The right not to be talked to

I think it was perhaps last week’s edition of CBS’s 60 minutes that covered a story about Denmark being the happiest country on the planet. In what I am certain was a dramatic over-simplification of the matter, the report juxtaposed a collection of rather sombre looking Danes against research suggesting they’re the happiest people on earth, and surmised that it was as a result of low-expectations that Danes find themselves so happy – on the inside, at least.

As the report continued, it struck upon an interesing chord. It explained how Danish culture has developed to include a collection of non-verbal cues that allow Danes to navigate public situations without having to speak. The example used spoke of a person rattling his or her shoulder bag on the bus as a way of saying “This is my stop. I need to get off the bus now. Please get out of my way.” Expounding further, the reporter suggested that this was part of Danish tradition… that we all have a right not to be talked to.

As a marketer, that last bit really hit home. The right not to be talked to. How would our business change if we actually believed this and lived this way?

It seems that our industry has evolved in many ways to say that it’s alright to interrupt people, provided you’re creative / entertaining in how you do it. I think that Web 2.0 is beginning to open up the opportunity for marketers to begin to practice their craft in a new and different way. It is giving us the opportunity to guide companies into active participation in communities such that it diminishes our ‘need’ to interrupt and enhances our ‘requirement’ to simply be of service.

It may be a long way from accepting a universal right not to be talked to, but it’s a start.

Previously posted on

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