Ethical Communication in Interpersonal Relationships Character Counts An

Ethical communication in interpersonal relationships

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reason, we now turn to a discussion of character. Ethical Communication in Interpersonal Relationships: Character Counts An examination of our ethical behavior in interpersonal communication does not only have a relational dimension, but a character dimension as well. Recall from the section on virtue ethics (Chapter 2) that we can evalu- ate our ethical behavior on the basis of what a virtuous person would do. In our everyday interactions and interpersonal communication we may strive to communicate as a virtuous person would communicate. We should, as people of character, treat others the way we ourselves wish to be treated. Traits like integrity, honesty, compassion, and empathy are character virtues, and as
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Ethics in Interpersonal Communication 145 such are foundational to our communication in interpersonal relationships. In his book, Integrity , Stephen Carter writes: Indeed, one reason to focus on integrity as perhaps the first among the virtues that make for good character is that it is in some sense prior to everything else: the rest of what we think matters very little if we lack essential integrity, the courage of our convictions, the willingness to act and speak in behalf of what we know to be right. In an era when the American people are crying out for open discussion of morality—of right and wrong—the ideal of integrity seems a good place to begin. 4 During the administration of former President Bill Clinton, a story was leaked regarding his alleged inappropriate relationship with a former intern and the legislative affairs employee named Monica Lewinsky. As the scan- dal unfolded in the press, the President initially denied having any relation- ship with the young woman. The accusations and denials continued until the President finally said the following to a national audience on August 17, 1998: As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions about my rela- tionship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information. Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewin- sky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong . . . my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that. I can only tell you I was motivated by many factors. First, by a desire to protect myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct. 5 With this admission, and with the memories of the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration still embedded in the national psyche, the issue of character began to dominate public conversations. From talk shows to the tabloids to the national media, the question “Does character matter?” was discussed and debated on a regular basis. As we have established in several chapters throughout this book, char- acter most definitely does matter. And while the approaches are somewhat different, the various ethical systems we have discussed rely on the issue of character. In Kantian ethics (Chapter 3), we learn that the person of char- acter will see it as an absolute duty to act in the way we want everyone else to act in a similar situation. Bentham and Mill, both utilitarians (Chapter 4)
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