Another Fine Lott You've Gotten Us Into
It's been fascinating watching the reaction to Harry Reid this week. He made some "inartful" comments about our President when Obama was still a senator/candidate. People are calling for his head. Al Sharpton and others are saying "No big deal." Now let's think back a few years... to Trent Lott... who made racially insensitive comments about Strom Thurmond... and lost his leadership role in the Senate over it.
Why the difference in reaction? Are they truly different? Is it another case of liberal bias? Perhaps. But I'm not going to go there. I commented about this event on Twitter and suggested that this was actually just a system breakdown. My good friend, Ernest Phillips, shot back with the response I was hoping for: "The system has a variable 'intent.' Offensive remarks are often about perceived intent which affects output." (Go, Ernest! That's why you're great at your job.)
In the system of communication, there are two inputs which are always present but often imperceptible to those in the system: intent and perception. Often we are faced with insensitive or rude or seemingly mean comments and the output of our communication is REACT. But should we ALWAYS react? I've been floored some times on Facebook when I'm just having fun being cheeky and somebody completely wigs out over a comment I've made. Those who know me best, know that I generally don't set out to hurt people randomly (intent). They also look holistically at the conversation instead of ONLY filtering it through their values and experiences (perception). Generally, I can disagree agreeably with most people because I can look at the communication and relationship systems I have with them... and I separate out the intent and the perception. The output of communication is generally much better when we can recognize intent and perception for what they are.
As for Harry Reid, the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC and Fox News will all scurry off to a different story, a new scandal, and a scathing attention/ratings grabber. And they will try their best to play with perceptions and intents to make us believe whatever they want. Is your system ready? Will you recognize it when it happens?