For those playing the home game, I'm a graduate of the New Brunswick Community College with a diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management, and I'll be returning this year to start another diploma program, Business Administration, with a speciality in accounting. Business Communication is one of the many management courses we (the class of '10) studied and that most of us (including, admittedly, myself) blew off as a tangentially relevant and otherwise easy credit. Most of us went in with no intention of ever actually opening our own restaurants, and it was only the few who did who eventually realized how important the course was.
These days, the textbook lives close at hand. Anyone who spends any amount of time writing has a tendency to develop their own style, and I'm no exception. All the same, having a reference on hand with the fundamentals is a handy thing to have, especially when you don't have stellar interpersonal skills to begin with. A good communications textbook like this is invaluable for the writer, whether you're composing actual business correspondence or tinkering away with your pet novella. Most of the time I try and deviate from the templates for cover-letters and resumes and the like that are thus provided, but the chapters themselves are invaluable in shaping my own go-to-templates.
The reason I get to bring this up here at Rationality is that the communications textbook doesn't, strictly speaking, apply to business alone. While it is certainly written with that slant, the fundamental concepts are the same as those you would apply in almost any relationship. Some of the formalities might be dismissed when dealing with more familiar people, but the fundamentals remain the same.
We can say what we like about the importance of self-identity and maintaining a positive sense of oneself as a person, but we cannot forget that our reputations do, in fact, proceed us. We can identify as level-headed, calm individuals who are stoic professionals, and that self-image may even be accurate. However, others will see us according to how we actually present ourselves. No amount of Moore's tailoring or perfect grooming will compensate for leaning on a counter or using language better suited to the bar at the corner than the Bar Association. True, being casual has its place, and the workplace is moving to increasingly casual environments... but it's not all about work.
You see, a thought occurred to me this evening while I was working on my resume. When you think of a charismatic individual who is "good for all time zones", you think of someone who is polite, clean-spoken, and moderate in taste and fashion. These are not just the qualities of a professional in an office somewhere, but the qualities we normally ascribe to "Good People".
The Church is going through its identity crisis, but whether you can call it the mid-life crisis or that awkward moment of searching for a place in the world immediately after graduating high school and moving away to college is a subject for debate. She's been rocked by scandal. The positions of the Church on homosexuality, misunderstood as they seem to be in the public forum, have made it unpopular, to say nothing of her stance on issues such as Reproductive Rights. Between the label of bigotry that is all-too-happily slapped onto her and the stain of the abuse scandals, it's easy to see why the Church's popularity is dwindling and why more and more people, myself included, have a hard time telling people they're Catholic.
Thing is, the Church has an identity defined by the people within it. We can, as a body, reason that away with whatever excuse for our own behaviour suits us, but the reality is that the people on the outside, looking in, are going to see us the way we present ourselves. Are we the old women and grumpy middle-aged men disgruntled by the young whipper-snappers and their flashy lights and funny words, or are we the 30-somethings who can pull a cheap sport coat off the rack and wear it like Armani?
A bit vain of an image, but the idea remains. We owe it to ourselves to be polite and courteous, upright and honest, in all of our dealings. Our hearts and minds will be better for it, to say nothing of our reputations.
And, on that note, I must apologise for a previous post, Catholicism as Counter-Culture. While the sentiment was one honestly-felt, the point itself was poorly argued, and the style confrontational. Having said that, it serves as an excellent object lesson, as this post mirrors the message in an entirely different light. We must seek dialogue - Polite, honest dialogue - rather than allowing conversation to degrade as soon as one party or the other is offended.