Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Excursis: Reaching Out

Facebook performed one of their periodic reboots on me sometime between last week and this. When I went to my business page I found that my postings are no longer "viewed" by people, they have "reached" people.

"Reaching out" is one of those terms that has become vogue in the last five years. Consultants, sales people, and recruiters no longer call or contact you, they "reach out" to you. I don't know why the term bothers me, but it really does.

Reach, for those who were wondering, can be used as a transitive or intransitive verb. As a transitive verb, it means to stretch out, touch with a part of the body, to pick up , to hand over, to make an impression on, to communicate. As an intransitive verb it means to stretch or strain after someone, to project, to arrive.

I suppose the impression is supposed to be that reaching out is equivalent of communicating, that somehow reaching out gives a more personal cast to a communication, that I am am not just "communicating" with you but rather am putting forth my proverbial hand in the hope that you, too, will reach back to me.

Maybe it's the implication of a relationship. Reaching at any of the definitions above implies some level of contact between the two individuals, be it two lovers or a politician with their constituents. Either way, in my world such a contact has not occurred: you're calling me, you're writing me. That's not a personal contact. You're presuming a relationship that doesn't exist.

The other thing I think I find bothersome is the the implication of reaching out. Either 1) You're a superior reaching down; or 2) You're someone needy who's reaching up. In either case, that's not really what I want or need in a contact. I need honesty and equality: you've something that I might need, or I've something you need. In the context we're discussing, this is a business relationship, nothing more. Treat it as one.

I'm sure I'm a single rock in the incoming tide of language use, and I will be one the one to go under the tide of new language usage. But usage or no, I will not surrender the basic premise that relationships are built, not presumed, and that "reaching" or "reaching out" involves a level of personal contact far beyond the use it is being pressed to.

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