Distancing language

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Distancing language is phrasing used by people to "distance" themselves from a statement, either to avoid thinking about the subject or to distance themselves from its content. Distancing language is often a means of self-deception, but distancing language used orally may indicate that a person is lying.

Examples of distancing language[edit]

  • Distancing clinical language partly shields health workers from the impact of workplace experiences, e.g. "bled to death" substituted with "exsanguinated".
  • Military personnel may use a range of distancing terms for combatants either killing or getting killed. They may also employ distancing, dehumanizing terms for enemy combatants. "Collateral damage" for the incidental or accidental killing of non-combatants during attacks on legitimate military targets is an example.
  • Everyday euphemistic references to death, dying, burial, corpses and to the people and places which deal with death are also protective, distancing terms either formal or informal, respectful or disrespectful, e.g. "croaked", "bought the farm", "expired", "passed on".
  • An indirect statement implying an answer, rather than a direct answer, may indicate lying. For example, replies such as "would I do such a thing?" or even "I wouldn't do such a thing", rather than "I didn't do it". Referring to someone known well by the speaker as "that woman" instead of using a name or "her" is another example [1].

People use many techniques to distance themselves from the truth. This is especially apparent when someone is attempting to avoid consequences. For example, the use of pronouns changes when one is being deceptive. "My" becomes "the." For example, "I drove 'my' car to the ramp" becomes "I drove 'the' car to the ramp." Other constructs to examine may include the addition of unnecessary words. For example, "We didn't see her" might come out "We didn't really see her." The additional word could be an indication of deception.

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