Try a Little Tenderness

In the work I do as a profiler and behavioural modeller, I often despair that our new world of on-line engagement does not allow for all of the nuances that originate from knowing someone really well through discovery, observation, interaction and good old fashioned ‘time investment’ into the relationship, and where one could count one’s closest friends or most valuable client relationships on the fingers of the both hands.

Now of course the word ‘friends’ has become a description for a collection of entities who form a passing parade of tweets, posts or updates interacting on a whim or a fancy, or the perceived wit of a message or the cuteness of a picture…. like the collection of butterflies behind a glass cabinet. Where snap judgments are formed on the basis of very little information, and where a lot of lonely souls are created who don’t step too far outside of their virtual cocoon and whose lives seem boring compared to those other 5,000 friends who fill their electronic world with pictures of exotic places, stories of heroic deeds and the enjoyment of heaven-blessed relationships.

Mark Pesce

Today as I ponder on this, I would like to share with you excerpts from this blog recently posted by Mark Pesce, the co-inventor of the VRML, co-author of The Next Billion Seconds, and founder of Future St, a Sydney media and technology consultancy. He was formerly one of the judges on ABC’s The New Inventors. I believe that Mark has succinctly encapsulated the essence of what I feel about our new world of instant social media, and he even has a simple answer to that vexed question of how to relate in a world of unrelated connectivity, so I will hand over to him…

“You don’t know me. I don’t know you. We have never met. We might never meet. Yet, because everyone can now connect to anyone else, our paths may cross. It could be a Facebook post, a tweet, a blog, or a response to a blog post. In that moment when we meet – virtually – I’m learning everything about you I can from the few words you provide.

I analyse. I project. What I think about your words says more about me than you ever said about yourself. We always see ourselves in others – the world is a mirror for our beliefs and prejudices – and where we have nothing else to go on, we fill the missing space with ourselves. This happens immediately and automatically all the time. We can’t help ourselves.

Face-to-face meetings provide the rich, sensual interaction we need to assess one another. We look into another’s eyes, watch hands move, note a smile as it dances across a face. We use all of this to draw up an opinion on another person. Online, we have nothing but a string of characters, glowing on a display, folded in with email and invoices and holiday snaps. We cannot assess, so we project, and worse, we amplify. Little things become huge.

I am constantly contacted by people I do not know. We all are. Beginnings are delicate times, because so much rests on an almost impossibly vague series of messages. What does this person really mean? Is this a joke? What do they really want? So much to misread. So much to go wrong. This is where things break down.

When our first interactions with one another are filled with sarcasm, irony, or any of the other linguistic tools that make sense face-to-face, we develop mistaken impressions of one another. In a networked world, first impressions matter more than ever. In the space of a few moments, we judge one another. We probably shouldn’t, but we do. We’re getting pricklier as we get more connected, because we’re continually working from insufficient interaction and information.

Because we do not know one another, those earliest interactions must be cushioned as much as possible. Best foot forward, we must remember that this is first contact, and that to everyone else, we truly are an unknown entity. We’ve all had an experience of first contact that left a bitter taste, permanently souring us on a particular relationship. Beginnings are special. We must remember to be on our best behaviour, because every connection is a potential friend or customer. If we don’t want to leave a trail of destruction in our wake, we have to be gentle with those we do not yet know.

The admonition to be kind to one another might seem like nothing more than good old-fashioned common sense, another rephrasing of The Golden Rule – and so it is. The medium may change, but we remain stubbornly the same. We want to be seduced, not confronted. We want whispers, not shouts. To get what we want, we must be gentle, kind, and sympathetic.”

Thanks Mark, I believe your words hit the ‘mark.’ No pun intended. – Brian

Until next time… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less.

Precision Profiling – What Makes You Tick? Revealing the hidden secrets about yourself that even you didn’t know.


About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here


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