Friday, 5 December 2008

Can you be a good communicator online and off?

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Ll...Image via Wikipedia
I'm weird.

I've been a writer all my career, perhaps all my life, and I can string together sentences pretty well with a pen or a keyboard.

But put me in a small group conversation, and I am an idiot.

A friend of ours thought I was putting it on once, thinking it was a business thing: he doesn't start getting articulate until you pay him!

But alas, it's just that we can't all be good at everything.

Have you ever noticed that the people who find it hardest to "get" social media are usually very competent at speaking in person. They may be great orators or salespeople, or just very confident conversationalists.

On the other hand, the people who naturally embrace social media understand what makes it special - that there's another way to get your message across apart from talking face to face.

We tend to judge people who are different from us, and I've tried to keep the language here neutral. But here's what the background conversations often look like:

Natural conversationalist: People who communicate better online are actually passive-aggressive, they can't handle reality, they're hiding, avoiding confrontation, etc.

Online conversationalist: People who communicate better in person just don't get it, they're behind the times, they're luddites, they're afraid of technology, they don't understand.

Methinks some cross-cultural dialogue could be really helpful. What do you reckon?

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Ruth Seeley said...

Interesting you should mention this, as I found myself thinking about precisely the same thing when Malcolm Gladwell started his tour to promote his new book, Outliers.

I watched my former boss (a senior VP at a global PR firm in Toronto) live blog (via Twitter) Gladwell's talk at the Rotman School of Business in Toronto, and found the information tweeted compelling and insightful. I then tried to watch the videotape of the presentation, and was bored to tears. I also saw Gladwell interviewed on a national Canadian talk show, The Hour. It became very obvious to me that he is someone who is most articulate when he writes, and that he doesn't have the same ability to speak quickly and insightfully.

However, since the thesis of Outliers is that it takes 10,000 hours of practise to truly master a skill, perhaps he just needs to work on it more.

I've also noticed, when prepping clients for speeches, that the oddest things work. Working with a client who was perceived within his company as being one of those classic English erm-ers and aahh-ers, I found that the way to get his speaking talents to emerge was to exhaust him (had to give speech morning after getting off plane from UK, an eight-hour flight after a four-day trip); pump him up with caffeine, and rehearse him mercilessly (two iterations of his speech over breakfast alone). He may have been so angry with me by the time he got up on the podium that it made him focus - but he stole the show with not a single erm or ah and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. :)

Simon said...

Thanks Ruth for such a great comment.

The story about getting your erm-ah English client angry reminds me of my drama teacher at school. She was small but terrifying, and made sure my ebullient character was ... well, ebullient!

Maybe I should remember that next time I do a presentation!

Ligi - Dingdong said...

this explains alot with the Online vs Offline communicators. After reading this i'm probably more prone to being an Online communicator lol...