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Power and communication

Read about the potential of language to reinforce or exacerbate oppression and discrimination.
Sad boy holding a hand to his cheek
© University of Strathclyde

Petrie identifies how issues of power and communication are inextricably interlinked:

Throughout society there are groups and individuals who by their actions, including their interpersonal communications, exert power over others. The messages they give to others, about their own superiority and other people’s low status, are sometimes quite open but sometimes rather hidden. In either case the messages convey disrespect. Those involved may be aware of what they are doing but at other times they don’t understand the sort of messages their communications carry.

In an earlier step in this week we asked you to reflect upon the values and attitudes that you bring to your communication with different groups. We asked you to identify and reflect upon the messages that have influenced how you view different groups of people.

There are many instances in which vulnerable children and young people, and indeed their families, will be communicated about and to in terms which are disparaging and discriminatory. It is vital that this is challenged and we move towards means of interaction which are based on mutual respect and self-worth. In the current climate of austerity this is becoming increasingly difficult, and there is a growing concern that individuals, families and indeed whole communities are being increasingly blamed and vilified for experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage.

In future weeks we will consider the political dimension to some of these developments and how we might challenge such thinking via different approaches. In the meantime, reflect upon any instances of communication being used in a way where power is being used to exert power over children and families experiencing vulnerability and risk and hold these in mind as we move to the next step.

The source at the bottom of this step was used when creating this week’s materials – you can consult this for more information on the topic.

© University of Strathclyde
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