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Style and Subtlety – Boom!

Yep – did it again.  Yesterday I fell into that all-to-common digital trap of our modern century – I blasted a colleague (and friend) on IM.  Ate those digital words this morning:

Pratter’s Prayer

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them. 

Unknown Sage

It was the usual setting:  I was digitally multi-tasking; fast and furious.  It’s quarter-end; a stressful time that comes around… oh… just every 90 days (funny how that works).  The combination meant I could, “double my pleasure – double my fun”:

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. 

Ashleigh Brilliant

I texted him a question; he texted back an answer; I didn’t like his answer; he didn’t like my question; I asked for an alternative; he said not a chance…  A frequent, digital argument expressed with directness and written in digital shorthand; punctuated with emoticons; all behind the shield of our monitors.

Collegial banter?  Depends on who’s the banterer and who’s the banteree.  That type of typing can quickly cut to raw emotions lurking nearer the surface during stressful times such as quarter-end.

We were briefly embattled with a “my way or the highway”; “I’m right – you’re wrong”; “compromise is for sissies”; “I eat Marines for breakfast” blast-fest.  Totally devoid of style or subtlety.  U2?  Been there done that I bet.  Not one of my proudest moments, digital or otherwise.

Style and subtlety; certainly diminishing dimensions in today’s digital era.  It’s actually worse than that.

Seemingly gone are the days of subtlety, statesmanship, irony, even sarcasm.  Texts and emails are written in black and white; read as black OR white.  Intentions behind the expressions are easily misinterpreted; feelings easily hurt; and everyone seems to have barbed retorts at the ready.

Even our political process has degenerated into a continuous barrage of confrontational accusations and insults vs. the skilled and stylish statesmanship of centuries past.  Oh they were direct back in the day, but within the context of a statesmanship image coupled with face-to-face bravery vs. digital cowardliness:

A story is told of a Woman Member of Parliament who, after an extensive tirade at a social function, scornfully told the Prime Minister, “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk”, to which Churchill replied, “And you Madam, are ugly.  But I shall be sober tomorrow.”

Today, we don’t know if the statesman’s statement was sarcasm or irony having not been there to witness the state of his drunkenness nor the appearance of his accuser.  Because the event was face-to-face vs. digital, there could easily have been expressions of irony or sarcasm that dulled the barbs of the barbs.  Stylish statesmen of centuries past were able communicators and skilled in the art of avoiding black OR white confrontations.

Statesmanship, style and subtlety of the 20th century?  Boom!  Sacrificed for the sake of today’s digital age.  Replaced by the barrage of black OR white hyperbole perfect for IMs, emails, emoticons, and the evening news.

In business, should we even care?  Can we stop hiding behind our monitors?  Is subtlety mightier than the digital sword?  I think our favorite, Unknown Sage still believes so:

Subtlety is saying what you think, but then leaving before anyone really understands what you meant.

Digital communications technology can be wonderful – when used properly.  It can also be barbed weapons; hurting feelings; killing relationships when not.  Too easy and too often taken as black OR white.  Agreed?  Well, if not… I’m right and you’re wrong!

GAP

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