Between two people there is no such thing as neutral communication, in that such communication always mirrors the type of relationship that binds them together (or that they would like to establish). Even when we ask someone on the street for the time of day, we choose the tone, manner, and facial expression we feel most adequate; that is, we make use of communicational devices and skills that allow us to convey more than the mere words we literally utter. Such skills are extraordinary and permit us to operate at many levels, especially in contexts of conflict. In fact, often conflict is not manifested openly but assumes indirect, oblique, ambiguous forms. This is often done to save ones face, to avoid appearing too aggressive, to shield ones self from negative reactions, to avoid responsibility. Using examples drawn from novels, films, and television programmes, the author explores and exposes many strategies that allow conflicts to remain "out of sight", not only in friendships and family relationships, but also in public contexts, both structured (courts of law) and unrestrained (tv debates and talk shows).
Marina Mizzau teaches Psychology of Communication at the University of Bologna.