Posts Tagged ‘ dialogue month ’

Deep Penetration: Conversation and Dialogue with Joe Weston

Kristy: Hi Joe, thanks so much for doing this interview.

Joe: I’m ready to be penetrated.

Kristy: Ha! We try for deep penetration here on the Sexy Grammarian blog! So tell us a little bit about the many ways that you are a communication expert.

Joe: I am originally from New York and lived for seventeen years in Amsterdam. Now I’m in California. My background is in classical acting with a focus on communication skills. You could say that all the work I’ve done has something to do with communication.

Kristy: So you’ve been on stage in New York and Amsterdam? You can act and communicate in multiple languages!And you are the creator of a communications system, Respectful Confrontation, and you teach its principles and practice in workshops, right?

Joe: Yes, I developed this system and teach workshops, give lectures. I’m also finishing my book on the subject.

Kristy: What is Respectful Confrontation?

Joe: It is system, a practice that helps one develop a more empowered way of being with oneself and engaging with others. We all have different languages, different cultures, religions, and beliefs. The bottom line is that we can all find a common way to communicate. I found that if I wanted my work to be successful, I had to find a way to engage others from a deeper place and not just rely on words. This got me to explore and develop the foundations of Respectful Confrontation. It helps to cut through a lot of the false ideas and fears about power, being assertive, and dealing with difficult issues in a way that is openhearted and results in respect and collaboration.

Kristy: You have some workshop events coming up. Readers can find out more and sign up for Respectful Confrontation workshops here. I strongly recommend these workshops, and I’ve had the privilege of getting one-on-one coaching from you, where I got to learn about this practice and how it can improve my own communication.

Joe: Yeah, it is a fun and dynamic way to learn more about yourself, about communication, and how to empower your relationships and life purpose in a compassionate way.In order to be an effective communicator, to use communication to have a positive impact in the world, it is important to understand the ins and outs and intricacies of communication.

Kristy: It definitely was fun and challenging for me. In one session, you used a iceberg metaphor to explain a dynamic in conversation. Can you explain this metaphor to me again?

Joe: If the words we used were enough to communicate successfully, the world would be a better place, right? We would engage like computers, very efficient, task oriented, but human beings aren’t built that way.

Kristy: We are much deeper and more complex

Joe: Right. Thankfully! We may state a very clear message, like, “Can you make me a cup of tea?” But somehow the other has a reaction that doesn’t seem congruous to the request. What is that? If the problem doesn’t lie in the words, then where?

Kristy: The question, “Can you make me a cup of tea?” is just words—it’s the top part of the iceberg, the part we can see.

Joe: As you know, when you see an iceberg, you only see the top most superficial 10% of that iceberg above the surface of the water. The other 90% under the surface is the part you should be alert and concerned about! This is the same with human communication.


Kristy: So you ask me for a cup of tea, and I respond in a way that seems incongruous—like maybe I throw a teacup at you

Joe: Throwing a teacup communicates a very clear message. It may get messy, but that throwing of the teacup may be the very thing we have been waiting for to open up an important conversation about our relationship! That is Respectful Confrontation,

Kristy: So what’s the 90% of what’s going on?

Joe: The 90% is all the unseen parts of the communication, the submerged. And that includes all the factors and circumstances that make up each of the individuals involved. So with every communication you have, your words are the most superficial 10%, and with the words there’s a whole landscape of things that also influence that interaction. Let’s go down from close to the surface to deeper. Now we can get into some deep penetration.

Kristy: I told you there would be deep penetration.

Joe: Fun! It starts with body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, physical environment, and physical state of being. For instance, if someone is hungry, that might make her edgy and definitely influence how she interacts.

Kristy: These are all parts of a dialogue that, in theater, the actors get to play with—and the set designers and the costume people.

Joe: Yeah, this is what is so intriguing about playwrighting! As a playwright, I have to see the whole picture in my head, but I can only communicate the whole picture with the dialogue. I have to get all of it through the words, with imagery, musicality of language, and mood.

Kristy: And in any kind of writing, if we’re writing dialogue, the words we write are only 10% of what’s going on. There are the faces our characters might make, the clothes they are wearing, and the back story we’ve created for those characters. All of that is present, submerged under the dialogue.

Joe: In theater, it is the actor’s job to take this “coded” dialogue and decipher 100% of the experience.

