The Biggest Challenge during a Twitter Chat

Having co-hosted #LeadershipChat for several months now (with my partner-in-crime, @LisaPetrilli), and having also participated in other chats as well, I can tell you that the biggest challenge – in my opinion – is not the technology, nor is it the speed and volume of information.

It’s semantics.

Semantics has to do with the meaning, or interpretation, of a word or phrase.

Last night on LeadershipChat, we were discussing “macho-style” leadership in a business setting. Now, one thing Lisa and I do before each Tuesday night chat is we each write a blog post, giving our views on the upcoming topic and, hopefully, framing the discussion. We try to explain/define terms. But, nonetheless, we all come into a conversation with pre-baked notions, images, and experiences that attach to certain terms. Which means that, without fail, when we have a chat about concepts like macho-ness or vulnerability or vision or whatever, we often end up during the chat struggling with semantics.

A challenge made even more difficult by the 140-character limitations of each tweet, and the rapid flow of contributions!

We end up, as a group, sometimes sharing dictionary definitions, bouncing clarifications off one another (is an alpha-male the same as a macho man? Is macho-posturing gender-specific?). In certain ways, these are quite valuable exchanges, but at times I think a chat can get bogged down by spending an inordinate amount of time clarifying terms; or, as regularly happens, talking “past” each other by using the same term in different ways.

Any I don’t have an answer for this. Just putting it out there. Your perspectives? Is there a way to make this better?

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

5 Responses to The Biggest Challenge during a Twitter Chat

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Biggest Challenge during a Twitter Chat « Connection Agent -- Topsy.com

  2. Jeanne Male says:

    Steve, interesting post! I first looked through the kaleidoscope of semantics as a corporate trainer and began to appreciate the varied connotations of seemingly simple words or concepts. Academics in neuroscience, semantic memory or interpretive bias and laypeople alike have a working understanding of how semantics can make conversations muddy or more colorful.

    Your example from last night’s #LeadershipChat is a strong example. Recently an acquaintance used the term “alpha female” to describe a dominant woman in a disparaging way. The connotation being that alphas are overbearing. In the animal kingdom, alphas typically acquire the position and follower-ship through physical strength, domination and posturing…not necessarily what we want in corporate leadership.

    Framing the discussion and defining the words as you and Lisa have done quite well are an important spring board for the discussion but those pesky “pre-baked notions” will always be in play. I was surprised and intrigued by the comment by @jeffthesensei: “An alpha doesn’t have to be macho. Alpha is presence, respect and influence too”. His comment gave me pause and I welcome more discussion. To me, that’s the beauty of the kaleidoscope of semantics. In all forms of communication we do well to invite the reflections and colored perspectives. Now, let’s see if that holds up when you tackle the “Wuss” Leader!

    • I’m glad you brought up the kaleidoscope imagery, Jeanne. Maybe I tend to see this too narrowly – I so want clarity that I overlook the beauty of diversity…

  3. Dan Perez says:

    Syeve,
    You get a bunch of people who see things in different ways and give them only 140 characters (minus the 11 characters that #LeadershipChat takes up) to express their views and guess what? There’s gonna be some confusion. It’s just the nature of the twitter chats.

    I try real hard to first understand what I think is being said before I reply. And despite being right 99.4% of the time, there’s that very small percentage that perhaps I’m misreading someone’s views. It’s OK.

    See ya at the next one…

    • I’m up to 99.5% accuracy – and for $19.95, you can download my free e-book to help you achieve that magical 0.1% that puts you in the “Genuine Elite” category of chat-ters!

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