Monday, August 17, 2009

Consistent Messages – The True Source of Inconsistency.

For the Musings-in-a-Minute version of this blog, please click here.

I noticed a sign on a cemetery gate as I drove by it the other day.  In large letters it read “VISITORS ONLY”.

As I read it, I thought “well, there are only two types of people of interest here”:

  • The people who stop by to pay their respects are just visiting and have no intent of moving there permanently … at least for now.
  • The people who are buried there have no intention of leaving.

So who does the sign apply to?

I laughed and drove on.

I was buying a package of gum yesterday when I observed two signs about cigarettes on the wall behind the clerk.

One sign said something along the lines of “We have created laws for pricing and minimum age requirements to ensure fair, healthy access to these products”.

The other sign right beside it said something along the lines of “You should not smoke because it is dangerous to your health.  For help quitting, call this number”.

Both signs were authored by the same government.

One sign promoting healthy use and access to the product – the other telling you to avoid it before it kills you.

As I was leaving a supermarket today, I noticed a sign that indicated that plastic shopping bags were 5 cents each.  The sign said “We charge 5 cents because we don’t want you to buy plastic bags - they are bad for the environment”.

The manager was there so I mused “If you don’t want people to buy the plastic bags, why not discontinue them altogether or charge $1 or more per bag?”.

The manager replied that they didn’t want to make the cost of the bag prohibitive as this would upset the customer.

I acknowledged this but pointed out the wording on the sign and said “but if you REALLY don’t want us to buy the bag, make it painful, expensive or impossible to get”.

The manager replied that this would make it difficult for customers who really want the bag to get one.

When I said that I understood this but then noted that the sign said “we don’t want you to buy plastic bags”, the manager suddenly remembered that he had a price check to do.

One sign with an interesting conflicting message:  “We don’t want you to buy plastic at all but if that makes you unhappy, we will relent and give you as many as you want”.

How about products that give us incredible amounts of “stuff” for nothing.

  1. Clean anything with no effort.
  2. Preserve any food with no effort.
  3. Cut anything with no effort.
  4. Lose weight with no effort.
  5. Expand your brain with no effort.
  6. Make unlimited money with no effort.

That’s right – act now – think later.

Or worse - don’t think at all – you might notice a disconnect in the message or the intelligence behind the message.

We laugh at the infomercials and think how silly people are to buy such products.

We laugh at the inconsistency or humor of signs that we read that weren’t intended to be funny.

But perhaps if we look inward, we might stop laughing.

For just as the classic infomercial offers something that is often less than authentic, can we claim to be any more authentic when presenting ourselves personally and professionally to others? 

Do the signs that we project make sense?

Do we say one thing to one group and something else to another group?

Do we say one thing to someone but inwardly say something else to ourselves?

Do we loudly trumpet for or against a cause but then secretly practice the complete opposite?

Do we portray ourselves as being in control and on top of our game when we live in fear that our weaknesses (which are in fact perfectly normal) might be discovered?

When it comes to inconsistencies, it is easy to find examples of them in others.

I wonder though if the greatest inconsistencies that we see are in fact mirrors of inconsistencies within ourselves.

Maybe when we notice someone being inauthentic about a specific message they are projecting, perhaps our observation is a reflection of our own inconsistent projection of that message or a variation of that message.

Maybe when we feel ourselves get in a knot about consistency of message, we are in fact in a knot about an internal inconsistency that needs to be corrected.

It is easy to observe, laugh and muse at the inconsistency of many things and people in this world.

But before we do this, let’s make sure we are consistent with ourselves and the message we promote to ourselves and others.

Now if you will excuse me, I have some inconsistencies to iron out.

Yours in service and servanthood.


For the Musings-in-a-Minute version of this blog, please click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment