Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.
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Hence, why it is pretty important to make best efforts to: mean what you say, and say what you mean.
As famous writer E.B. White suggested:
No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.
Or as Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University and design expert, suggests in one of his fantastic books Envisioning Information:
Lurking behind chartjunk is contempt for both information and for the audience. Chartjunk promoters imagine that numbers and details are boring, dull and tedious, requiring ornament to enliven. Cosmetic decoration, which frequently distorts the data, will never salvage an underlying lack of content…
Worse is contempt for our audience, designing as if readers were obtuse and uncaring. In fact, consumers of graphics are often more intelligent about the information at hand than those who fabricate the data decoration. And, no matter what, the operating moral premise of information design should be that our readers are alert and caring; they may be busy, eager to get on with it, but they are not stupid.
Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite simple-mindedness. Disrespect for the audience will leak through, damaging communication.
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Fitting post from Mr. Godin today as well — especially surrounding this highly contentious BC salmon farming issue:
If you ever have to say ‘lighten up’ to someone, you’ve failed twice. The first time, when you misjudged an interaction and the other person reacted in a way you’re unhappy with, and the second time, when you issue this instruction, one that is guaranteed to evoke precisely the opposite reaction you’re intending.
I’ll add “I was joking,” to this list, because it’s an incredibly lame excuse for a failed interaction.
One more: Raising your voice while you say, “You’re just going to have to calm down!” (And I’ll add librarians yelling at kids to be quiet…)
It’s completely valid to come to the conclusion that someone else can’t be a worthy audience, conversation partner or otherwise interact with you. You can quietly say to yourself, “this guy is a stiff, I’m never going to be able to please him.” But the minute you throw back instructions designed to ‘cure’ the other person, I fear you’re going to get precisely the opposite of what you were hoping for.
(Generally speaking, the word “oh” is so neutral, it’s a helpful go to pause while you wait for things to calm down.)
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Might something akin to this occur with the current PR-campaign by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, or tar sands PR campaigns, or otherwise?
For example, the “bcsalmonfacts” TV commercials that ask the question along the lines of: “do you believe everything you’re told?”
Doesn’t seem to be all that different than TV commercials these days advertising cars as good “environmental choices” and promoting the fact that fewer greenhouse gases were released in the making of the commercial because they put the car on a treadmill of sorts and sprayed it with a hose to make it look like it was raining.
Well, sure, producing the commercial might have saved a few ounces of greenhouse gases, but what about the amount that that same car is going to produce over its lifetime?
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Advertising and PR (and the prime time nightly news and campaigning politicians) that market to folks as if they are the lowest common denominator will (most likely) eventually have things blow up in their face.
All the more complicated… throw in a pile of finger pointing, stabbing and jabbing — attacks on the other sides “science”, credibility, “facts”, and just simple attacks; and… well… many folks just zone out. At least the folks in the middle or maybe even on the fence.
For others that have an impassioned opinion on either side, fires are simply fueled, logs are thrown on the blaze, and the inferno of “who’s more right?” burns through the night. (just like a marriage or family member argument that burns for years because one person is sooo much more right than the other person… and vice versa).
Calm, measured, listening, middle-road approaches — with questions of clarification, attempts at balancing and limiting assumptions, and conversations that seek clarity and understanding (and maybe even agreeing to disagree on some things)… might garner much stronger, lasting results?
Or, is that just pie-in-the-sky idealism?