Foot-in-Mouth Disease is quite common in our industry.
I should know. I’ve been infected with it disastrously several times in my career.
And social media has made it even easier to say something boneheaded since context, tone and intention is often lost in translation.
It is pretty easy to say something wildly insulting to someone without even realizing you are being offensive.
AN EXAMPLE OF A SELF-INFLECT WOUND
Here is a recent example from this Forum where someone was presenting himself in a way that could easily have come off as extremely rude to a person in the industry without realizing it.
This member posted a bunch of false presumptions, inaccurate information and negative opinions about a composer’s career… in a thread written by that composer’s agent!
Fortunately, in this particular case the agent was me, so I’m more bemused than insulted. And I would rather use this as a teachable moment than getting my feathers too ruffled.
Let’s ask: Why would someone think it was a good idea to criticize Jerry Goldsmith’s career to Jerry Goldsmith’s agent (and then compound the error in judgement by getting the facts wrong)?
ALWAYS ASK YOURSELF: WHO IS MY AUDIENCE?
In this example the audience was the person directly responsible for Goldsmith’s career. Always be delicate when you know the parties involved might be part of the conversation. (Being delicate in all situations is actually a smart default)
ALWAYS ASK YOURSELF: WHAT ARE MY INTENTIONS?
Many people in the industry would take poorly to what and how that person posted about them, even if that was probably far from the writer’s intention.
If the initial intention was to learn something, then ask with sensitivity. And make sure you aren’t asking from a potentially negative place and that it isn’t predicated on false information or opinions stated as facts.
If you sincerely want to ask someone something be extremely respectful of them.
ALWAYS ASK YOURSELF: HOW CAN THIS BE MISINTERPRETED?
In this case, it could be misinterpreted as criticism directed about a specific person to a specific person.
If you are going to delve into such a level of specifics, make really sure you’ve got your facts straight and make sure you don’t come off as a negative know-it-all who doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.
POT MEET KETTLE
I feel I am more than qualified to chime in on unintentionally rubbing people the wrong way because I am quite well-versed in doing it myself.
Hopefully, I have learned to do it a little less over time. And hopefully I have learned how to take responsibility of why I might be going over like a lead balloon.