Civility and Humility – we should more often use our ability

As a student of human behavior (I’m right now nearly through Robert Cialdini’s 2016 book Pre-Suasion – A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (don’t love the title but I do love the book), I too often find myself following various exchanges from friends and associates via Facebook and LinkedIn. Primarily because those platforms lend themselves to narrative exchanges. That and I am just not a big guy. 

When it comes to people’s behavior, it’s evident that there’s a great deal of passion that comes out in the musings of those using social media as their megaphone – intentionally or not. Social media not unlike email allows the creator/writer to have an uninterrupted pulpit from which to disseminate his or her opinions to their friends, connections and followers. And since friends, connections and followers don’t always feel the same way (could you imagine?), using social media as a bully pulpit can stoke some really interesting and incendiary exchanges.

Somehow in the process the principles of civility are being increasingly left behind. Ad hominem attacks have been taking place as long as orators and writers have been around (think ancient Greeks),but they are even more public now.

What troubles me is the way ‘friends’ jump on the opinions of ‘friends’ with personal attacks when there’s major disagreement. A lack of civility is inherent – perhaps due to the less personal nature of writing something as opposed to actually saying something. Would people actually say to face of a ‘friend’ some of the things they write to others on Facebook or LinkedIn? Some might but I advance that many would not. So why the lack of civility? Is it a lack of respect? Is there a lack of understanding of any position other than one’s own? I will leave it to others to answer those questions.

That’s where humility comes in. Humility: a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness. Too many ‘discussions’ (as lively as they are at times), lack both civility AND humility. There appears to be a deep-rooted need for people to prove others WRONG and show themselves as being RIGHT. Anything other than complete capitulation on the part of those that disagree is not enough. As if there are only winners and losers. Sure people might write that they ‘agree to disagree’, but my sense is that often that is an insincere sentiment. You don’t agree with me = you are an idiot.

I’m lucky to have what I consider to be a fair amount of friends. Those that know me don’t need to read what I have to offer on social media to know how I feel about the various issues of the day. Those that know me also know that I have great passion for the things in which I believe. I also know that slapping dissenters and their opinions will not make them ‘wake-up’ and realize how wrong they were and how right I am and do a complete turnaround of their opinions.

It’s called civility with what I hope is a bit of humility stirred in. And it really isn’t all that difficult if one makes an effort.

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Apple Watch is an interruptive device

apple-watchLast week I ranted about unwanted LinkedIn invitations. I had a few interesting conversations with readers. So now I turn my sights on the Apple Watch, which has been around for nearly two years.

I know quite a few people that wear the Apple Watch. Which for whatever reason does not display the time when it is on your wrist. But that’s not really my point. I know the Apple Watch interruption has happened to virtually everyone reading this post.

Reviews of the Apple Watch have been a bit mixed,  but more positive than negative. And it’s two years ‘new’, and it’s bound to get better – right? Except one thing does not get better. Stopping a real life, real time, in person conversation dead in its tracks.

Don’t know what I mean? Let’s say you are in a meeting, at a coffee, or lunch or dinner. You are having a nice conversation (hypothetically speaking) and all of the sudden the person you are meeting with sees his/her Apple Watch light up with a message and immediately they are distracted and look at the message. Conversation flow is broken. But something more important has happened – you’ve been disrespected.

The next time you go out to a restaurant take a look around the restaurant and make note of how many people are out with one or more others and are looking at their phones. In fact it’s not rare at all to see couples both looking at their phones. And apparently it’s just fine.

But it’s not fine. It’s rude. I know because I do it too sometimes. I try hard not to but once someone else does it, the path is clear and what the heck if you don’t do it yourself you’re just sitting there waiting for the other person to finish with whatever it is they were doing that is evidently more important than being with and talking with you. It’s not that different from when people meet each other in a public place and they throw their phone on the table ‘just in case.’ It’s the default option and not a special case. So the default option is – a message from someone or something else is more important than our meeting.

Considering the iPhone and smartphones are relatively recent technologies whose impact on human behavior is ever-changing, people are still figuring out how to make the technology work for them. The constant checking of social media – pick your platforms, is affecting people’s lives both positively and negatively. Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal has a recent short video that hits some great points – ‘The night they locked up all the Smartphones”

The Apple Watch just takes interruptive technology to another level. I acknowledge that there are circumstances in which having messages (SMS, emails, social etc.) flash on your phone when your hands are full or you are talking on the phone (when you are by yourself), are useful and dare I offer – handy.

Since I do not own an Apple Watch I am not sure if there’s a feature there that enables the user to turn off the flashing notifications on demand. If there is, few people are using that feature.

