I was reading Smart Bitches today. Go read the article, but not the comments. I want to comment on the comment I made. (Too many layers--gack.)
OK, you back?
Here's my comment:
I’m finding it ever so ironic that most of these discussions about what one should or should not have said come down to an underlying critique of how professional the original commentor (commentator?) was behaving. There’s a lot of verbiage about how we should all act and what lessons can be learned from watching someone else act rashly.
Ummm. But all the comments regarding professional etiquette are showing up on blogs. As a writer of a blog, I’m having some trouble digesting that.
First, at some point every person has acted less professionally than they should. There’s always a more tactful or, conversely, a more open way of presenting an issue. There’s always one more opportunity to resist the pull of gossip. The effectiveness of pulling out these examples is getting diluted. Because, really, how many times do we all need another reminder that perhaps we could be “nicer”? Even La Nora commented that the internet is a tool which requires some finesse; I believe she mentioned some scars she still bears, although she was kind enough not to show us the scars in question.
Second, why are the critiques of professional behavior given any weight whatsoever when they appear on a blog? Unless that blog is dedicated to professional ethics, managerial techniques, or business management tools, then no blogger has the ability to point fingers about another’s professionalism. And I say that as a blogger.
Because really, blogs are a newer form of gossip around the water cooler. In some cases, such as on this site, the discourse is intelligent, varied, and respectful. But really the whole blog “movement” is an exercise in *personal* opinions, reactions, stories, and ideas. Sometimes friends show up in a time of crisis and offer suport and conversation. Sometimes strangers gather on streetcorners to bitch about politics. Sometimes watercoolers attract office gossip.
But not a simgle bit of that is professional behavior. None of it. And I enjoy it greatly.
In my professional life, I modulate my tone very carefully. I appear on TV with a certain look, a certain affect. When I walk into a colleague’s office, I’ll often announce, “I’m here as a Board member” or “I’m here as a parent” just so that the other person can tell what level of dialogue we’re going to engage in. I consider it professional courtesy to do so. But on my blog, it’s personal.
At AAR, I expect something in the middle--it was a pretty open-ended question after all. And I don’t consider AAR to be a professional publishing or industry website. If it were, there wouldn’t even be an “At the Back Fence” column with a linked discussion board for public comment. What professional organization would go out of its way to stir up topics of discussion and invite the public to weigh in on an unmoderated message board? Hello. Unprofessional. Therefore casual, and therefore I’m not understanding the complaint that Ms. Stuart was being unprofessional to begin with.
All in all, I’m left shaking my head over a reaction to an internet posting on a blog, where the blogger decries that the original poster was acting unprofessionally. By the very virtue that you are blogging about it, are you not also acting unprofessionally?
I think we all need to get over ourselves. People do and say odd things occasionally, and they all have differing opinions. Singling them out to answer for their actions on blogs is a touch immature.
And after that huge reaction, I’ll close by saying that I thought Ms. Stuart’s comment was just as appropriate to the interview as the rest of her answers. “Favorite type of man"--I’d never answer that question if a newspaper asked me, but I’d hop right to it if AAR had occasion to.
(Note to self--figure out a way to write a post which is four sentences or less. Really.)
In politics, I genuinely enjoy conversation. Some frustrations aside, I enjoy negotiations too, because it is only in negotiations where I get a sense of what is deeply important to the unions. What I thought was going to be a big issue isn't mentioned, and that's FACSINATING to me. I enjoy hearing from people on the "other" side about what they'd like to see get done. Because then I can understand where their priorities are.
And I hear from time to time from folks on the "other" side that they are genuinely surprised to find me so willing to engage in conversation with them. (Then I hear from idiots on "my" side that I shouldn't be talking to them. Ugh.)
OK, all that works. I love that part.
What I hate, is the personalization of pointing out differences.
I'm seeing this over and over again. People are constantly misinterpreting the intended audience for various comments. There is a specific difference in talking about a topic on a blog, or in an informal interview, than there is in discussing a topic for a professional audience, or in a prepared statement to the press.
Different diction is used, and differences in tone and behavior are completely appropriate. How is it that we refuse to understand that, as a larger community?
I recently got into a bit of a shouting match (bad Suisan) with a parent on the Kindergarten playground. She had addressed the board the prior evening, and I was nothing but repsectful, and therefore silent. When she tried to buttonhole me the next day, I told her, "If you want to do this right now on the playground, this is going to be a very different conversation." And she honestly could not see the difference. It baffles me. At one point she told me that she was upset that I was responding to her. So I said, "When you bring an issue up on the playground, it's a different attitude than when you bring it up at a Board meeting. I'm more candid here. Portions of this are "off the record" so to speak. At the Board meeting, the entire Board has the responsibility to behave in a certain manner."
She totally didn't get it.
Do we all think that bloggers are this freewheeling in everyday conversations about every significant detail in their lives? Do we not understand that blogging and internet conversations are more casual and emotional than professional discourse?
Why is that so hard to grasp? Is it because we've lost the ability to separate the tone from every bit of written word, i.e., if it's written then it must be accurate and more valid than the spoken word?