Could it actually be beneficial to speak in an obfuscating fashion when you seek to:
1. Sidestep controversy?
2. Avoid being frequently-quoted?
3. Mitigate the impact of sometimes hostile questioning?
4. Prevent an “audience” from taking decisive action?
I am referring to the recent (not past) testimony on the hill by Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Petraeus. It is difficult to be on the hot seat. Jargon and doublespeak are, too often, the norm in politics and in academic and corporate life.
Can it actually be smart to speak so that people do not understand what you mean and get tired of trying?
Even and especially in dire and/or controversial circumstances and with the four “avoidance” goals listed above, I’ll bet most communication experts would advise straight talk.
With his blunt and humorous response in The New York Times, Dick Cavett has stirred excellent commentary from Bert Decker and others. Bet Bob Sutton, Mark Halperin, Arch Lustberg, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, and Dan and Chip Heath would concur.
For one thing, not speaking clearly and compellingly means your opponents' comments may become even more memorable in contrast. Rep. Ackerman noted, for example, that Petraeus was “pushing rocks uphill.”