Let American Consumer Counseling Help you Get Out of Debt!ConversationalNarcissism in the ClassroomIn the Introduction to Linguistics classlast week, Professor Ivanoff asked if the students had any questions aboutthe material he had just discussed in his lecture. The preceding lecturecovered marked words (words that clearly define or describe only one object). A student who seemed confused asked Professor Ivanoff how the use of markedwords was connected to our study of Linguistics. A student said, “Everyone knows that whenyou say table, a table is something with four legs and a flat surface.
So table is a marked word. In a sense we already knew that because we don’tgo around calling everything a table. ” The student asked, “Is this justa definition or will it be explained further at a later time?””I do not understand why you are askingsuch a question,” Professor Ivanoff said. “I just explained to you whatmarked and unmarked words are.
Why do you ask such a question?””I am just wondering why you told us aboutmarked words. How is it important in our study?” the student asked. “I explained it to you. There are markedwords and there are unmarked words.
Marked words describe definite things. Unmarked words are words that can be used to define more than one thing,”Professor Ivanoff shouted. “You ask such strange questions. I hold a Ph. D.
in linguistics. Why do you question my authority on such subject?”The student tried to explain one more time,”I am not questioning your authority at all. I am just wandering what theconnection is between marked words and Ling-. “Professor Ivanoff interrupted, “If youwant to question my authority you do so in my office. Please do not wasteclass time. “Unknowingly Professor Ivanoff and the studentprovided a perfect example of “Conversational Narcissism” and how continuedhabits can hinder the process of “true” dialogue.
Conversational Narcissismuses “structural” devices to dominate the conversation and shift the attentionfrom one partner to another. The shift response is the structural devicethat Professor Ivanoff used to change the focus of attention from the student’squestion, to himself. This conversation shows that even in a simple conversation,one person will shift the attention away from the other person to themselves,allowing them to dominate the conversation. The conversation portrayed the shift responsewhen Professor Ivanoff failed to answer the student’s question and putforth effort to understand what the student was asking. Instead of attemptingto answer the question Professor Ivanoff felt personally attacked and attackedthe student in return. This shifted the attention of the conversation toProfessor Ivanoff and his concerns.
The student no longer had a say inthe matter and her question would not be answered. When Professor Ivanoff employed the shiftresponse, dialogue could no longer take place. To make dialogue happenbetween two persons, four characteristics must be present. The first characteristicis two-way flow. Each participant of the dialogue must have an equal chanceto speak their thoughts on the matter while the other listens intently. Two-way flow allows each speaker to have the same amount of time to shareand express their ideas.
The second characteristic for a dialogue is thatthe topic of discussion must be “non-empirically” verifiable. The topicmust not scientifically proven. A third criterion asks that both speakersengage in the conversation with a spirit of fairness. Each participantneeds to be willing to inspect their own position as vigorously as theydo that of the other speaker. Each speaker needs to have the attitude thatthere is a possibility that the other person is correct. The final criteriaconcludes that each speaker needs to have courage.
Courage defined as awillingness to put your self-identity on the line and lose your self image. By examining the four criteria of a dialogue,two-way flow, suitable topic, a spirit of fairness, and courage, and examiningthe conversation taken place in Professor Ivanoff’s classroom, one cansee that what took place cannot be a dialogue. Professor Ivanoff did notallow the two-way flow to be constant. He did not listen to the student’squestion or attempt to answer them.
The two-way flow was disrupted whenProfessor Ivanoff interrupted the student. The topic also is one that neitherhas a right or wrong answer. To different professors the answer to thestudent’s question may be different. The answer would depend on the objectiveof the course.
A spirit of fairness was not present either. When the professorfelt attacked, he would not listen to the student or answer her question. He did not have the mind set “That there is a possibility that the studentis right and she is not attacking me. ” Perhaps being a professor, and oneof higher rank than that of the student is why the professor was not willingto put his self-identity on the line. He became angry when he felt hissense of self attacked.
The conversational narcissism the professorand student displayed led to a corruption of dialogue and dialogue simplydid not take place. This can be a potential problem in the classroom setting. If conversational narcissism continues to take place, students will beintimidated by the professor to ask questions about what they are learning. The student should not question the professor’s authority or knowledge. When a student does not understand the material and makes an attempt toask a question, in a spirit of fairness a professor should answer thatquestion.
It will allow the student to ask the question and be listenedto by the professor and in turn the professor will be listened to by thestudent. If dialogue were present in the classroomstructure students and professors would be able to interact fairly andin a respectful manner of each other. Dialogue would make the learningexperience for the students more comfortable and the job of the professormore rewarding. Conversational Narcissism, as we have seen, hinders thatprocess of dialogue and should be eliminated from the student-professorrelationship.