Define ethics and explain what ethical communication encompasses.

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I'm going to express a different opinion from the educator who described ethics as "a system of moral principles." While ethics and morals are both guides to what is right and wrong, the have several key differences between them.


  • Represent rules of conduct within a particular circumstance or class of action
  • Are imposed by a social system or external source
  • Are typically consistent within a single context but vary between contexts


  • Are high-level principles of conduct with general applicability
  • May be taught or instilled externally but are generally held and enforced by the individual
  • Are usually consistent across contexts

What that means is ethical communication is difficult to apply within a business context because the ethical standards by which communications are judged will vary significantly from context to context. For example, you might feel uncomfortable speculating on best-case scenarios without mentioning potential downsides, because you might feel it's immoral regardless of the circumstances. But that type of whitewashing is probably ethical for a salesman or entrepreneur, even if it would be unethical for an auditor or for the author of a yearly investment report.

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In business, ethical communication implies keeping privacy of customers and employees.  A business should also be honest with his employees and customers.  Businesses should not sell products that are unsafe or unhealthy.  Nonetheless, many businesses do all of these things.  They sell information, or dangerous products.

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Any speaker, and certainly a public speaker, has an obligation to speak truthfully and accurately.  The more public the position, the greater the need for ethical principles.  Consider the politician or the preacher who deliberately misleads his constituents.  We've had them, of course--think Jim Jones and David Koresh and, well, pick a politician.  There are consequences for such misleading or misinformed speech; adhering to ethical and moral principles will help ensure the fewest negative consequences for any speaker.  Conversely, there is likely to be positive action and reaction to those who speak from a moral and ethical position. 

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Ethics of course is a very important concept for today's world - many people get themselves into all sorts of difficulty by ignoring ethics and doing their own thing. Ethical communication, to my mind, ensures that you communicate all the essential information honestly and openly - you do not attempt to hide or downplay certain facts that might affect the opinion of your audience to what you have to say. You need go no further than the advertising world to see this in action, though arguably there is a very thin line between the truth we are told about products and the actual "truth".

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Ethics is a system of moral principles.  Which means that you try to do what is correct. 

Ethical communication encompasses being honest in all communications, keeping confidential information confidential, and not discussing the personal or business situations of others in public or in front of a third party. 

I recently was looking at website designers at a technology fair.  He was discussing the business problems of another person I knew with one of her former employees.  I did not consider this to be ethical communication and chose not to do business with him because of it. 

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Define ethics and discuss what ethical communication encompasses. 

Ethics is a complex topic; it encompasses "doing the right thing" even if one doesn't want to at the moment. There are certain standards for fair treatment that stand beyond law, religious practices, or social acceptance. The US Declaration of Independence sums these up for the edification of King George III and states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The ethical treatment of others involves recognizing their human rights which extend far beyond the US Bill of Rights and into quality of life issues such as the pursuit of happiness. 

Ethical communication applies ethics to the process of communications, which in a global economy can be challenging. Ethical communication involves recognizing others' rights but also involves empathy, which is the ability to see life from another person's perspective. If a person offends another through an oversight in communication, which is entirely possible given the complexities of human culture, then that could be impinging on that other person's sense of well-being. Ethical communication requires people to become aware not just of the content of their messages but also how those messages might be received by their audience. 

A lot of lip service is paid to the concept of ethics; a person is ethical when that person's actions reflect a sense of ethics and when it is clear that the person will take ethical action even if that action requires some kind of personal sacrifice.

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