Messaging and its harmonics

More Moltmann – As I listened to him yesterday I was struck by the power of what is implicit and what is not said. This is part of every discourse and when you have a great thinker and speaker on the podium you can expect not only to hear an argument being made but a cloud of associated ideas which travels with what is said and is close enough to be illuminated by it. It was obvious to me from his tone when he started to talk about finding justice for the victimised it was clear to me some30 seconds before he did so that he was going to be talking about the Holocaust.  As he briefly touched on. This is the power of language to conjure what is close to what is said and what remains unsaid. It is the foundation of a lot of humour.

I had the same experience again in a very different context this morning in a hospice sitting with a friend who is dying and talking to her son. Bizarrely about sport: the England game last night, the Lions Tour, 2020 world series and Andy Murray. Although our topic was carefully chosen to keep us away from the theme of impending death  I couldn't help noticing how aligned the themes we spoke of were with the figure in the bed alongside us – metaphors about mental strength, injury, weakness letting go.

Qualitative researchers get hyper sensitive to these harmonics which occur in all discourses. Because they reveal more than what is said. The danger is that this listening to the margins can easily slide into projection and delusional thinking. It needs checking which is why in research we pay close attention to what is actually said and to the pauses and changes of direction. One reason why I get so irritated with the dismissing of research by those who should know better is that they seem to be oblivious to these half hidden harmonics and how much they give a shape to basic language.

These harmonics,  the accompaniment which the unconscious throws up around what is said is what gives meaning to what is said. We need to cultivate the listening skills to listen to what people say. The meaning is embedded less in the message than the connotiation association cloud which travels with it.

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