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Don Burleson Blog 







Consulting Requirements:
Manners and verbal etiquette for professionals

Don Burleson

Note:  In addition to these guidelines, make sure to review our Dress Code, etiquette requirements, Cross-Cultural Guidelines, forum guidelines and obfuscation requirements.

Good manners are essential to a professional consultant, and you should choose your words carefully to avoid offending or "shutting down" someone.  This applies in-person, at conferences, and on internet forums.  If someone Libels you, you have recourse (dueling has been outlawed), but it is never acceptable to insult or degrade anyone.  Borrowing from the excellent Oracle Code of Conduct:

  • Always treat individuals with respect and dignity.
  • Disrespectful or disruptive behavior or any other behavior that reflects poorly on you will not be tolerated.

Insults and cultural differences

According to the book Personality Psychology (McGraw-Hill) the cultural reaction to insulting behavior varies widely:

“In cultures of honor, insults are viewed as highly offensive public challenges that must be met with direct confrontation and physical aggression.”

This issue of “insults” varies by region within the USA.  North of the Mason-Dixon Line, I’ve seen people “flip-off” others without fear of personal injury.  In areas of the Southern, Midwest and Western areas of the USA, using obscene gestures can result in death or serious injury. To them, it’s a matter of personal honor not to allow personal insults, while the Hispanic concept of “Machismo” requires a person to physically defend their sacred honor against verbal attacks.

I've noted that statements by some British folks (e.g. "I can't believe people actually pay you money", "your stupidity is appalling") would not be appropriate in the USA, and in some cases, they are considered "fighting words".

I’ve heard that in the British government (House of Lords), it’s not considered unprofessional to hurl insults, and people in the U.K. don’t expect to be beaten-up when they walk-up to someone and call them a “moron” to heir face.  This is not true in Texas, where a “real man” would never allow such an insult to-your face without fisticuffs.

Many famous British leaders have a history of insulting others, and it makes one wonder if “insulting” is more acceptable in Great Britain than it is in the USA.  These famous insults from Sir Winston Churchill:

  • And you, madam, are ugly. But in the morning I shall be sober. (to Bessie Braddock after she accused him of being drunk)
  • Lady Nancy Astor: "Winston, if you were my husband, I'd poison your tea."
    Winston Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink it."

We also see hilarious written insults which would be considered unprofessional in the USA, as these extracts from British officers' annual confidential reports:

  • "This officer is depriving a village somewhere of its idiot."
  • "This Officer should go far - and the sooner he starts, the better."
  • "Only occasionally wets himself under pressure."
  • "He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle."
  • "This young man has delusions of adequacy."
  • "This Medical Officer has used my ship to carry his genitals from port to port, and my officers to carry him from bar to bar."
  • "Since my last report he has reached rock bottom, and has started to dig."
  • "She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."
  • "I would not breed from this Officer."

For Burleson Consultants, it is never appropriate to make any statement, verbal or written, that might be considered offensive to any individual. A few guidelines:

When you want to say:   This moron’s lack of knowledge is appalling

Instead, say:                   Gee, I never looked at it that way before. . .

When you want to say:  I can’t believe that people really pay this jackass money for this crap

Instead, say:                 Interesting. Have you considered this approach that worked for me?. . .

When you want to say:  This guy is so stupid I’ll bet he can’t fart and chew-gum at the same time.

Instead, say:                  It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand that . . .




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Note: This Oracle documentation was created as a support and Oracle training reference for use by our DBA performance tuning consulting professionals.  Feel free to ask questions on our Oracle forum.

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