Feature

United Kingdom: The lost art of direct confrontation

“Just get up, walk across the room, and have it out with the person using the mouth, tongue, and larynx God gave you,” said Sam Delaney in The Guardian.

Sam DelaneyThe Guardian

The British have become a cowardly lot, said Sam Delaney. There was a time when our national motto could have been, “If you’ve got something to say, say it to my face.” When Phil Collins dumped his wife by fax back in 1994, we were “united in rage” that he didn’t have “the guts to do it in person.” Nowadays, though, nobody does anything uncomfortable in person. “We lay people off using e-mail, we dump people by text,” and we make snide remarks on the Facebook walls of our so-called friends. “We are heartless and cowardly, and technology is to blame.”

And we don’t save time by avoiding face-to-face conflict. In fact, we waste countless hours. If you get a “sniffy e-mail of gutlessly implied criticism from a co-worker,” for example, you may write multiple drafts of a response, toning down some bits, adding more sarcasm, even running it by a friend for comment. What a “ridiculous and soppy excuse for a human being” you’ve become. “Just get up, walk across the room, and have it out with the person using the mouth, tongue, and larynx God gave you.” Go ahead and make a scene. The other person will think twice next time “before getting all up in your inbox.”

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