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What Do You Read and Why?

One of the beautiful and totally unexpected side effects I have gotten from joining the BizCatalyst 360° writing community has been exactly that: The community.

In a comment on LinkedIn, Jeff Ikler wrote:

I decided a long time ago that I couldn’t possibly read everything on BC360° even if I did nothing else. So I have to pick and choose, and I choose to go deep instead of broad. The same is true on LinkedIn. I can skim endlessly or I can dive into a few posts that appear to have meaning for me.

Amen.  My day also has just 24 hours. (And I have 10 years of BC360° articles to catch up on…)

I have been thinking about what I decide to read when I open LinkedIn or get the BC360° Today email and why, because, like Jeff, I can’t read it all.

My choice is primarily based on authors.  Some, because they are always entertaining.  Some, because they challenge my thinking.  And some, because I just love these people.

The interesting part is that writers can belong to more than one category.  Some challenge me every d### time – and I still love them.  I wouldn’t say the same for some columnists in my morning paper.

I think The Friendship Bench has something to do with this.  By spending time together regularly around some subject of substance, people can show different sides of themselves.  A big heart here, listening skills there, a story shared in a small group that takes your breath away, a sense of humor, a well-reasoned argument – even if I find the core completely misguided – is still a well-reasoned argument.  And who says we can’t both be right?

All other things equal, I am probably more likely to read something written by a “Bench buddy” than by someone I don’t know at all.  That may be unfair to a lot of excellent writers; so be it.

And then there is the rest of LinkedIn.  Like in BC360°, some connections are true In Real Life connections you have had dinner with.  Or done business with.  Or attended conferences with.  And some you only know from LinkedIn where they share excellent content.

Until they are in your town and you arrange to have coffee/dinner with them or attend a conference with them because you want to get to know if they have a big heart, a sense of humor, can listen, or perhaps have stories that will take your breath away.

You know a funny thing I have noticed?  I don’t know if it is the same for you, but I would love to hear your reaction:  When I hang in there just a little longer than I had planned because I want to support somebody, I feel a much stronger connection.  I invest a little time in the relationship even if it is not that convenient and I really should be working on my own writing.  The economist in me cries “sunk cost fallacy”.  Somehow, for relationships, that is a risk I am willing to run.

Charlotte Wittenkamp
Charlotte Wittenkamphttp://www.usdkexpats.org/
Charlotte Wittenkamp is an organizational psychologist who counsels international transfers, immigrants, and foreign students in overcoming culture shock. Originating from Denmark, where she worked in organizational development primarily in the finance industry, Charlotte has lived in California since 1998. Her own experiences relocating lead down a path of research into value systems and communication patterns. She shares this knowledge and experience through speaking and writing and on her website USDKExpats.org. Many of these “learning experiences” along with a context to put them in can be found in her book Building Bridges Across Cultural Differences, Why Don’t I Follow Your Norms?. On the side, she leads a multinational and multigenerational communication training group.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I read your articles all the time, Charlotte. You are a seeker of knowledge and I really like that about you. In a way, you remind me of me. 🙂
    Every night before going to bed I open the BC360° Today email, and I choose articles for reading. I decide what to read based on authors but also ‘catchy’ headlines.
    As much as I want to be an engaged reader, I fail. I constantly struggle with a lack of time to show my fellow writers that I care about them.
    In this stage of my life, doing other things, and taking care of the family members in need, take up all my remaining time. Still, I try my best to interact with the authors I read the most. I am writing this comment at 5 a.m.

