• Scott McInnes

59 | Don't treat people like children.

warning sign; "DO NOT PUSH!"

So this week's blog topic was a toss-up between talking to people like children and Jacob Rees-Mogg's new 'language guidelines'.

But given that I don't want to give Rees-Mogg Esq (oh PLEASE!) any more airtime, I decided to plump for the former option.

I went to a meeting last week in town in a building that had a revolving door. I actually ended up going around twice, so shocked was I by the sign that had been put in the revolving door by the landlord (I'll apologise for the blurry pic - I couldn't actually catch the door in a stationary position!).

There were a couple of things that struck me about this particular sign. The use of SHOUTY, BOLD CAPS and an exclamation mark (just to fully reinforce the gravity of the situation) was the first. But by far and away, the thing that really made me laugh was the use of the very 1970s :

'By order of management'

Now, I do know that the reason for the sign was that someone pushed the door, it broke and it took two weeks and a few bob to fix. Unfortunate alright (and probably done by accident I suspect).

What I don't know is what the 'management' thought that the addition of the last line was going to achieve? Maybe they thought that it was adding weight to their shouty demand? Or that the thoughts of being hauled in front of the 'management' would be so terrifying as to stop people shoving it?

But would this sign not have sufficed?

Sign; Automatic doors, please don't push

You see it all the time. People think that by going super formal and dictatorial that they'll achieve whatever the sign, email, discussion (or whatever) set out to achieve. To treat people in a way that makes them feel like bold children - to take that higher 'adult ground'.

I disagree, I don't believe that taking an adult-child tone does have the desired effect. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's likely to have less of an effect. Call me a messer, but if I see a sign like that it makes me want to push the door more, just to see what happens. How often have you seen 'Don't walk on the Grass!' signs and felt immediately compelled to take your shoes and socks off and sink your feet into nature's luscious green carpet?

Here are a couple of things to think about.

  1. When you're preparing a communication (whether a sign, a presentation, a conversation), think about the intended audience - how's it going to make them feel?

  2. Don't assume everyone will do the wrong thing - they won't. It's likely that one person caused the problem, yet now, the beady eye is being cast over everyone who enters or leaves the building. Write your communications for the 99% who do, not the 1% who don't.

And if the 'management' in Miesian Plaza reads this and would like me to send over my beautiful artwork above, just let me know. ;-)


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