I like technology – gadgets and otherwise. But I like people even more. And when a technology stands in the way of an interpersonal interaction it’s no longer serving people it’s enslaving them.

Posted in Apple watch, Best business practices, Personal Technology, Professional Development, Smartwatches | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Who are you? And no I’m not going to accept your LinkedIn invitation

bad-attitude-1In 2013 I wrote about the need for people to protect their own network when using LinkedIn. As social media and its use are now more mature (well maybe a little), LinkedIn has ended up being one of the most successful social media platforms.

Yet within LinkedIn platform there are plenty of abusers (an increasing amount in my view) out there both intentional and inadvertent when it comes to general professional etiquette.

One example: I received an invitation to connect from someone whom I have never met or heard from before. There was no reference to anyone I know in the invitation. Subsequently I took a look at the person’s LinkedIn profile, primarily to see if we had any mutual connections. (Thought – Why do I have to do the work for someone that asked me to connect)? I found that there were several mutual connections with people with whom that I have long professional relationships. So I accepted. Boy was that a mistake.

Within 24 hours I received in my email box (the email associated with LinkedIn), came several messages asking about my company’s need for that person’s services. Given that we had never met, had a conversation or any interaction of any kind, I was taken aback to say the least. Most people (as was I) are aware of people trolling LinkedIn for business. Even with that knowledge I was aggravated by the auto-messages sent by this particular person, which were insistent and constant over several days.

After receiving one particular message I actually sent an email to that person asking that contact with me be ceased and desisted. Crazy right? The reply was ‘sorry and to please excuse if another comes through’. Of course it took only a couple of days for yet another message to come through.

I removed this idiot from my contacts and sent a short, curt message noting the breaking of every professional etiquette rule and how much it will likely hurt future opportunities with prospective clients. I also noted that I was already a lost cause as any future business prospect.

While this was all only a few weeks ago, since that time I’ve received more of these out-of-left field requests to connect. All but one I denied. The only one I accepted was someone who also was connected to a group of professionals I know and respect since I am not looking to close my network and maybe lighting will not strike again. Hopefully.

Be mindful and careful with your LinkedIn contacts and profile these days more than ever. I fear it might get worse before it gets better.

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How watching All in the Family made people understand one another better

all-in-the-familyLast week I read an article about the release of a new Netflix version of the 1970’s show One Day at a Time (starring Rita Moreno giving the redux a bit of Latin-flavor). The original show starring the late Bonnie Franklin followed a single working class mom’s struggle to make ends meet during difficult economic times.

The article in the Atlantic noted that the new version is every bit the civics lesson that was emblematic of the original. I have not watched any episodes of the new show and remember the old show as being okay but not as any kind of social statement. I was pretty young at the time.

There was also talk of an All in the Family remake although without Carroll O’Connor playing the bigoted Archie Bunker (not to mention Jean Stapleton) I cringe at the thought of who might play the modern day Archie. By the way, I never liked the show. But it’s important to note that I did watch it regularly (keep in mind television content choices were still extremely limited in the 1970’s) which is something that would almost never happen today.

I learned a few things from the intentionally dislikeable Archie Bunker. That people could feel so differently about things than I did even at a somewhat tender age. The thing is that most of the people around me were watching the same things. The reference points for Archie Bunker for baby boomers are very similar whether you consider yourself conservative or liberal. And All in the Family was a show designed to make you not like Archie so it’s fair to say it had a message-based overall liberal bias. Yet conservatives (for the reason noted above) watched it too and I don’t think they were particularly offended.

As the series rolled-on, Archie’s outlook changed, mellowed, even opened up a bit. It’s impossible to know how Archie’s mellowing influenced those who initially felt the same way as Archie, but I suspect All in the Family did have that kind of influence.

All in the Family and One Day at a Time aired in the nascent days of VCR’s and Sony Betamax’s. So a much higher percentage (compared to today) watched the shows live. Since those were the pre-social media days, apparently people talked about it around the ‘water-cooler’ (something I never did and still never have).

In the process of having everyone watch and talk about the same thing at the same time, people had a better sense of what those that disagreed with them were thinking. It did not change people’s minds but was different from the ability to create single narrative channels of the present day. If you don’t like something today you will likely NEVER watch it. Add to that is that if you see or hear that the political viewpoint is not that of your own you’re even less likely to try.

No it’s not universal. I know conservatives that watched and enjoyed the West Wing and liberals that watched and enjoyed 24. But in a world that’s increasingly about “I’m right and you’re wrong”, All in the Family remains etched in my (and many of my fellow boomers) memory and I for one am glad I have that reference point.

Don’t we all need to try harder to understand the point of view of those with whom we do not agree?

