5 Feb 2016

Can You Work Out What They’re Really Saying?

I’m feeling a little uptight. I suppose it serves me right for eavesdropping. But I just couldn’t help myself.
My attention was caught at the mention of social media. I was never a great fan of it, you see. I’ve always been a little bemused by the need that some people have to take a photo of what they’ve made for tea and then post it on Facebook. Couldn’t see the point. But a three -line whip from my publishers has dragged me by the ankles in to the twenty first century, and now I understand that social media can be useful. I’m still not posting any photographs of my dinner plate on Facebook, but I’m enjoying the interaction that fleeting postings can bring.
That’s really why the heated discussion taking place at the table next to me in the restaurant caught my attention. One participant in the conversation (let’s call him Dino(saur)) was becoming quite irate at the suggestion being made by his dining partner (let’s call her Cher (inganotherviewpoint)) that he should think about using social media for his business. Cher was a recent adopter (I could tell from the fresh enthusiasm in her voice, sharing the cascade of benefits that she’d recently discovered). Cher could clearly understand the objections that Dino kept firing at her, and she was adeptly returning the strokes with suggestions at how to overcome them. Dino wasn’t going to be swayed. He was vitriolic in his opposition to using social media in any way. He was scathing about its’ lack of ‘soul’ (as he saw it). His approach became increasingly personal as he told Cher that she had ‘sold out’, that he valued himself and his business and would not ‘cheapen’ his brand by using such an crude means of sharing his message. Cher was wounded by the implicit personal attack on her own integrity, as the barrage continued. The vitriol in Dino’s message had caused her to quieten. She had been listening to his words, and taking them at face value. Their table fell into a tense silence, as Cher summoned the waiter and asked for the bill.
It seemed to me that Cher had been listening to Dino’s words but had not really heard what he was saying. She hadn’t picked up his defensive tone, or his emotional (rather than logical) resistance. If she had, she might have appreciated that his scorn was more to do with his fear of the unknown than a genuinely held view that she had sold her soul to the social media devil. He was telling himself a story about  the lack of integrity in such a medium of communication because it prevented him from having to overcome his fear, and learn how to use it in a way that worked for his business. The emotion in his response wasn’t borne out of a logical analysis of the pros and cons. I suspect that Dino and Cher might not be dining together for a while. What a shame. Cher really had an opportunity to influence Dino, if only she had heard what he wasn’t saying.