Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Wrong Way to Say the Right Thing
CertifiedEmail is pretty much a fait accompli. (From the Greek, for "Done deal. Get over it.")
Actually, he knew very well that the term fait accompli is French, not Greek. His intention was a humorous one, although some of his readers, apparently, didn't quite get the joke. But that's really beside the point.
In his next issue, Paul wrote that this comment of his had elicited a large number of messages. The responses could be divided into two groups, and he presented one example of each category:
From Tom: "Since you're usually somewhat of a stickler for preciseness (a GOOD thing, in my opinion) -- fait accompli is from the French, not Greek. :-)"
From Pete: "Fiat accompli is a FRENCH phrase, Dude! As a Hellene, I do not appreciate our nationality misnamed as the Roman designation, "Greek", nor do we like to be credited with French phrases. Please correct your misquote."
Now, both these messages were essentially saying the same thing, right? Well, yes, but on the other hand, most decidedly no! Both Tom and Pete were writing to correct an apparent faux pas (something a recipient would normally appreciate), but what a world of difference in tone!
Apart from the crude condescension bordering on rudeness, Pete's missive is, as Paul puts it, "politely worded proof that almost anything will offend someone, somewhere." Which, I guess, writers and publishers should know better than anyone else!
A new article on our site deals with a topic that has certain aspects in common with the situation described above, even though it's not the same thing. Jamie Walters of Ivy Sea Online deals with a specific manifestation of a classic communication issue: The sender and receiver have drastically different perceptions of a message sent.
Have you ever found yourself, after speaking your mind on some topic or other to a friend or colleague, saying or thinking: "Well, I was just being honest"? Yet, you don't understand why the person you were talking to found your remarks offensive. On the contrary, you think, other people should appreciate that you are taking pains not to mislead them!
Similarly, you could be on the receiving end of what you perceive as a tongue-lashing from someone who was "just being honest", and you think: "Well, now, that was downright rude!"
Jamie gives several examples of raw statements - when you just say what's on your mind (even with the sincerest intentions) straight off the cuff, as it were, in a way that may be inviting trouble. For each of them, she proposes a well thought out, polished equivalent that will enable you to state your case just as forcefully, but which minimizes the likelihood that you'll be perceived negatively.
For instance, here's one set:
Raw: I don't work that way. I have high standards.
Polished: I have some concerns about doing it this way, particularly that our approach will seem rude to customers. I'd like to propose another option that leads to the same goals.
An article worth studying and taking to heart!
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Hi Azriel. Great post, and I thank you for it. Just imagine the types of responses that could be generated from a negative comment, especially if both parties were in the same room. Are those consequences worth feeling you have the freedom to be condescending or rude to someone else? Thanks again.Post a Comment
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