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I don’t want or need a ‘relationship’ with EVERY brand

rate-your-experienceWhen traveling to and from New York City I prefer mass transportation whenever it’s practical – which is most of the time. Upon occasion I do drive the hour or so into Manhattan and park. With the advent of parking apps and the real-time ability to compare pricing between garages, (as well as make a reservation), it’s easier than ever before to know where you are going to park and have it all worked out in advance.

I recently used one of the apps to make a reservation. The next day I received an email from the app asking me to rate my experience at XYZ Parking. My experience? What? I came to the garage, showed them the bar code and parked my car. When I came back they brought me my car and we all got in the car and then left the garage. Is that really an experience?

Was the intent to learn whether the attendant was prompt and courteous? OK, he was or they were, at least I think so. Our interaction could not have been for more than ten or fifteen seconds either coming or going.   It probably went something like ‘When will you be back to get the car” “3PM.”   I don’t know if we even spoke on the return to the garage since I showed my prepaid ticket, the attendant brought the car and, well, you already know the rest.

I don’t think the purpose of asking me about my experience was to learn anything at all. Sure I could respond and give it a rating – I gave it four out of five stars just to see what would happen. I don’t know what a five star rating to a parking garage would look like, but I don’t think this one was it. After ‘rating’ my ‘experience’ the thank you page offered… a thank you and noted that my feedback helps them give better service. Not a big payoff if you ask me.

There’s nothing abjectly wrong with the parking app’s desire to brand as well as create a conduit for customer feedback. It’s calling parking in a garage ‘an experience’ that is the problem. Then there’s the thought I had that if every interaction with a digital platform results in an email asking me about my experience, I might stop responding to ANY email asking me about my experience. Except when there was a problem in the delivery of service. That actually has happened to me recently as I reached out to an upscale steakhouse brand noting a poor experience, and have had ongoing interactions with that brand on how they might make amends. I will write about this in a separate post.

Do you buy on I do and somewhat frequently. Every time I order anything on Amazon, the vendor/retailer asks me about my experience. For example I bought earbuds on Amazon Prime, the vendor shipped them to me and it arrived within the promised delivery period, and when I opened the package the earbuds were inside. Is that a good experience? The next day I was, of course, asked to rate my experience.

E-commerce has been around for more than twenty years and in the past five years it has evolved much more rapidly. Intuitively online behavior is NOT the same as off-line behavior. It’s fine for a server, cashier, store clerk, or parking attendant to ask you if everything was ok. But online retailers and service providers have to do a better job of showing they are interested in their customers beyond just sending a form email asking people to rate their experience. Or don’t send anything at all.   How about that?

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23 books I finished in 2016

the-undoing-projectThere’s a part of me that believes ‘You are what you read”.   Some years ago I realized that I was not reading much aside from magazines, newspapers, and marketing and advertising industry articles.   I set a goal to read 2 books per month and have managed to come close the past few years.

I read about half of the books digitally on my tablet through Amazon Kindle, and the other half is a combination of library, borrowed from friends, gifts, and purchased hardcovers and paperback books.   One thing I have noticed about Kindle books is because it is not a physical book, I am not as aware of the length of the book. It’s quite a bit easier to read a 500-page book on a device than it is to carry it around so I am paying closer attention.

Even if you cannot find the time to read 20 or more books, reading half or less that amount is still in your best interest. There’s something about reading and considering longer narratives that to me at least, is more important today than it has been. Attention spans are narrowing. Taking time to think about a complicated subject is sometimes tiring but almost always worthwhile.

Here are the 23 from 2016 – each review in ten words or less.

Superforecasting – Daniel Gardner and Philip E. Tetlock

Predictions are easy. Forecasters are often inaccurate. Made me think. 

I Was Right on Time – Buck O’Neil

A veteran star of baseball’s Negro Leagues tells his story.

Between the World and Me – Ta Nehisi Coates

Written with a raw, disturbing, yet brilliant narrative style.

Mind’s Eye – Douglas E. Richards

Internet surreptitiously implanted inside the hero’s brain. Compelling story.

A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

First read 1975. More a period piece than I recall.

Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything – Stephen Baker

The building of the IBM Watson computer. All about AI.

Making Habits, Breaking Habits, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick – Jeremy Dean

Am partial to the subject matter. Didn’t change my life.

Notes from a Beijing Coffeeshop – Jonathan Geldart

Interviews with various Chinese people living and working in China.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert B. Cialdini

Psychology of why people say yes and how to apply.

Tooth and Claw Stories – T.C. Boyle

More great stuff from one of my favorite authors.

Water – The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization – Steven Solomon

Took me two years to finish. Worth sticking with.

