are both "power players/sociopaths", but the failure modes are different.
  • Where and when women are unsuccessful, their failure mode is often "gametalk". They are in too much emotional turmoil to manipulate effectively, and must spend energy making themselves feel better.
  • Where and when men are unsuccessful, their failure mode is mostly "straighttalk". They are unable to see that they are not being given the actual story, and that they must sniff it out for themselves. They waste energy responding to illusions someone else has created for them.
  • What we are doing here in TRP is trying to engage in straighttalk ABOUT powertalk. This purpose of this is for people who are used to straighttalk to learn powertalk. This requires straighttalk because the number one rule of powertalk is that you never admit to the existence of powertalk.
  • This is why women hate TRP and love the techniques it teaches. A man who can engage in powertalk, and use its rules to make himself attractive, turns them on. But TRP isn't powertalk. It's straighttalk ABOUT powertalk. The more they love skilled and fluent powertalk, they more they hate seeing the veil ripped off it (because doing so is bad powertalk).
  • Feminism is powertalk. Example: Not only does no not always mean no, "No means no" doesn't mean "no means no". It doesn't mean "All men must ask permission before mating". "No mean no" means "If you can't both discern the difference between no that means no, and no that means yes, AND you can't discern that 'no means no' doesn't apply to everyone, then we want YOU to be in the group of men that asks permission before mating. Because your lack of powertalk skills is unattractive, and we want to make sure that you don't try to sex us without first giving us an escape valve that we can use without looking mean."
  • The only way to tell the difference between skilled-enough powertalk, and straighttalk is observe the actions of the speaker.
  • Feminists calling TRP neckbearded quasi-rapists is more powertalk. Neckbeard is their powertalk code word for "unattractive", but the real unattractiveness they fear is his lack of mastery of powertalk. They're afraid of the creation of a sort of hybrid, a man who understands powertalk well enough to see through their bullshit, but not well enough to create his own bullshit and actually thus BE attractive. That's why they use the term "rapist"... because such a man is indeed frighteningly like a rapist... he ignores social defenses against unattractive men (because he can READ powertalk), but he can't make the leap to being an attractive man (because he cannot WRITE powertalk).
  • For this reason, TRP is and must be, not a public forum for calling women out on their bullshit, but a private lab for teaching each other to play the bullshit game.