In their article, Anderson & Cissna (2008) provide an insight into what dismissiveness means in dialogic communication, and how dismissive behaviors should be evaluated and treated when the need for a dialogue arises. Cissna and Anderson (1996) argue that audience plays significant role in the course of public dialogues. The two researches offer an insight into what dialogues are and the roles they play in shaping complex communication environments.
Review of the Two Articles
Anderson, R. & Cissna, K.N. (2008). Dismissiveness and dialogic ethics. In K.G. Roberts & R.C. Arnett, Communication ethics: between cosmopolitanism and provinciality, Peter Lang Publishing.
In their article, Anderson and Cissna (2008) provide an insight into what dismissiveness means in dialogic communication, and how dismissive behaviors should be evaluated and treated when the need for a dialogue arises. The authors explore the brilliant example of dialogic conversation between the radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and a 19-year-old student called “Crystal”. This dialogue offers unlimited opportunities for investigating the significance and appropriateness of dismissiveness in dialogues. In general terms, dismissiveness is the notion opposite to empathy and confirmation in communication; in other words, dismissiveness is reflected through open negligence towards the meaning of others’ words, messages, and connotations. By applying dismissive behaviors to specific communication contexts, rhetors seem to form a kind of a barrier, rejecting the need to reply to sharp messages and creating an impression that they are invulnerable to entreaties of others (Anderson & Cissna, 2008).
Anderson and Cissna (2008) are very correct: dismissiveness is extremely dangerous to genuine dialogue. The authors of this research are confident that dismissiveness in dialogic communication should be identified and minimized; with this aim, they offer the four essential characteristics of dismissiveness in dialogues: name-calling, mischaracterizing, down-shifting, and certainty. However, Anderson and Cissna (2008) fail to determine the critical criteria for identifying these characteristics in dialogue. How can we distinguish between name-calling and using innocent descriptive terms? How do we define mischaracterizing and do not confuse it with a natural need to change the topic? These questions remain unanswered and are to be explored in future.
Cissna, K.N. & Anderson, R. (1996). Dialogue in public: Looking critically at the Buber-Rogers dialogue. In M. Friedman (ed), Martin Buber and the Human Sciences, State University of New York Press.
In their research, Cissna and Anderson (1996) argue that audience plays significant role in the course of public dialogues. Taking into account the complementary roles interlocutors tend to play in dialogues, and the need for creating two-side connections between them, the audience may re-direct dialogic conversations and drive a sense of competitiveness between the two participants. Cissna and Anderson (1996) recognize the fact that “few studies have engaged in close, critical examination of people’s efforts to create dialogues”; however, none of the existing researches has ever considered audience as the third dialogue’s player. The brilliant dialogue between Buber and Rogers suggests that audience may become the integral element of the conversation between two people, shifting communicational emphases and changing interlocutors’ communication priorities. For example, the presence of audience may compel any of the interlocutors to involve voiceless audience members into the conversation; or, a subtle sense of competition may result of the close interaction between the two speakers and the audience (Cissna & Anderson, 1996). Audience puts the two interlocutors into a new type of communication environment, where they are limited by time requirements of the event and are sometimes pressured to take longer conversational turns.
Although consistent with the needs and requirements of communication research, not everything is clear in Cissna and Anderson’s (1996) article. The natural question is in how audience is impacted by the conversational styles of both interlocutors, and whether the audience is willing to participate in specific types of dialogues. Here, the researchers have investigated only one side of the problem, leaving the quality of the dialogue and its impact of audience beyond the scope of this study.
Anderson, R. & Cissna, K.N. (2008). Dismissiveness and dialogic ethics. In K.G. Roberts &
R.C. Arnett, Communication ethics: between cosmopolitanism and provinciality, Peter Lang Publishing.
Cissna, K.N. & Anderson, R. (1996). Dialogue in public: Looking critically at the Buber-
Rogers dialogue. In M. Friedman (ed), Martin Buber and the Human Sciences, State University of New York Press.