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