How often have we seen a speaker tap a microphone and say: Is this on?
At least the person in question is preparing to speak. On the other hand, how often have we heard news reports about politicians saying things they shouldn’t have been saying (or thinking), not realizing that the microphone in front of them was on?
Our modern world is full of opportunities to embarrass ourselves, big time. I suppose in ancient times, the worst that could happen to an orator was to be over heard by one or two people before he was ready. If he was standing in front of a crowd of listeners, he knew it.
The problem in today’s world is not just oral communication. There are much worse issues with the written word. In days of old, if you were writing on a clay tablet or with a quill pen, you couldn’t hardly hit “reply all,” and get into as much trouble as you can today.
The power to look incredibly stupid or silly is beyond the ability of most of us to comprehend. Oh how I dread the days when I have a typo in one of my editorials. Since we are a society of friends, a goodly number of you take the time to write and let me know. If only everyone were so fortunate to have their friends let them know they have made a mistake.
If you are new to the power of the Internet, here are a few examples to put you on your guard.
First, keep in mind that the only information people have about what you are trying to communicate is what you put in front of them. Yes, they actually may not be able to read your mind.
So, for example, if you have just joined LinkedIn and want to link with all of your friends, you might want to consider NOT using the system message. Incredible as it may seem, almost every LinkedIn invitation I have ever gotten used the system message. How impersonal! In addition, important things are usually missing from these messages such as your name and more importantly, how I know you and why I might want to link up with you. A note that let me know we really do know each other might actually improve your communication to me and enhance this networking opportunity.
When you are composing your messages to others, consider that they may not actually read everything you have sent them before forwarding it on to others. Several times each year, we get a posting for the newsletter that includes notes about how members don’t want their names mentioned. Unfortunately, this very important sentence is buried somewhere other than in the headline or beginning. I often wonder if the sender considered the possibility that we might have gotten more than one job posting that night. Did that sender also consider the consequences of what might happen if his/her message appeared unedited in a newsletter going out to 38,000+ people? I guess not.
I realize our environment appears very friendly, and the staff and I do have a secret decoder ring to figure out who you are, but is it possible that you could include an outgoing signature to make our jobs easier? On a broader scale, if you honestly think that everyone you call friend actually knows how to reach you, I think you are kidding yourself.
The worst thing that might have happened in the past was that a letter you so very carefully wrote was somehow lost by the post office. In today’s world, the worst thing that can happen is a message you have not carefully thought through gets forwarded to EVERYONE in the civilized world.
While I am a big fan of all technology, it is not without its dangers. Text messages and Twitter tweets may appear to be casual and ephemeral, but they can easily take on a life of their own. I think when you hit send, the message back should be: “Have you actually read this message and are you sure you want to send it?” And, you should actually have to type the entire word YES to get it to go out.
It would sure save a lot of embarrassing situations.