Communication up close

Ruby Payne something I have found true in the microcosm of my personal life, that poor families use fewer nouns and more pronouns. After 58 years of marriage, I still have to ask my wife to clarify the “her” and the “he” and the “there” and the “thing.” One time I remarked that her family did use pronouns and adverbs in that way and did she ever have to ask what someone meant. She replied that she never would ask her mother what she meant and if she had she might be picking herself up off the floor (hyperbole because corporal punishment was not used in her household). 

So that puzzled me (still does). But thinking back to the interactions in her family I witnessed it is clear that at least she (my wife) and her mother and sister worked closely together on mundane things and knew what the other was thinking. Needs and intentions usually did not require explication or even articulation – you just knew, intuited, figured out what the other wanted.

And I think that explains Payne’s observations rather than some deficit. I recall the ‘cultural deprivation’ schema that was so popular back in the 70s to explain the behavior of poor people. The belief in deficits and deficiencies is part and parcel of the attitude of superiority toward people different from us, whoever ‘us’ is.  

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