What characteristics, traits, behaviors, or principles would you expect an ethical public speaker to possess?

The National Communication Association (NCA) states that ethical communication is fundamental to responsible thinking, decision making, and the development of relationships and communities within and across contexts, cultures, channels, and media.

Quick answer:

The article by the National Communication Association titled NCA Credo for Ethical Communication provides useful insights on how an ethical public speaker should perform. Although many of the principles mentioned in this article may be difficult to achieve, it is still important for a public speaker to know about them and try to follow them as much as possible. The following are some of the characteristics that an ethical public speaker must possess: (1) accurate, (2) reasonable, (3) avoiding inflaming hatred and violence, and (4) respecting the views of others. It will be difficult for a speaker to practice all these principles because there are times when it may be necessary to say something incorrect or unreasonable.

Expert Answers

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As this is a complex question with multiple points raised, this answer shall focus on analyzing the NCA Credo for Ethical Communication, a short statement initially approved by the NCA Legislative Council in November 1999.

The National Communication Association was founded in 1914 as a professional association for teachers of speech. It has continued for over a century to be the major association for professionals teaching Communications at the college or university level. It holds important regional and national annual conventions and publishes several journals in the communication discipline.

The NCA Credo for Ethical Communication reflects an ongoing debate in the history of rhetoric that appears as early as Plato's Gorgias concerning whether rhetoric is a purely technical skill and itself ethically neutral or whether the teacher of rhetoric bears responsibility for the uses to which rhetoric is put. Gorgias and the other Older Sophists tended to argue on the side of its being a neutral technical skill, just as now some people argue concerning guns (e.g., "Guns don't kill people. People kill people.") that the instrument is not to blame for its use. On the other side, Quintilian argues that a rhetorician is ideally a "vir bonus dicendi peritus" ( good man speaking skillfully).

NCA argues that rhetoricians bear ethical obligations. One important characteristic argued for in the statement is accuracy. This includes doing careful research to the best of one's ability to avoid spreading incorrect information.

Another important characteristic is that communication should be reasonable and attempt to get people to think carefully through issues rather than simply inflaming anger, outrage, or paranoia. This might mean avoiding excessive use of sentimental examples and being careful to analyze both sides of a question.

Next, NCA advocates that all communication avoid inflaming hatred and violence and strongly opposes racism and other forms of degrading speech such as ageism and ableism. Communication should always attempt to respect and understand the views of others.

The NCA strongly supports freedom of speech but also believes that all people should take responsibility for the consequences of their speech.

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