The same prejudice that may hamper shipping's growth, makes communication possible
By Ryan Skinner (email)
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If you work in the shipping industry but you haven't worked on a ship, you'll know what I'm talking about. The condescension, even the contempt, of the mariner for the land-lubber. Even if the mariner has long since come ashore and he's talking to an accountant, or lawyer, or PR flack (about accounting, law or PR), he'll make it clear that only he knows what's what in this industry.
It's infuriating, to put it mildly. How many times have I asked myself: "Do astronauts express condescension for the rocket scientists who make space travel possible? Does anyone give a damn if you've flown a plane if you're working in the airlines business? So who cares about time at sea?"
Yet, I've discovered a reason for this prejudice. The shipping business regularly requires its practitioners to get very up close and personal with people they might otherwise have nothing in common with. Perhaps the quickest and easiest route to any common ground goes via the shared experience of battling the sea (and perhaps battling the crap equipment installed on the ship).
Good communication is very dependent on cultural values. If the least common value denominator in shipping is time at sea, that becomes the gold standard. And if you don't share it, well, you're just out of the picture. You don't understand.
As a communicator in this industry, and one without any professional time at sea, it's a challenge. So mariners, what do you think? Is this a gross over-simplification, or not? And non-mariner types, do you empathize? Felt the same pain?