Kristy: The prose writer might be able to uncover some of the other 90% in narration, but we still have to trust the reader to gather much of it.

Joe: The prose writer gets to explain some of the 90% in the text in a way that the playwright doesn’t, and yes, it is up to the writer to make sure the correct message gets communicated, as in Respectful Confrontation. I’ve always said that acting is the science of human behavior. The more a writer understands the depths of human behavior and interaction, what makes people tick, the richer the writing will be.

Kristy: Let’s go deeper with dialogue. What else, in your work with Respectful Confrontation, might be going on in the dialogue?

Joe: Well going deeper, what we always bring to every interaction is relationship, power dynamics, power status, past history, and mood. That’s the next layer of things that get in the way of clear communication or enliven and enrich our interactions.

Kristy: I think these deeper levels are the most interesting because they are harder to see in real life and perhaps harder for the writer or actor to communicate in narration or with gesture.

Joe: Yes, and that’s why we need writers and artists. To illuminate our human condition! To bring to light what is hidden. To teach, celebrate, and inform.

Kristy: So to create dialogue that’s true to life, the writer needs to consider things like the relationship between the speakers and power dynamics.

Joe: Of course! They are influencing the interaction. To create believable characters and relationships you have to go into the specifics, otherwise they won’t seem credible or they’ll be too general. What makes each character and each relationship unique? This should be an important question for a writer, right?

Kristy: And it keeps going deeper?

Joe: Yes: emotions, feelings, personal philosophy, beliefs, prejudices, judgments, culture, race, customs, religion, education, and love. And the deepest: fear, wounds, needs, desire, longing, traumas, and insecurities. I think the link is what I just said about writing. Respectful Confrontation is a way to empower the self and the other and glorify the richness of human experience. When we can understand that we are, each one of us, unique, and that we all require the time to connect with, the world will be better.

It’s Dialogue Month on The Sexy Grammarian’s Blog! This week’s posts include dialogues between the The Sexy Grammarian and my dad, my coach, and an almost-self-described grammar bottom. Subscribe now to follow the conversation.

In addition to being my communication coach, Joe Weston is the founder of Heartwalker Studio, the creator of Respectful Confrontation, and a columnist for You can still sign up last-minute for his Respectful Confrontation Workshop this weekend, August 29, in Oakland or plan ahead now for the weekend workshop, October 1-3.


Dialogue with Dad: Predicate Nominatives

Kristy: Hi, Dad. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’m looking forward to you teaching me the difference between a predicate nominative and a direct object, since I’m still a little fuzzy on it. And thanks again for your gentle but firm correction to my previous post, where I identified the word tired as a direct object in the sentence, She was tired. Can you explain the role of a predicate nominative in a sentence?

Dennis: Hi, Kristy. In a previous conversation about this, we did move on to the predicate nominative, but in the sentence in the original blog post, tired is actually a predicate adjective. Do you want to talk about that or the predicate nominative? They are closely related, but one is an adjective while the other is a noun.

Kristy: (laughs) See? It’s wacky and entertaining already! Please, let’s walk me through it from the beginning.

Dennis: Not too many people think grammar is wacky and entertaining—sexy, maybe. Let’s see how far some basic definitions will go to clear up the difference between a predicate adjective and a direct object.

First, we have to establish two different types of verbs: the linking verb and the transitive verb.

A linking verb, such as a form of to be or seem or appear, identifies the predicate with the subject: I am, you are, he appears, we are, they seem.

The transitive verb expresses action and may take a direct object, while the intransitive verb (think linking verb) may not take a direct object.

Is this making sense so far?

Kristy: Yes, makes sense, but I have questions.

Is a linking verb a sort of sub-type of intransitive verb? Like other intransitive verbs, it does not require a direct object, but it does link to a word in the predicate that modifies the subject?

One thing that bothers me here: can seem really be an intransitive verb?—even a special kind of intransitive verb? You can’t just seem, can you? You have to seem something.

Dennis: No, not a sub-type, though they have similarities.  Like an intransitive verb, a linking verb does not take a direct object but rather implies a condition or a state of being, while an intransitive verb expresses action. Let’s try some examples:

Linking verb: Kristy is the Sexy Grammarian. The linking verb, is, expresses a state of being.

Intransitive verb: Kristy travels frequently. The intransitive verb, travels, expresses action but takes no direct object, instead modifying the verb with an adverb.

