Am I a geek?

An absolutely FASCINATING article here. Called Geek Etiquette, it is a summary of a talk by Michael Schwern “Geek to geek:how we fail, how to fix it.”   Swear words are used in the post, but I’m pretty sure that most of my readers are adults, and can handle it.

The interesting bit for me is the piece about tact filters. The extract below explains this a little –

“Most non-geeks have outbound tact filters: they filter what they want to say and add polite noise as it passes through. Geeks have inbound tact filters: they take bare communication with no politeness and just wrap it in assumed politeness as they interpret it.

When non-geeks talk, geeks think the polite sounds they make are redundant.

When geeks talk, non-geeks just think they’re being incredibly rude.”

I’m interested in peoples thoughts on this. I’m a firm believer that the language we use is incredibly important. Not just in the way that other people perceive us, but in the way that we perceive and understand the world. The words we use ‘shape’ our world. If we continually use negative words – can’t, problem, stupid etc – it skews our perception of the world so that these words become real. We see ‘problem’ instead of ‘challenge’, or see people as ‘stupid’, instead of just having done something that didn’t work out.

Waking up every morning and saying (and believing) ‘today is a GREAT day’ will typically make the day a lot more fun and productive than waking up and thinking ‘I hate my job’, for example.

The spin that the article linked above brings is fairly simple for me. Lack of positive words does NOT necessarily equal negative. Just because your boss doesn’t tell you how good you are every morning, or a co worker doesn’t ask if you want a cup of coffee when they make one for themselves, doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  It could very easily be that they just don’t consider it; that its understood that you are valued, and that engaging in social niceties is just a waste of time. NB – this is not often a conscious consideration either.

As far as I am concerened, rudeness (and politeness) has to have TWO aspects.

  1. The act of rudeness itself (or ommission of politeness)
  2. Sincerity (The INTENT to be rude, cause offense or snub; or the converse, the desire to be polite or praise)

Without BOTH elements, it’s just an accident of perception, and offense should not be taken. (In fact, it’s rarely a good idea to take offense in any case. It doesn’t work for the offender if the offendee doesn’t take it. – A good lesson in customer service is that irate customers are almost never angry at the person in front of them, just a service or product which is perceived to be below par.)

Funnily enough, I got a new satellite navigation system recently, and the voice on it is already causing me to grit my teeth for this very reason. When I approach a junction it always tells me to ‘Please prepare to turn’. Maybe I’m a geek (I’ve been called worse), as this false politeness just seems to be a complete waste of time and effort. It cannot possibly be sincere, it is delivered by a machine, so what point does it serve?

What’s the point?

Just to think about it, consider colleagues with a slightly different angle, and to consider who you’re speaking to and how your own communications might be perceived by them.


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About me.

A professional speaker focused on helping people get more out of their day; for themselves and their companies.
I help people get things done by helping them realise that all the knowledge in the world will do absolutely NOTHING for them - if they don’t use it.
I want to change the world, and getting the right people in the right place is only the start. In todays world it is so, so easy to get pulled into doing all the wrong things. I help people figure out what the right and wrong things are and make sure their energies are focused in the right place.
Feel free to comment, or you can contact me by emailing markbell AT mbsprogress DOT com



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