Competitive and Cooperative Communication

  • Title: Contemplationam, Competitive and Cooperative Communication.
  • Author: Arvindus.
  • Publisher: Arvindus.
  • Copyright: © 2015 Arvindus, all rights reserved.
  • Index: 201508031.
  • Edition: html, first edition.

In this contemplation a distinction shall be made between competitive and cooperative communication.


Communication can in general be understood as  the “imparting, conveying, or exchange of ideas, knowledge, information”.1 The word stems from the Latin word 'commūnicātiō(nem)'.2 This is a compound word consisting through 'commūnicō', which refers to a sharing,3 basically of 'com' and 'munis',4 whereby the first means 'together'5 and the latter refers to an obligation.6 So in a communication between persons is shared what is obliged or owed to each other. And since communication can be said to consist of speaking and listening can the obligation be of both kinds. One can in communication be obliged to give certain words and to accept certain words.

Now what one owes to another and is thus obliged to do has subjective, intersubjective, objective and conjective perspectives.7 It can be said that in a subjective perspective one has an isolated view on what one and another owe each other. In such a perspective another will not necessarily agree on the regarded view. In an intersubjective perspective it can be said that the involved communicators agree among each other about their obligations towards each other. This agreement however stands independent from their real obligations. For these real obligations stand in objectivity isolated from any subjectivity. And it is only in conjective perspectives that communicators agree upon their true obligations towards each other. In such cases 'the right word is put in the right place', as the saying goes.

Now there are many ways in which communication can be differentiated but in this contemplation the distinction shall be made between competitive and cooperative communication.

Competitive Communication

The English word 'competitive', meaning “characterized by competition”,8 is derived from the word 'compete', which refers basically to a rivalry.9 The latter stems from the Latin 'competere'.10 This is a compound word consisting of 'com' and 'petere'. As we have seen already in the etymosophy of 'communication' does 'com' mean 'together'. Now 'petere' carries meanings pertaining to strife in general and one with hostile intents in particular.11 Basically it can be said that in a competition one strives for something at the cost of another.12 A competitive communicator then strives in his communication to something at the cost of the other with whom he is communicating. Now since communication was found to be a sharing of obligations (also understandable as 'debts') can it be deduced that a competitive communicator strives for the full indebtedness of the other communicator towards himself. To be communicative fully indebt means that one is obliged to communicate to the other whatever the latter wants and to comply to whatever the latter is communicatively sharing. Now such a situation occurs when the utterances of a communicator are completely confirmed and when the utterances of the other are completely negated. In other words does a competitive communicator strive for the winning of an argument.

Now in order for one to win an argument it is necessary that another loses it. There can be no winner without a loser. And in this line of thought can the competitive communicator apply two methods in order to reach his goal. He can be a winner by making himself a winner but he can also be a winner by making the other person a loser. A winner one becomes by positing a thesis that is denied by another but which by argument must be accepted. Thus shall a competitive communicator gladly posit an argumentative well prepared thesis that is of such a confronting nature that argumentative communication is likely to follow. With his well prepared set of arguments then the competitive communicator will hope to win the argument for his thesis, posting himself as a winner and the other as a loser. If however the competitive communicator has no such a prepared thesis at hand he shall likely aim at negating another person's thesis. In such cases he will bombard the other person's explication with negating arguments, throwing the other into a defense. If that person then is not able to parry the attacks on his thesis then he will lose the argument, and by becoming a loser can the competitive communicator revel in having become himself a winner.

Cooperative Communication

The English word 'cooperative' is derived from the word 'cooperation' which refers to a working together to the same end.13 It stems from the Latin 'cooperārī'.14 This is a compound word consisting of 'com', meaning again 'together', and 'operārī', simply meaning 'work',15 thus explaining the aforementioned meaning of 'cooperative' as a working together to the same end. So in a cooperative communication communicators work together to the same end. And this end basically regards the fulfillment of all existing obligations.

A cooperative communicator then will always try to put the right word in the right place. When he perceives that the other is obliged to accept his words or that he himself is obliged to give the other his words then he will speak the words that need to be conveyed. But when he perceives that he is obliged to accept the other's words or that the other owes him certain words then he will listen and accept the regarded words.

Comparison of Perspectives

It shall clear that the style of communication of a cooperative communicator is very different from that of a competitive communicator. The first tries to settle existing mutual debts while the latter tries to indebt his fellow communicator. This also means that cooperative communicators are concerned with reality while competitive communicators are not. The stance of the first is that there is a real existing state of mutual debts while the stance of the second is that there is no such truth and that therefore anything goes. The difference between competitive and cooperative communicators can thus be compared to the difference between sophists and philosophers. For on base of Plato's accounts of sophists are these in the philosophical tradition depicted as debaters for their own victory while philosophers like Socrates are thought to debate for the uncovering of truth.16

Above it was mentioned that a competitive communicator does not acknowledge an independent truth while a cooperative communicator does. Against the background of the contemplation 'Subjectivity, Objectivity and Conjectivity'17 this may lead one to believe that a competitive communicator communicates necessarily from a subjective perspective while a cooperative communicator does this from an objective or conjective perspective. This thought is correct in the first case however not fully in the latter. Indeed does a competitive communicator communicate from a subjective perspective. For him only his own subjectivity is valid. But that a cooperative communicator acknowledges an independent truth does not necessarily mean that he communicates from an objective or conjective perspective. For in the case of true objectivity the truth or reality would stay isolated on itself and thus unreachable for any communicator. And in the case of conjectivity the communicator would be a metanthropos or a Buddha, a stage which most communicators haven't yet reached.18, 19, 20 However although in most cases truth is not fully unlocked to cooperative communicators and their perspective is not a total conjective one they do strive for the fulfilment of a truthful, real existing mutual indebtedness. And this is where they differ from competitive communicators. The latter revel in their own subjectivity and dig themselves often even deeper into it while a cooperative communicator tries to leave his subjectivity behind in his strife for the establishment of truth.

May thus in this contemplation right words have been put in right places.