Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We’re All Here Today to… (hold on, got a text coming in)

We’ve got a growing problem in America with technology mishandling.  But do we even know it?  The problem is seen in use of technology, but technology isn’t the problem.  Like many “tools” the technology is being blamed for what is really a people problem.

The value we place on our relationships, the ones that we have nurtured and benefited from for years, is being diminished rapidly as we find greater value in our connectedness to others through constant on-demand exchanges with people or organizations not within our presence.  Here’s an illustration to explain…

Say you go to a networking event, like a reception or cocktail party or a business luncheon, and the person you are talking to is clearly passing time with you while constantly looking over your shoulder for someone “more important” to interact with.  Believe me, it happens to everyone.  Most people talk about this afterward in a very revealing light to their friends.  “Ya, he shook my hand and chatted a bit, but he was scanning the room for someone else to talk to the whole time.”  Or, in a personal setting, “The whole time we were at lunch, she was looking around the restaurant to see if someone ‘important’ had come in.”  How does that make us feel? 

Almost overwhelmingly, it makes us feel lousy.  It affects not only our self-worth and self-esteem, but perhaps more importantly, it also defines relationships.  The power structure (or “pecking order” as it were) is delineated by the perceived value placed on relationships, whether intentional or not.  It can also anger us if we interpret the behavior of the other as a signal that he/she has incorrectly assumed a greater power role in the relationship that we believe exists.  In layman’s terms, this is the “who does he think he is?!” response. 

Now, how different is it really to be in the middle of a real life exchange with another human and have them pull out their gadget and begin texting or emailing someone else who didn’t bother to show up?  What a glance away over your shoulder can do to your psyche is dramatically multiplied as 10 seconds or more ticks away awkwardly while the person you are taking the time to meet with abruptly enters another “meeting.”  In that mere 10 seconds, you have time to process the rudeness, assign meaning to it in terms of your relationship with this person, and very likely place judgment on the person standing before you.  Little by little, your relationship with this person is eroded.  It is a very powerful non-verbal statement.

And, before you defend this behavior by saying, “Everyone does it these days, so it is just accepted,” remember this…  It is a normal human condition to fail to accept this excuse for ill treatment.  Even if we do it ourselves, we don’t justify it in others.  We may have come to accept it, but there is still and assignment of judgment and erosion of the relationship as we realize that the person we are with has just moved us down the pecking order in terms of value. 

Here is a way technology could really help with this very human problem… I’d love to see a feature on my Blackberry that allows me to turn on an auto-responder text and email that says something like, “I’m presently in a meeting.  I will get back to you at my earliest convenience.”  By getting this quick response, in all hopes the text friend will hear, “I’m presently with a valued human being who has gone to the trouble to be with me in person.  I value you, too, which is why I turned on this auto-responder.  I will get back to you when my time with this person is through.”

A way we could all do better in the meantime is to agree, together, to put our devices away for the duration of the exchange.  Make a quick comment, like, “I’m going to ignore my gadget during our meeting so I can focus fully on what we’re doing here and respect your time and trouble getting here.”  Realize, though, that in doing this you actually have to honor that commitment.  Also realize that those addicted may become nervous without a line of sight to their device.  And, accept that to some you meet with, they really DO think you are less valued and less important than they are, or their plethora of electronic friends.  But, it is worth a try, in any case.  

These non-verbal messages you are sending both by action and inaction are screaming louder that you can possibly imagine.  In foreign cultures, something as simple as glancing at a business card when it is handed to you is highly rude and will define everything that comes after it.  In others, NOT taking time to look at the card has the same effect.  When you travel internationally as a delegate, these important relationship-busting behaviors are part of your briefings.  Experts realize that it makes no sense to travel half way around the world in person, only to offend the other party by implying a lack of respect for them.  It would do us well to also recognize the dangers of mishandling our gadgets, both here at home and abroad, in this same light.

Relationships matter in every culture whether they are face-to-face or remote access.  But, for many the physical touch and proximity of human space is still a powerful tool in business and in friendships.  Don’t mess both up by allowing your gadget use to send non-verbal messages you never intended.

Follow the author on Twitter: @PamelaGorman

As originally published at punditleague.us

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reefer Madness! (And Other Stupid Things to Blame)

It is a normal human reaction when faced with unfathomable acts of terror to seek some safe place to apply one’s outrage because to accept that these isolated events are both horrific and unpredictable, with a potential for repeat, is too frightening. To accept that one simple truth would also force a person to recognize that it could happen anywhere to anyone… including the people they love.

