Ethical Interpersonal Communication

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Ethical Interpersonal Communication 2

Ethics refers to standards of conduct, standards that indicate how one should behave based on moral duties and virtues, which themselves are derived from principles of right and wrong. The major determinant of whether communications are ethical or unethical can be found in the notion of choice. The underlying assumption is that people have a right to make their own choices. Interpersonal communications are ethical to the extent that they facilitate a person’s freedom of choice by presenting that person with accurate information. Communications are unethical to the extent that they interfere with the individual’s freedom of choice by preventing the person from securing information relevant to the choices he or she will make. Unethical communications, therefore, are those that force a person to make choices he or she would not normally make or to decline to make choices he or she would normally make or both. The ethical communicator provides others with the kind of information that is helpful in making their own choices. You have the right to information about yourself that others possess and that influences the choices you will make. Thus, for example, you have the right to face your accusers, to know the witnesses who will be called to testify against you, to see your credit ratings, to see your medical records, and so on. At the same time that you have the right to information bearing on your own choices, you also have the obligation to reveal information that you possess that bears on the choices of your society. Thus, for example, you have an obligation to identify wrongdoing that you witness, to identify someone in a police line up, to notify the police of criminal activity, and

Ethical Interpersonal Communication 3

to testify at a trial when you posses pertinent information. This...
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