A common turn of phrase, “for those that [fill in the blank group]”, is used commonly to address a very specific, often smaller, part of a larger audience. You’ll have heard the phrase in speeches, classes, social media, or any other public forum. I’ll be honest, I’ve always been against using it. However, in this post, I’d like to examine the rhetorical value the phrase might have for inclusion, exclusion, or somehow attempting to do both in terms of addressing a specific group within a larger audience.
Thinking of the reasons why people use the phrase in an inclusive sense, I’ve come up with a few ideas. With inclusion, the focus of the sentence is on the group being addressed and less on the claim or question being made.
Specific point to be made and wishes for support – In a given rhetorical situation the rhetor is attempting to drum-up support for their point. “For those of you that have children, you know how difficult children can be. Spanking is a valid punishment”. This rhetoric draws on the assumption that the specified group has a shared experience. While that is not always the case, the rhetor will often generalize the claim in order to encompass more of the audience. This is definitely a fight with audience scope. Too specific the claim, the less of the group will agree. Too general and you risk losing support.
Looking for answers, wants the answer only through perceived authority figures – Again, there’s an odd assumption being made here. The rhetor, in an attempt to clarify information, specifies who they wish to receive the answer. “For those of you that garden, how often should I be watering my tulips?”. It doesn’t matter if the question is obvious or researchable, this is still another instance where scope is the issue. Have an overly specific question, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Have a generalized question, then maybe someone from outside that group could have provided answers.
Attempting to show own inclusion into the sub-group – This is purely camaraderie. The person wants to show their inclusion. “For those of you that work at a restaurant, doesn’t it suck when people ask if your open 10 minutes before close? Haha, am I right?”. If the information is too specific, the rhetor runs the risk of excluding those within the sub-group. If the information is too generalized, then the rest of the audience will question the rhetors inclusion into that sub-group at all.
Exclusion seems to focus less on the group and more on the subject matter or second half of the statement with the claim.
Specific point to be made and does not want opposition – Easy enough, this is when the rhetor wants to limit the voices of anyone that might object with the statement. “For those that love our company, the people on strike are just greedy”. This is used to “rally the troops” or discredit others. Where the specified group could incorporate many people, the claim does not and acts as a separating force between otherwise inclusive members.
Rhetorical question aimed to show deficiency in authority figures – This is asking a question with a complicated answer, multiple answers, or controversial answers. “For those that are physicists, how could normal humans lift thousands of pounds of sandstone at one time? Must’ve been aliens that built the Pyramids”. While the authority could answer the question, the answer might be too lengthy or complicated to answer within the forum. Tweets are only so long. QA sessions after a speech are limited. Really, the rhetor is just attempting a “gotcha” moment for anyone that might know the answer.
Attempting to show the sub-group as exclusive or special – This one is ego driven meant to be pure exclusion. I’m not quite sure as to the motive, but it is similar to its inclusive counterpart as that the statement assumes the rhetor belongs to the ascribed group. “For those of you that ride a motorcycle, only you know the feeling of being free”. Really, the outcome is not worth it unless everyone in the audience is a part of that group, else you risk upsetting those not in the group.
In any of the instances above there is a possibility that the rhetor is attempting to both include and exclude. This is all dependant on the audience.
If the audience is made entirely of the included group, then the rhetor is attempt to rouse the crowd. They are also attempting to separate the group from participants already excluded (what would be the point of excluding them further?).
If the audience is made entirely of the excluded group, then the rhetor is attempting dissidence. The common similar example is the “Change my mind” meme. For those of you that haven’t seen the meme, I’ve provided it below (see what I did there?).
Even in my example, there is no way that “the best blog ever” could be determined and even if it was, I doubt that this blog would take #1 (maybe top 10 though). In any case, the claim is usually ludacris or overly specific. The only thing that this meme is missing is, “For those of you that read blogs…”.
My hope is not to make anyone so self conscious about their speech that they themselves cannot function within polite society, but to make each person just a bit more aware of what they are actually saying.
I had a class in grad school where all of my peers started off each class discussion with, “For those of you that teach…”. It was infuriating because there was only two people without a class or that didn’t just finish teaching a class, myself and my good friend Braik. It constantly felt like we were being singled out. Funny enough, the focus of the class was, in fact, to learn how to teach! The professor ended up apologizing to me and addressing the class on multiple occasions.
As always, I hope that you enjoyed reading and that you’ve added something to your everyday rhetoric repertoire. I’ll be looking at some other rhetoricians blogs over the weekend and I would like to address specific bloggers along with their writings. If you would like me to look at your blog or are interested in starting one yourself, feel free to email me. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll catch you in a couple days with another Casual Friday post.