So, humans seek a solvable problem to direct their emotional energies toward, as that gives them a semblance of peace and allows them to continue to believe that this won’t happen again… if they could only fix X.

In the case of normally freedom loving people, this is a temporary lapse in judgment brought on by fear. In the case of the left, that fear combines with a sense of opportunity. Regardless of your political leanings or previous opinions on the rights of citizens, it is imperative that we all take a deep breath and remember to use logic in place of emotion when considering our laws and how we enforce them.

On Saturday January 8, 2011, a man chose to kill several people. Because we don’t know why this happened, and we feel helpless to prevent it from happening again, we are naturally asking a lot of questions. Questions are one thing, but making assumptions (and sponsoring legislation as a result) is dangerous.

I’ve watched the hysteria unfold and kept my mouth shut while I prayed and mourned for those who are affected by this unspeakable horror. My only comments have been at the audacity of those who seek to blame others for this man’s transgressions. When CNN/ABC/CBS and dozens of leftist blogs try to pull you in, it almost becomes laughable. Even when Katie Couric dragged me into it with a video of me enjoying the shooting sports in her goofy imitation of a journalistic piece, I did not jump in. It would do others well to do the same, but this takes an enormous amount of personal restraint and emotional maturity. I realize that.

I also realize that those who immediately began blaming Sarah Palin for having a stupid graphic on a map or an entire nation of everyday people who are involved in the Tea Party movement are simply not equipped with my same emotional maturity and self-restraint. They might also be daft. But, they also have a wound from the major whooping in November and they were already hurting. And, like a small child who may lash out because of the pain in those first moments after a bad fall, they are grasping for someone to blame.

The interesting pattern of their childish and emotionally immature response to this tragedy tells a lot… First, they blamed a political ideology that is kicking their proverbial ass. Then, they blamed the one public personality that shares that ideology (and who they most fear). When it became obvious that there was a strong chance the killer actually shares their own ideology, they then blamed the people on the airwaves who supposedly made this guy so angry that he had to shoot people to feel better. The problem with this is that if extrapolated, then all liberals who don’t like talk radio become suspect as possible killers… So, that didn’t last as long… Suddenly, the left began to join in the chorus with all sane folks who were unified in their rhetoric that this is a time to mourn and remember the victims.

If this self-correction had been where it ended, there would be no reason to write this blog entry. But, unfortunately (and not surprisingly) what is coming now is the 2nd generation of rhetoric. By now the left has regrouped and organized their fear mongering messages and have decided to use this senseless tragedy as an opportunity to accomplish unpopular policy. Sound familiar? It should. It is the classic “never let a good crisis go to waste” mantra of the left.

So the race to blame is now really about the chance to eradicate those pesky freedoms and push for “solutions” that otherwise have no chance. Case in point? Guns.

Those of us with the emotional maturity to separate policy making from emotional outburst must be vigilant we don’t allow them to frame a debate that has NOTHING to do with Saturday’s murders and everything to do with the left’s pre-existing agenda. Don’t give an inch. The gun is not to blame. In fact, he could just as easily used a bomb and more people would have died. So, the gun was really not even necessary and he would/could have killed even more without it. So, let’s take the gun out of the equation, because it is illogical and blaming a tool is a crutch for the weak mind.

The killer is to blame. There is nothing to blame that “made” him a killer, necessarily. Even the mentally ill don’t normally kill. So, let that one go, too. Bad things happen and yes, there are bad people in the world. Clearly Loughner is one of them. But, if you are intent on blaming something or someone while you grow up in your emotional maturity, here’s a stupid thing to focus on besides the killer, himself…

Reefer Madness!!! Yes, pot... And, yes, it is wrong and ridiculous to consider, but just as justified a discussion as gun control is. So, here goes… One thing that is readily accepted about the shooter is that he smoked a lot of pot. In the early days, “experts” opined that his written ramblings on YouTube showed that he was likely schizophrenic. They also pointed out that it is “known” that marijuana is very bad for the brain chemistry in those with this affliction. With medical marijuana sweeping the nation (and about to become legally dispensed in Arizona), is this an area that “responsible” adults in policy making must consider? And the guy who sold it to him… He’s to blame, too, I suppose. Do I think we should blame the pot, especially since we aren’t even sure if he suffers from this illness? No. Lots of people use pot for a lot of reasons and I see no evidence it makes them killers. But, it is as worthy as any other in the blame game. So, heck, why not?

