Magazine February 22, 2010, Issue

The Not-So-Great Communicator

(Saul Loeb/AFP)
Obama has failed to connect because he never paid his dues

Possibly the three scariest words in the English language are, “Can we talk?”        

Nothing good can come of that invitation. Certainly not what seems to be indicated, which is a gentle kind of give-and-take.

“Can we talk?” almost always means, “Can you shut up and listen?” But as a rule, we tend to shy away from the bluntly honest and prefer sunny euphemisms like “engage in dialogue” and “have a good conversation” and “communicate effectively” to mask what’s really going on: You sit, you listen, end of conversation.

Not that this is always a bad thing. Sometimes life makes …

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