My rule about electronic communications is to act as if you’re speaking to the person face-to-face. If you put something in an email, blog post, blog comment, or discussion forum, it should be something you’d also say in a face-to-face conversation.
My favorite part of the Chronicle article is the following scenario:
I can’t tell you how often that’s happened to me. I don’t feel particularly generous toward someone who yelled at me last week. I’m okay with disagreement and constructive criticism as long as it’s done in a civil manner.
What’s more, people don’t seem to consider the consequences of their
bad behavior. I know of a small group of faculty members who waged a
vicious attack on their chairwoman over a decision she made affecting
their area of study. Two weeks later, the group’s ring leader
petitioned the chairwoman for her “moral and financial support” of a
new project he wanted to start on the campus.
“I thought I’d entered the twilight zone,” she told me. “He acted as
if the attack of a few weeks earlier had never happened and now we were
supposed to become bosom buddies.”
I don’t necessarily think world civility is at all-time low, but I do think that most people don’t take communication skills–spoken, written, or electronic–very seriously. I think electronic mediums actually offer us the opportunity to work on communication skills more carefully–if we don’t dismiss those communication media out of hand. What do you all think of the state of communication in academia? How can so many smart people be so bad at this?
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