Disrupted – Dan Lyons

Fifty-something journalists ends up at HubSpot, doesn’t love it.

The Second Machine Age – Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee

Optimistic, accessible – it offers an interesting view on labor demand.

For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

Enjoyed this. I knew little about the Spanish Civil War.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – Brad Stone

Was a Bezos business fan prior to reading. Still am.

Invisible Influence – Jonah Berger

Since I am interested in learning what influences my behavior. 

Stolen Season – Peter Lamb

Late 1980’s writer travels to minor league parks. Somehow nostalgic.

Flash Boys – Michael Lewis

Another of my favorites always makes complicated subjects accessible.

Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the woman I pretended to be – Valerie Graves

How an advertising legend rose above life’s challenges. Good read.

Ask: The counterintuitive online formula to discover exactly what your customers want to buy…create a mass of raving fans…and take any business to the next level – Ryan Levesque

Bit overly-encouraging but its heart in the right place.

The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg

Surprisingly and delightfully provocative with real tools for changing habits.

The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis

Khaneman and Tversky – tricky subjects, but not for Michael Lewis.

This year I am planning on focusing on another 20th century American author. There’s a lot to choose from. Happy reading!

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Technology gifts that have changed my life

A high school friend who I’ve not seen in several years posted on social media about a new Fit Bit she received as a holiday gift. My wife and I like to give Fit Bits as gifts because I believe they have the potential to be life altering.

I know this since I received a Fit Bit last Christmas and I am more aware of my moving around (or lack of moving around sometimes) than ever before. Since I am a naturally competitive person I am interested in reaching new milestones and making sure that I don’t backslide on my activity. I have not the patience nor interest to list my food/calorie intake. I know when I am overdoing things eating and drinking wise. This year it started before Thanksgiving.

But the Fit Bit has also led me to using a standing desk in my office. Now that I have been using it for nearly a year I cannot believe how conditioned I was to sitting down all the time. These days I get so tired of sitting that I have to stand up. People see me standing up in the office and tell me that they are thinking about getting one for themselves. So technology is potentially changing the lives of those with whom I am interacting. Not bad, right?

This Christmas I received two tech gifts that already I can see will have a lasting effect. The Amazon Dot (which my secret Santa – thanks Lindsey) got for me, is something I put on my wish list and I am really glad I did. The utility is good right from the start and I am only scratching the surface. I don’t know if I am ready to order things on Amazon via Alexa just yet (although my Prime account is set up for that to happen) but I am sure to at least try it out very soon.

The Amazon Dot uses are many and go beyond ‘Alexa – what was the score of the Knick game last night?”. But even that alone is useful, and easy. Definitions of words and questions via Wikipedia about ANYTHING are also fast, easy and accurate. Instructing Alexa to play “Black Friday, Steely Dan“ on Spotify delivers quickly and again, accurately. Do not underestimate the value of accuracy as part of overall utility.

I don’t mind typing but am already surprised at how easily I would curtail some of my typing. I like Google Now very much but saying ‘Alexa’ just feels better than having to say ‘Ok Google’. I felt the Amazon Echo was too visible and can Bluetooth the audio to external speakers so not having the larger Echo speaker is not a problem. One review of the Amazon Dot can be found here.

Keep in mind that Alexa is always listening or as Amazon puts it ‘ready to listen’. The Amazon Echo is already potentially material evidence in a murder case , although it is unclear if that is Alexa recorded voice data that could later be used as evidence. I feel it’s unlikely that your casual conversation from last night is recorded for posterity. Mainly due to data storage – as in how much data could be saved and accessed?

The other potential life-changing gift I received is the Samsung Oculus Virtual Reality device. Designed to be integrated with my Samsung smartphone (hey not everyone has an iPhone), I’ve not yet used the device all that much due to a glitch that caused my phone to overheat and reset. But while I was using it the VR was sharp if not a bit disorienting since you have 360 degree POV in whatever you are watching but you cannot see yourself move within the virtual ‘room’.

I’ve used Google Cardboard and the Oculus is much better. The potential uses for VR are many and well documented. In my case real utility of VR will also come in the form of my being able to have virtual dinner with my daughter who lives in another city. That’s still a bit into the future but it’s so close, yes I can almost taste it. But already I can tell that Oculus will change the way people have certain experiences.

Google Maps changed my life a few years ago since now I almost never travel to any place without checking Google Maps as to how long the trip is predicted to take, and then I keep it on while I am traveling (mostly longer distances) so that Google Maps can redirect me to a faster route if one is available (I always say yes to a faster route – who doesn’t?).

How is technology changing your daily behavior? I’d love to hear. Happy New Year!


Posted in Consumer Behavior, Technology, Virtual Reality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments