(NaturalNews) The key to independent thinking lies in asking the right questions.
If you lack the ability to question the communication of others, then you are doomed to spend your life grazing with the rest of the sheeple. Sheeple don't question.
Vague, fluffy language offers the greatest opportunity to manipulate people into agreeing with you and politicians are the kings of fluff. The problem is, most people do not know how to formulate questions that get beyond the facade.
What follows are real world examples of personal and political fluff, with appropriate responses that neutralize attempts at manipulation. You are about to discover how to get to the heart of the matter through the magic of well-formed questions!
FYI, I go through these examples in a free on-hour podcast at Mental Health Exposed. Download this week's show to listen. Be sure to have a paper and pencil or your favorite device ready to take notes! The source for political quotes is the search engine at politco.com.
According to the classic linguistic patterns made popular by Neuro-Linguistic Programming, here are five categories of vague language and how to respond to each one.
Unspecified verbs: Forgetting "how"
With unspecified verbs, the speaker leaves out the how. Asking how is the most natural and necessary thing in the world.
I am going to help you.
You can earn $10,000 this weekend.
Amazingly, we seldom require politicians to explain how to do what they claim they are going to do.
Mitt Romney recently said: Paul Ryan and I are going to get America to cut our spending and to finally get us to a balanced budget.
How, specifically, are you going to "get" America to cut "our" spending? Which methods are you going to employ? How will using those methods result in a balanced budget?
The answer to these questions is HUGE. I can think of a lot of ways to "get America" to cut spending that would be pretty scary. I can think of other attempts that would be a waste of time. Given that virtually NOBODY has succeeded in the realm of government overspending in recent history, how are you going to "finally" do it?
Then, of course, how are you going to cut spending? Which programs, specifically? How will your specific spending cuts result in a balanced budget?
Nominalizations: Things that are not really things
Nominalizations were originally verbs (processes) that have been turned into things. For example, we speak of success as if it were a thing. I want more success. In its original form, success is a verb - to succeed. It's not a thing to have, but a action to do. We took the process of succeeding and turned it into something static.
When you use a vague word like success, you allow people to fill in their own interpretation of the process. You will enjoy success! Not only are people removed from the fact that this is really an action, but then they fill in the details for what it means. If I promise success to 10,000 people, it will mean something different to each one of those people - there is a world of detail missing.
The same goes for other nominalizations like freedom (to be free), change (to change), relationship (to relate), productivity (to produce), organization (to organize), and decision (to decide). These are all action words posing as things.
The way to handle these is to treat them as actions.
I need to make a decision.
How will you decide?
We need more organization.
What do you need to organize?
William Bennet, CNN contributor, recently said: The president has not led; Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will lead, and ultimately, they will lead us back on the path to prosperity.
Prosperity leaves a ton of room for interpretation, does it not? How will we prosper and according to whose standards? And who, specifically, will prosper, anyway? Everyone? Will the prosperity be in the form of money? Health? Happiness? Longer life? Which form of prosperity are we talking about?
Universal language: Everyone is guilty!
All encompassing words like never, always, nobody, everyone and so forth are commonly used, but rarely reflect the truth. They are powerful marketing words.
Compare the two sentences advertising a sleep aid:
Take this product and sleep like a baby every single night!
Take this product and sleep like a baby on some nights, but not others.
Truth in advertising might just bring the economy to its knees.
George W. Bush said: Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
Never mind that one. Some "Bushisms" are beyond repair!
Senator Claire McCaskill said: Like me, Vice President Biden has always worked to achieve commonsense, compromise solutions to the challenges we face.
The way to challenge universal language is to simply question it or ask for a counter example. To senator McCaskill we would ask: Always? You mean, every single time. Has there not been one example in Biden's entire career where he refused to compromise?
Mind reading: I know you know about this one
Mind reading occurs when we speak as if we know the mind of another person.
I know you hate me. I know you are frustrated right now. My friends think I am stupid. My boss thinks I am his slave. And so on.
Mind reading may be accurate in some cases. Your boss may actually think of you as his slave. The point is to recognize when mind reading is occurring and realize it may or may not be true.
The central question to ask when you encounter mind reading is: How do you know? You are looking for the evidence. When the evidence is there, so be it. When it is not, you can know you've made an inaccurate assumption.
John McCain said: But I know what Ronald Reagan would do. I know what he would do, and I know what he did. And I know what Bill Clinton did in Bosnia and Kosovo. I know what his greatest regret was, that we didn't intervene in Rwanda.
How, specifically, do you know what Reagan would do? How do you know what Clinton's greatest regret was? What is your evidence that this is true?
McCain may be right. Equally, he may be wrong. The point is, the evidence is missing. An independent thinker notices this in the least.
Modal Operators: To should or not to should...
Modal operators are strong words like should, must, have to, ought to and so forth. These are high-pressure words that indicate urgency. The problem is, reality often does not reflect such urgency, so modal operators apply unnecessary pressure.
This unnecessary pressure is often used to persuade people to do something they would not normally do.
You should definitely get a new car. You simply must go to college. You have to consider other options. You ought to get a new dress.
When you encounter the urgency words, a good thing to do is ask: What would happen if I didn't?
What would happen if I didn't get a new car, or go to college, or consider other options, or get a new dress? It's a fair question. We don't need to argue whether we should or should not before considering the consequences. Often, the consequences are negligible. If you didn't get a new dress, then you'd wear one you already have, most likely.
President Obama recently said (paraphrased): I believe we have to go forward towards a new vision of an America in which prosperity is shared...
Forget what he means by "prosperity" and "shared." We have to do this? What would happen if we didn't move toward such a new vision? Are there no other worthwhile visions? What would a new vision of shared prosperity for America mean, given our history of capitalism and the American dream of working hard and owning your own stuff?
Assuming we understood the vision, we could look at the consequences of not following it and wonder whether or not it is a matter of urgency.
Whether Obama is right or wrong is not the point here. Asking the right questions and thinking it through for yourself is the point!
Conclusion: Don't ask, don't know!
Thinking for yourself involves much more than being aware of your thoughts. It involves asking questions, seeking evidence and maintaining a healthy skepticism surrounding what comes out of people's mouths. If you refuse to do this, then kindly return to the pasture...
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