Inside conversations vs Outside Conversations

December 11 , 2008 4 comments

Once upon a time..

I met up with a friend named, “Jane Smith” and she starts pouring her heart to me telling me about her life. She gives me the details about the day but would only allow my ears to hear. Let’s call this an “inside conversation”, a conversation that only allows listeners who are close to this person. She gives innuendos only I would get.  Jane is a good person. She is just venting, I understand her frustrations, and empathize with her. The conversation ends with us when she leaves.

On another night I have another friend, let’s call him “John Smith”. Now John and I meet in a restaurant and he starts speaking really loudly telling me about his life. He starts talking about things that make people turn and stare. He is also a good person but is having a bad night. He initiated an “outside conversation” that should be an “inside conversation.” The people around us don’t know him personally. They don’t know that his sense of humor is sarcastic and he doesn’t mean what he’s saying.

There are so many social networking websites available to us. They allow us to broadcasting our thoughts and actions with just a swift click on a button. How many of you are thinking about the consequences?  Reputations are being boosted as quickly as they are being sunk.

Outside conversations

The pros for being vocal on online public services.
I like knowing when my coworkers’ babies are being born, or when they are in trouble and need help.It’s great because I can’t keep track of them all the time. It’s great when a friend shares their good fortune or where they were on their latest trip. Another good example is when a friend got laid off (which is happening a bit too much for me at the moment) and we all band together in keeping our ears open to get them a job. Those are great ways for us to connect. Do good not harm! :)

The cons for being vocal on online public services.
I’ve seen examples of freelancers boast on twitter about slacking off and then not meeting a deadline, not surprising and then wonder why they aren’t getting repeat work or how they are? Transparency in their case is not a good business practice.
We all want to participate in the conversations but because these online services allow us to continue to speak without context it is very easy to think a person is a jerk from one line, or a slacker because of it. The people following your public accounts don’t know what kind of person you are. They don’t know that you had an illness in the family and that’s why you are behind in a deadline which is the reason you are late in your project because you forgot to broadcast that part or they didn’t follow that part in your train of thought because of X,Y and Z.

The lesson to take from this:

Context matters: If you are going to broadcast your thoughts be careful who is listening because you might have to defend yourself.
Emails have had the similar problem, tone doesn’t convey.

Maybe you don’t care who hears you, your likes or dislikes. If you don’t then you are stronger than me. I like having jobs where people respect me. I like having friends know more about me than the random person that follows me on Twitter.

Transparency in talking about life, what you are up to is up to you. Just don’t think that you are alone when you broadcast it on Twitter or Facebook. I’ve had bad days, and I’m sure you have. I, luckily, have close friends I can talk to about it and not just google to index it. ;)
The question is what is your goal for telling the world?


Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 09.51 pm


Hi Cindy,

I see your point here but there’s also a buffer online which I don’t think exists in person. We’re shocked by John because it’s happening right there in front of us, but on Twitter or whatever, we have time to reflect on the subject.

That said, smart people that say sarcastic things hopefully have the foresight to follow it up with something genuine (or at least a smile).



Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 10.04 pm


I think this is a nice start to a conversation that a lot of people have been having lately. I am a teacher and I have a personal blog, and constantly want to write stuff about what I see and experience at school, but must be careful about what I say. I know that parents in my school community read my blog along with colleagues, and so I recognize that I need to be cautious. However, I have also heard really positive feedback from my “known” community when I post something about our school as a meaningful way to further necessary dialogue. So I think that bloggers need to be responsible with their online presence (many high school students, by comparison, have no clue how to do this) but should absolutely continue to share their lives and thoguhts.


Thu Dec 18, 2008 at 04.42 am


Very insightful, Cindy.  I think a lot of people make career limiting moves trying to be too transparent or not even bothering to consider the level of discretion at all.


Wed Jan 21, 2009 at 09.40 am


One should definitely know how to differentiate between the two. As rightly pointed context is very important in conversations. Wherever it be it is said even walls have ears. So better be careful
Regards, Bob


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