Here are some others if you don’t want to go after pot. Maybe it is his violent video games or the ever-increasing brutal nature of the special effects coming out of Hollywood. Maybe it is the hocus pocus black magic he likes to play with in the back yard (I hear those dark spirits are bad company). You know, maybe he got his skull-to-dried-up-orange ratio wrong in his alter brew… Hate when that happens. Or, maybe his girlfriend broke up with him. Or, maybe he can’t get a girlfriend because he is incredibly weird and ugly. Maybe he looked in the mirror and realized he looks like a crazed possessed killer and just sort of went with it. Perhaps Congresswoman Giffords is just too pretty and articulate for him to let her live, lest he be held to her standard. Or, maybe he loves her but she didn’t return his requests to come over and watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy with him and that, well, really hurt his feelings. Maybe she stopped responding to his frequent emails regarding how Bush really bombed the twin towers and he became convinced she was part of the conspiracy.

The fact is, no idea we can come up with is really a reason to kill. And, as reasonable mature adults, we need to accept that and stop looking for a person or an object to blame.

Follow the author on Twitter @PamelaGorman

As originally posted at PunditLeague.us

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great Scott! Did He Just Say That?!

This week marks the first for many newly-elected officials to be sworn into office.  If you’re a messaging-sensitive person like me, and a policy wonk, you can glean a lot from the speeches given at inauguration ceremonies.  The first speech from a newly-elected governor is often a sort of “heads up” to the legislature as well as the constituents.  You have to read between the lines a bit, due to the broad differences in understanding of the audience.  So, I’m as interested in what they do say as what they don’t say. 

I tuned in to watch Governor Rick Scott’s first speech in Tallahassee this morning and was pleasantly surprised at the content of his remarks which were full of talk of reform.  While it appeared the teleprompters weren’t working (he had to use a paper script), he still delivered his speech humbly and with notable sincerity.  I don’t know Governor Scott, but I am convinced he really wants to accomplish the items he outlined in his speech.  And, since I know at least one of the people being considered for his staff, I believe him when he says he is trying to get the best people around him to get this job done.  Here’s what stood out to me…

His focus was heavily on bringing employers to Florida.  He talked about reducing regulatory burdens, litigation costs, and taxation.  And, while Governor Scott gave specific examples of how his administration planned to take on this “axis of unemployment,” he made one statement that was extremely encouraging.  It might have slipped past you if you weren’t listening for it.  I was.

He said they can’t “guarantee” businesses profitability, but would give them a “fair chance” at being profitable.  Allow me to decode…

A lot of what the business community asks the state government for in terms of policy undermines the overall health of the employment opportunities in the state.  As a group business may ask for lower taxes, reduced regulation, and protection from unfounded litigation.  This is all good and creates a healthy economy by enticing would-be employers to the state and also boosts hiring with companies already in the state across all industries.  But, individually, they come asking for subsidies to “guarantee” their profits, regardless of the viability of their business plans.  (They also come asking for help driving out their competitors in ploys that are often thinly veiled as requests to be better regulated in order to protect consumers.  But that is a topic for another day).

You might better know these “guarantees” as “corporate welfare.”  On a purely philosophical note, that isn’t the proper role of government.  But, in practical application, it is a nasty way for politicians to secure support from specific business sectors while pushing the burden of the costs of government onto other employers and individual taxpayers directly and indirectly through loss of jobs and lower pay.  The reality is that if one business gets a big break in its own costs from the government, then someone else is going to pick up that slack.  Everyone else’s costs go up to pay for that favor to one. Cost shifting of this sort goes on all over the place and is nicely termed “incentives” by the economic development crowd.  It prevents lowering of the overall tax burden on all employers and individuals, normally hitting small business especially hard. 

So, when Governor Scott specifically made this remark, it seemed he was putting everyone listening closely on notice.  Florida, as he said, is moving toward being the best place to be an employer.  But, what he also said was that they would have a healthy business environment that gives an equal chance for everyone.  And, that means no special favors for one at the expense of the rest.  I, for one, found this to be both encouraging and courageous.  Let’s hope he gets those “good people” needed to drive his agenda!

Originally published at PunditLeague.us