Seem as a linking verb: A discussion about linking and intransitive verbs may seem confusing, but I think it’s sort of wacky and entertaining.

Does that help?

Kristy: Thanks for introducing some examples. That helps a lot. For the record, my dictionary does list seem as an intransitive verb. Isn’t it true that a dictionary will list either transitive or intransitive for every verb entry? Also, can’t an intransitive verb be more flexible than a transitive one? For example, the verb to see is an intransitive verb:

I see.

But it may take a direct object:

I see dead people.

And a transitive verb always requires a direct object?

Your example, Kristy is the Sexy Grammarian, has a linking verb and then a noun, the Sexy Grammarian. So, is the Sexy Grammarian, although a noun, still not a direct object because we have a linking verb rather than a transitive verb?

Surely the Sexy Grammarian does not become an adjective because of its relationship with the linking verb.

Dennis: You’re right about each verb being designated as transitive or intransitive, although some verbs can be both, such as the verb, see, as used in your examples. See in your first example is intransitive, but in your second sample: I see dead people, see becomes a transitive verb. See the difference?

In the example, Kristy is the Sexy Grammarian, the Sexy Grammarian following the linking verb is a predicate nominative, which, by definition, is the noun that follows a linking verb and stands for the subject.

We can relate this to the DSS’s original example: What she mostly was was tired. I don’t care much for that sentence, so let’s rewrite it to read: Mostly, she was tired. We can disregard the mostly for purposes of this discussion and focus on the simple sentence, She was tired. This is analogous to Kristy is the Sexy Grammarian; however, with She was tired, we have a predicate adjectivetired—instead of the predicate nominative—the Sexy Grammarian.

As a side note, the verb, to be, is not only noted as an intransitive verb, but it has an additional role as an auxiliary verb.

Kristy: Wow, I think I get it now! All this time, I’ve been treating predicate adjectives and especially nominatives like direct objects. Thanks, Dad. I knew you could explain it to me.

Dennis: My pleasure, Kristy.

It’s Dialogue Month on The Sexy Grammarian’s Blog! This week’s posts include dialogues between the The Sexy Grammarian and my dad, my coach, and an almost-self-described grammar bottom. Subscribe now to follow the conversation.

Besides being my Dad, Dennis Billuni is a retired U.S. postal carrier, a Senior Editor for A-1 Editing, and the man who taught me how to line edit.

Talking Dirty: Jackie & Jill’s Exciting Climax

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Predicate Nominatives Now you know what to do when the quotation is the direct object of a transitive verb and what to do when the quotation stands alone, but there’s one more possibility:

Jackie’s first question was “What are you hiding in that closet?” Continue reading

Talking Dirty: Orgasms and Vibrators

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Direct Objects

Dialogue is usually the direct object of a transitive verb denoting speaking or thinking. Although we don’t usually set off direct objects with a comma, we do when the direct object is a quotation. Look at the direct objects in the sentences below: Continue reading

Talking Dirty: Tags, Paragraphs, and Commas

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Dialogue Tags

A dialogue tag has two objectives: Continue reading

These ones almost snuck by: high school friends, verb tenses, submissive butches, and demonstrative pronouns

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Last month, a new idea struck my blog via Facebook like lightning from heaven–why not answer grammar questions from readers in a sort of salute to Dear Abby? Answering just a couple of questions on my blog stirred up a flurry of comments and questions. I could barely keep up.

But I love this idea because of the way it encourages dialogue. And I truly believe that dialogue is the whole point of this ever-expanding blog-o-sphere.

Two grammar questions, both from old high school friends, almost slipped through the cracks, so in the interest of cultivating dialogue during dialogue month, I address them today. Continue reading

Talking Dirty: I’ll be here all month!

It’s dialogue month at The Sexy Grammarian! That means I’ll be exploring the intersection of writing and dialogue in every way I can. In June, I posted notes from a very good workshop with Mike Sirota about writing dialogue, so that’s not exactly the focus.

Rather, over the next four weeks, you will read:

  • a handful of Sexy Grammar lessons about punctuating dialogue
  • actual dialogue between some real smart guys and me, discussing aspects of dialogue, communication, and grammar
  • answers to a few questions that have materialized in comments here on the blog and elsewhere in cyberspace–blog dialogue!

So stick around. I promise to talk dirty, and I’ll be here all month!