Every once in a while I get up from my computer screen and take a break. Sometimes it’s to make phone calls. Sometimes it’s just to spend a few minutes watching the news. Anything to step away, clear my head, and refocus. You should try it! Lately, however, I find myself not watching the news networks while they have multiple people engaged in conversations. You know the format – a couple of talking heads representing opposing points of view batting an issue back and forth. Except lately there’s far less dialog and a lot more overlapping screaming.
I can’t take it. One person begins to make a point and the other one starts yelling “you’re wrong.” The “moderator” from the network rarely intervenes – I’m sure they’re thinking this is great TV. It’s not. One guest talks over another until it’s time for commercial. It makes my head hurt. It demeans everyone involved. It’s wrong in so many ways and it makes a great business point.
I blame the producers. They could be telling the audio guy to cut off a mike. If I was in the booth, the reporter would hear “tell so and so that if they won’t let the other guest speak I’m cutting off their mike until it’s their turn to talk.” You know – kind of how you’d treat a child, which is how they’re behaving. Former elected officials do it. Party officials do it. Rarely, however, do people serving in office do it – they have something to lose – the next election!
It would be a disaster if you ran your business this way yet many people do. They talk over customers or are so focused on making their point that they ignore what the other people are saying. One thing digital has done to us all, in my opinion, is curtail our attention spans. We’re used to responding immediately to things and we’ve all become a lot more self-centered. Don’t believe me? Look around the next time you go out to eat – how many people are checking their phones instead of engaging their dining companion? We can’t do that if we’re to be successful businesspeople. We need to cut off our own mikes and listen. We need to moderate the customer feedback portions of our digital efforts. Not to curtail opinion but to enforce grown-up behavior. People want to express their opinions and we should welcome that. We can insist on them doing so respectfully.
One of the points in The Cluetrain Manifesto (surely you’ve read it by NOW!) is that in both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way. Your business needs someone to keep them “speaking” and not shouting over one another. How are you doing with that?