Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Moralistic and Non-Moralistic Communication
by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Communication is without question one of the most sophisticated art forms humans engage in. The limitation of language in communication is worth observing. Words are pregnant with assumptions. Just notice how negative or reactive words have emotionally negative impact on nearly everyone. Special dishonor go to the words "wrong", "bad" and "awful" as universally shaming arrows in early painful encounters, for instance with authority figures such as parents and teachers.
Our world, including both Western and Eastern societies, are immersed in moralistic communication. Morals is the realm of mores, manners and ethics that concerns itself with distinguishing right from wrong, or good from bad, conduct and character. More specifically, morals refers to conformity with generally accepted standards of rightness/goodness in conduct and character. Ethics implies conforming with an ideal code of moral principles or a code that applies to a particular profession.
The separate self uses labels that judge from its self-constructed and misguided agendas using deceptive maneuvers and manipulative stratagems. The moment you label a mountain a mountain, a tree a tree, and a bird a bird, will be the last time you ever see it again. In presence and seeing what is, ranging from misdirected defensive attacks to kind loving validation, you refuse to reinforce a separate I or to play the ego's game.
Judgmental communication brings conflict, defensiveness, counterattacks, and drama, or worse, outright violence. Since most everyone grows up with negative moral judgments-fault and blame, guilt and shame-and subsequent punishment, it's no wonder that such judgments trigger ego reactions, including dislike, avoidance, denial, defiance, and defensiveness. Only issues that require moral language are truly moral ones-Divinity and evil, life and death, heroism and harm. Moral polarities include:
Telling people what to do, how to do and when to do something sets up the same set of opposing reactions. Using "pressure words", like should, have to, got to, must, ought to and need to, are no different in creating the very resistance you don't want.
Special dishonors goes to the word "wrong" as the single most emotionally reactive word in the English language and the single most shaming one as well. You can poison anyone and any activity by using wrong, especially if you're a teacher, parent or authority figure.
So what's the alternative? How about learning to think, write and speak using non-moralistic communication. The strange part of the story is that so very little qualifies as a moral issue requiring moral language. As noted above, morals is the domain of right and wrong evaluations of conduct and character. Some might even make the case that this is most appropriately reserved for issues of life and death. Clearly the controversies surrounding the death penalty, abortion, killing and war qualify as moral issues. What else qualifies? A truthful answer is damn little. If some action meets the criterion of "wrong like murder," then by jove that's a moral issues, and almost nothing else.
Non-moralistic communication, relatively uncommon, requires integrity, maturity and the transcendence of ego. The greatest probability for non-moralistic language to be present is in the highest realms of integrity, wellness and ego transcendence. Some might call this enlightened Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace prize recipient language. There is no magic to using non-moralistic instead of moralistic language, yet it can help affirmatively influence our perception of others, the world and ourselves. Consciously communicating in a non-moralistic way positively influences perceptions of everything. Choosing non-moralistic language fosters a "live and let live" respect for human beings as human beings truly are. Examples of non-moralistic expressions less likely to trigger the ego as an optical illusion include:
© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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