Chewing broken bottles and effective communication


This was not Aunt Dahlia, my good and kindly aunt, but my Aunt Agatha, the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.
―P.G. Wodehouse

I have always loved the contrast that Wodhouse creates. And how one can help but be drawn to Aunt Agatha. Good versus tough. Those of us who are good boys (or girls) have forever been bewildered about being ignored by the opposite sex whose own attraction is to our opposite. How can doing good be so unattractive we’ve wondered, drifting into sleep through the lonely night.

Is there a lesson to be learned here for effective communication? Are we going to be Aunt Dahlia in our writing, or is it OK to be Aunt Agatha at times? Jon Moon, author and independent consultant on document clarity, observes in his occasional email update that sometimes being good (following the rules) isn’t effective. He cites conventional wisdom that says that a sentence should not end with a preposition. It’s not always good. “Churchill supposedly mocked this last rule by saying: ‘That is something up with which I will not put.’ ”

I suppose it comes down to personal awareness. Doesn’t everything? Is it illegal, immoral, or just plain unconventional? We are better off and stronger when we know the rules, so we know when we are breaking them willfully and with gusto. Call it what you will. See Picasso, as in abstract expressionism. Creativity and effectiveness often share the same domicile with breaking bad.

Effective may not be rule-abiding, but on the other hand, the opposite of moral may not necessarily be immoral. Robin Hood, Bonnie and Clyde, and Eric Snowden have a personality brand, not because they are good and kindly like Aunt Dahlia, but because they may be seen standing next to Aunt Agatha, flossing their teeth with the tail of a rat.

Posted by Frank J. Mendelson | Business, Business Communications, Marketing | Comments 0 |
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