Last week I listened to a National Public Radio On Point segment called Where the Web Went Wrong, about the impact of social media on relationships, individuality and communication skills and a new book by Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto.
The show covered many issues, but the one I can most resonate with is the deterioration of manners, interpersonal communication and good judgment. A 28-year old man who called in to the radio program complained that in person meetings were always interrupted by friends distracted by their devices, checking what’s going on elsewhere. Complaints abound about the lack of manners in public places, of the lack of live personal attention. The endorphins we get from hearing a new text message come in are beating out our real, in person conversations.
This fall I watched a prominent panel of business experts talk and noticed that all but one were in wrinkled street clothes, despite the role they had at a major business conference. The moderator wore a baseball cap which concealed his face, and the presentation started with the showing of a video was predominately expletives. I was interested in what this panel had to say, but I was also offended. Maybe I am old school, but I still think that manners are important, and, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it, that counts.
With all of the useless content one must wade through to get to the valuable insight, don’t complicate the already muddy waters with time-wasting drivel, or worse yet, offensive and glib presentations. If we take our roles as ambassadors of our brand (personal or corporate) seriously, we should respect our audience and be useful and polite.
That means, don’t clutter the email boxes of others with chain letters, don’t post mundane irrelevant updates on Twitter. Remember that you are communicating with people, not computers. The quality of your communicate (or the lack there of) is equal to your image, your personal brand.
These tools are not going away. While the way we communicate evolves, we should always bring along the basic manners we were taught before they came along.