Is it human nature to hear and speak extremes? It would not be a noteworthy question except it is so common. Equally common is that extremes obscure the overall meaning of what people are actually saying to each other. The Catch-22 is that even when what is actually being said is not couched in extreme terms, a person may interpret it as an extreme when hearing it. It is such a waste of time and energy, yet it is common. Why is this so common?

Extremes in anger or other emotional communications I can understand, and am as guilty as most. It feels natural to spar in this way. It tends to be a steam valve in the human condition, although it rarely ends in a common point of view being adopted. Is there a benefit in using extreme terms in other forms of communication? If we exaggerate the hearing and give voice to it back, does it make the point more correct?

Adversarial communications or communications that defend are also prone to give way to this tendency toward extremes. Defending ones point, oneself, one’s clients is what being an attorney is about. Advocacy is by its nature going to embody defending an issue or a person. Extremes tend not to yield adoption of a common point of view, but they may prompt a “judge” or “boss” or others in “power” to decide in favor of one side or the other. But this is not communication that ends in an “adoption” of a point of view. Rather this is about “forceful acquiescence”. Even so, this would be considered a “success” and its own reward. So I can see why this communication style is used. But what about communications that have no “judge”?

Speaking in extremes can be subtle, just insert words like “always”, “never” or “everyone”. Once the prospect of a “judge” is removed from the equation, what is the goal of speaking in extremes?

I like to think that all communication has a goal and I like to keep that goal in mind. With 95% of human communication being nonverbal, it’s impossible to “hide” the goal even if we are not conscious of what we are saying in that 95% of sub-text. To my way of thinking, one of the main goals in all communication is to establish a common point of view. Communications that have as the goal forced acquiescence seem to be more about the ego than the communication. Is that it? Is hearing and speaking in extremes more about ego than establishing a common point of view? But if that is true, where is the “reward”? And if the reward is for the “ego”, in the hearing, do we discount the value of the point? But if that’s true, where is the reward? You see what I mean? I just don’t see how this got to be so common. Any ideas?