The word “Transparency” is being overused by us communicators and social media folk.
What happened to words like “honest”, “candid” and “sincere”? They’re great for describing human exchanges, and they’re not used disingenuously by CEOs, elected officials and spokespeople to describe their relationships with stakeholders.
I feel like honesty, sincerity, and candidness are more closely connected with ideas of human morality. Transparency has to do with optimization; finding a balance between sharing information and protecting proprietary knowledge in order to maximize trust and minimize loss of competitive advantage or stakeholder’s personal information.
Why am I saying this?
I noticed a status post on Facebook today by a well-known person in social media who I’m friends with. They were mentioning that they tend to make the occasional negative post, or share personal thoughts differently on Facebook, because they see it as a more personal channel than Twitter. They were asking honestly if their friends and “friendz” minded this.
One of the comments in the thread beneath it thanked them for being “Transparent”.
I shook my head. I hope that it was said in jest, but for some reason I get the impression it wasn’t.
Put up your hand if your response to your spouse or significant other saying “I love you” has ever been “Thanks for being transparent”? I don’t expect to see many hands.
What about this scenario:
A good friend says “Thanks for helping out, I was having a tough day.”
Which of the following would you respond to this sincere thank-you with:
- It’s my pleasure, you’ve been there for me in the past.
- Don’t mention it, I was maximizing your shareholder value!
- Hey, what’re friends for?
It’s a bit of a ridiculous example, but you probably get my point. You’d most likely answer with 1) or 3) but not 2).
Keep the formal corp-speak for the boardroom.
Am I the only one getting tired of terms frequently used in government and corporate mission statements being used to describe social exchanges? Am I overreacting here? I’d like to hear your take.