Magazine article Security Management


Magazine article Security Management


Article excerpt

****# Why? By Charles Tilly; published by Princeton University Press, (Web); 202 pages; $24.95.

From the ancient philosophers to today's bloggers, men and women have asked, "Why?" This book asks that same momentous question, but not toward the end of philosophical or religious understanding. Instead, it the book dissects how people answer the question.


The book is an anatomy of explanations. The way we choose to explain something varies greatly depending on our relationship with our audience, and the approach used profoundly affects the success of the communication. Using the correct approach can reinforce relationships and facilitate understanding; the wrong approach can alienate those we seek to influence and damage our cause.

According to author Charles Tilly, a professor of social science at Columbia University, explanations fall into four categories. The first is convention, or "conventionally accepted reasons for dereliction, deviation, distinction, or good fortune."

If you forget an appointment and claim that you "had a senior moment" in your defense, you have just used a convention. Conventions tend to be flimsy, so while they may work with relatives or coworkers, they will hardly suffice for the CEO.

When former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked why he had not prepared for violence in Baghdad after the 2003 Iraq war, he responded, "Stuff happens." This use of a convention when a more substantial answer was expected offended many members of the public and cost him support.

The second category of explanations consists of "explanatory narratives involving cause-effect accounts. …

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