Posted in Communication, Conflict, conversation, Negotiation, Political communication, Quotes

Contesting the Term “Negotiation”

As I said in an earlier post, we need to be alert to how the interactions around the current  government shutdown are named and framed, because the names and frames that are used actually import entire narratives of norms, expectations, obligations, rights, and responsibilities.

The news reports over the last several days demonstrate that the term “negotiation” is now actively being contested in public discourse. Here is a meme that I saw on Facebook today:


At the same time, I have visited the Facebook pages of various political figures involved in this crisis over the last several days. Many of those figures — and their supporters —  are working hard to claim the term “negotiation,” which is understandable considering the norms, expectations, obligations, rights, and responsibilities that are carried with it.

Finally, it is worth noting that House Speaker John Boehner has made a recent shift to the use of “conversation” as his underlying metaphor.  Eric Black of the Minnesota Post offers an excellent analysis of the transcript of ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” in which Boehner uses the word 22 times! Apparently, he wants to trigger a different narrative and thereby reframe the norms, expectations, obligations, rights, and responsibilities that apply to those involved.

In a post last spring, I discussed the hallmarks of “conversation” as a conflict management strategy. Needless to say, I think this is a very constructive and humanizing strategy. However, I see none of the hallmarks of “conversation” in Boehner’s actions — only his words. Again, the word is being used for political positioning and needs to be interrogated and challenged.