    I would like my Bizatalyst community to know that I am a thoughtful reader and read their articles as much as I can. Simply, I miss the time to write meaningful and supportive comments, and I’m not a “Great post!” type of commenter.
    I agree with Denis, “it all begins and ends with the masterpieces delivered by you and so many others.” I would only add that this community inspired me not only to write but, as a reader, to believe in the power of words. Between thoughtful reading and not commenting on articles, and commenting without reading them first, I will always choose the former. I hope my articles are read that way. 🙂

  2. You know, Charlotte, you always bring me back to what I love most in the writer-reader relationship – it’s the deep connection that can come out of the exchange that follows. For instance, I feel like we’ve met. That we’ve had a long, meaningful conversation over coffee. That you see me. While we’ve never actually been face-to-face, I feel known. Yet, every bit of our relationship has unfolded over our conversations that have followed a piece. I go back and forth and struggle mightily with the sheer overwhelm of content. I find I lose the sound of my own voice in the fray. But, without fail, ever time I “see” you, I’m reminded of why it matters to poke my head back in and savor a few pieces once in awhile. Thank you for giving so much of yourself. I hope you know how much it matters. You make this writer feel less alone.

  3. Thank you (on behalf of the entire BIZCAT Team) for the eloquent way you’ve “connected all the dots” when it comes to the foundation of our “conscious community, Charlotte. It all begins and ends with the masterpieces delivered by you and so many others. And for that, we are eternally grateful.

  4. Charlotte — Nice essay, well-reasoned. Heartfelt.

    In terms of what guides my current reading choices, I try to focus on people’s personal stories rather than on essays that provide overt advice, guidance or philosophizing. I find that stories trigger my own memories and help me build connections with others. Those stories may contain advice, guidance, or philosophy, but the lessons are embedded in the narrative, so there’s context to them. For purposes of illustration only, see the writings of JoAnna Bennett, Tammy Hader, and Laura Mikolaitis.

    There’s usually nothing wrong with the advice, guidance, and philosophy columns – although some can cross the line into being preachy or proselytizing – it’s just that life stories resonate more with me at this stage of my life.

    And I agree with Ali that there is a reciprocal aspect to writing and reflecting here. For me, the site is about building relationships, so if I repeatedly comment on someone’s writing, and I never hear from them either in a direct response to my comment or in a comment on my writing, well, that says something.

    • Thank you for the inspiration, Jeff.

      Your point about including the personal context was so foreign to me until I reflected on why I kept smiling when I had read something by Karthik Rajan. And I love your examples from this platform.
      I, too, think it is something that comes with experience; we have removed ourselves from trusting the black and white authority of the school book to asking for the nuances.

      I must confess that I am not very good with podcasts. Not because I don’t enjoy them when I have time. But 30 min there and 1 hr 5 min there and the day is gone. I never was able to listen while doing something else (except perhaps ironing, but the piles have been pretty low these past 16 months…)

      • Charlotte – You’re not alone in your reaction to podcasts, but as a rule, I never just sit down and listen to one. I’ll put one on when I’m exercising – stationary bike – walking, cooking, or driving. I see the few that I routinely listen to as tremendous sources of information, inspiration, stories and opinion. (I hope mine is to listeners!) My favorite is “This American Life,” which may just have been the very first podcast. So well produced.

  5. I like the way you styled and presented your ideas Charlotte Wittenkamp. You suggest guiding rules on how to select what we read.

    I share your thoughts and find them applicable to me as well

    Familiarity with authors and our impressions about them coupled with authors with whom I brainstorm by exchanging comments top my list. However, I must say to avoid familiarity I do select some posts that are not of direct interest to me such as poetry. I need to expose my mind to varieties and so expand it.

    I may add also a reason for NOT reading posts by some authors. In one case I commented on almost all the posts of one author. I messaged him once to one of my posts that was relevant to his posts. He never acknowledged the message and yet he kept tagging me to his posts. I refrained from reading his posts.

    The title and cover of some posts attract me to read them as well.

    I want to congratulate Dennis Pitocco for hosting on BIZCATALYST 360° high quality posts such as this one.

    • Thank you, Ali, I hear you. I also smile inside remembering how many years we go back exchanging posts and comments across many platforms and in different contexts.

      You voiced very clearly why I look at people’s LI activities before accepting to connect: Are they a “connecter” or just spewing content.

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