Sometimes I'm amazed at what people will say in an email. Things that they'd never say if they were standing in front of me. Sometimes it's a poorly worded joke, but often it's just someone being a little quick on the draw when deciding whether to write down some angry, insulting, or critical words.
I suppose after all these years of increasingly text-based communications, I shouldn't be surprised anymore. Shameless optimist that I am. So I continue to be amazed that some folks find it so easy to be rude, mean, angry, or disrespectful, when texting or sending email.
Some folks need a time-delay installed on their "send" button. It would give them time to remember that sarcasm and humor do NOT translate well in an email. And that rudeness is always uncalled for, even when delivered electronically. It's unwelcome in our personal lives, of course, but especially unwelcome in the business world; these two worlds have increasingly overlapped in our society anyway.
One of my favorite things about the speaking industry, and the meetings industry in general, is the overall upbeat tone of the people I encounter. It is a normal and expected part of my job to call total strangers. Often very famous or important strangers, people who run companies or win Nobel Prizes or write best-selling books. Sometime I am calling or writing executives or event planners who are so busy their laptops have become their new spouses.
Yet they are almost always polite. Polite and pleasant. Cheerful, even. And I appreciate it, every time. You don't get to the top by being a jerk, after all.
And then there are the times when I expect to be met with the politesse and mutual respect so common in our industry, and instead get a metaphorical slap in the face. Whoops, looks like someone just had a bad day, and decided to try to pass that bad day on to me.
Well, no thanks, I'll pass. And next time I'll remember to call someone else instead, someone with whom it's a pleasure to do business.
If you do that to me, I'll assume that someone just made you feel inferior about something, and you are trying to pass that bad feeling on to someone else. You've just cast yourself as the patronizing clueless character who thinks he's/she's a bigshot, but really just lacks judgement.
There are countless articles and studies about this problem. A few examples, written by Keynote speakers, can be found here, by Tony Schwartz, and by Sue Hershkowitz-Coore. Some people think it's a sign of declining civility in our society in general: another example on a slightly different topic can be found here. Some people blame it on the increasing texting and emailing, replacing face-to-face and telephone conversation.
Some people see it as a byproduct of the media; it's okay for political pundits to yell at each other, to make up statistics and 'facts' to support their points, to insult each other, so it has become increasingly normal for the rest of us, too. Even celebrities will tweet nasty comments sometimes, and they should KNOW they're in the public eye, so it must be OK for the rest of us as well, right?
There's nothing like good old fashioned civility. Mutual respect, too. I promise to use them both. Waiting a few hours before sending a negative-sounding email, to give myself the chance to re-read and re-think it, has saved me burned bridges on more than one occasion.
I'm human, so I may slip up occasionally, but I promise to do my best.
Will you promise, too? Let's all promise, and we can remove one more piece of unnecessary aggravation from our lives.
And for anyone who's been keeping track, I know it's been a terribly long time since I posted anything. You wouldn't believe how busy we've been (and that's a good thing! Hooray!), and you wouldn't believe how many great ideas I have lined up in my draft posts, just waiting to be fleshed out. Lots of speakers with new books, new ideas, new issues, lots of stuff to tell you about.
The problem is, clients wanting to book speakers RIGHT NOW trumps everything, so sometimes the blog gets put off. For way too long. Sorry. I'll try to do better.