Unconventional or brash? Rude or powerful? How would you characterize Carol Bartz’s moment of truth?
Those of us who have faced hostile media interviewing and know first hand what it really means to have reporters in your face can sympathize and associate.
At some point in our lives, we have all had a confrontation. Somebody or other knows how to push your buttons, make you feel small, angry, hurt and in the corner. Sometimes, more often for some or almost never for others, you can only be pushed so far and then in a flash – perhaps without even realizing it – you simply push back and there you have it: face off!
Some will be offended by such a blow up. Some will applaud. The arguments on both sides are well articulated as the rules of social engagement and civility are pretty set. You are expected to be polite, considerate, tactful, empathetic and “contained.” Usually a little bit more if you are a woman, or in the public eye, whatever this may mean. Even more so if you live in a non-western culture.
But this may simply be all about values. Consider the following assertions:
1. “People say what they mean and mean what they say; you don’t need to read between the lines; it’s important to tell it like it is; honesty is the best policy; the truth is more important than sparing someone’s feelings.”
2. “People are indirect; they imply/suggest what they mean; understatement is valued; you need to read between the lines; the truth, if it hurts, should be tempered.”
Which of the two do you choose to follow? Direct vs. indirect communication style and bingo: you may have an explanation to your reaction to Carol’s words. Are you born with a certain style and tendency or is it a learned behavior? Is it in your DNA and there’s nothing you can do to change how you interact or is it a choice, a calibrated move and a natural talent in the game of life? Does it help or does it hurt? Which style is appropriate with some people and at certain times – and how well can you adjust and achieve what you are looking to get out of a meaningful conversation?
We don’t know what Mike Arrington, the interviewer, said to Carol before we see the clip. It may matter to some but not to others. We don’t know what Carol was trying to get out of this interview. We don’t even know what each one of them actually got out of this interview.
So, like it happens most often in life, we only see fragments of the bigger picture. The puzzle is delectable, rich, powerfully complicated and so wonderfully obscure to have room for all kinds of interpretations, rumblings, musings, thoughts.
So, before you make a judgment next time, think of all the things you don’t really know…And just for the heck of it, take this poll.