Last week, a guy in my company (let's call him "Pete") sent an email to someone else ("Polly"). Polly had asked for Pete to help with the printing of a proposal that would be sent to a customer. Pete replied that our company was on a serious color print and paper reduction campaign and that we would have to think about reducing our color prints drastically. Also, Pete said we should think about reducing the colors we use in our proposals, like removing orange. Orange, of course, being our main corporate color.
Polly (rightly) didn't really know what to say to that, and forwarded it to me. I didn't really know what to say either, since no one had asked ME (I am marketing, by the way) about color usage. The way the email read, someone had made up some stupid rules about color and printing with nary a thought to reality, or funny things like company brand.
I sent some strongly worded emails ("This rule is BS") to Pete and also our IT manager (let's call him "Repeat"), who usually (and frankly, is known for) sets these kinds of rules. Both Pete and Repeat responded quickly all up in arms, telling me there was no need to get my dander up. They both said no one had made the color usage rules and that it didn't exists and it was just a suggestion. And that, basically, *I* was out of line for being all upset.
So, apart from the obvious lapse of total common sense in suggesting such a lame color reduction scheme (perfect fodder for a ragey ahole boss character, no?), Pete and Repeat failed to see how the original email would come across to someone who was merely requesting help with a print job. And then how I took it, having gotten Polly's bewildered email.
It made me wonder about all the times we write a scene or an exchange, and we mean something really important with it, and then our beta readers or critique groups go, "What is this? Did you fall and hit your head? What is this drivel trying to prove right here?" And you go, "Um, I was trying to, um..." but the cause seems lost since they didn't get it. Then later, when you brood over the critique, you go, "But it is there! I was totes trying to make the dragon seem deep, because he represents the struggle of the hero."
I'm convinced that sometimes there's just no way to know what the effect is going to be on people. I would say that in most cases, we try our best to think things through and make sure we consider the different ways in which people take things--and of course this is one of the reasons feedback is so important--but in the end, you can't control it.
(Although I really kind of think Pete could have thought how such a psychotic answer about imaginary color usage rules would come across to the marketing folks.)
Thoughts? Agree, disagree? Do you think there is a way for us to get across a point the way we intend it? Does this happen often to you, where you thought you were showing something only to find you failed utterly?