Interview with Ms Sophie de Menthon

Interview with Sophie de Menthon, President of the employers’ organisation ETHIC
By Stéphane Alaux, E Reputation Expert
Founder of E Réputation Net Wash

I had wanted to meet Sophie de Menthon for years.

For me, this woman has always been the embodiment of the modern woman, independent and courageous, but with her feet firmly planted in the reality of our fast-moving daily lives.
Everything is moving so fast that we must not let our guard down, at the risk of losing small pieces of freedom every day.
An entrepreneur and woman of influence, she is one of those personalities we simply need.
Talking to her made me realise that living in the present and preparing for the future should not make us lose our memory.

What is your most memorable personal or professional experience?

Sophie de Menthon :

Obviously in my personal life, I think of the real milestones in life: births, bereavements, falling in love… But this is an intimate matter. In fact, my professional life has been built on encounters and coincidences, most often very unexpected… For example, my company Multilignes Conseil was still small when I received a call from the office of the Minister of Industry, who was called Alain Madelin, and I found myself in a meeting with him to set up one of the first call reception units. I did not create this cell, but this meeting was decisive. I discovered the relationship between companies and politicians and, above all, I discovered liberalism with the best teacher there is! This contributed to a different direction in my life, I launched “Idées Action” with Alain Madelin, the first civil society movement. From then on, a whole part of my life was built around an institutional activity… And then the writing of my first book for Eyrolles Publishing, which made me understand that writing was a pleasure and a necessity.

What is the moment in your life that you would not want to relive?

Sophie de Menthon :

Unquestionably, it was a shock to be fired from a programme I had been participating in for nine years, because of a terrible misunderstanding. Discovering that the interpretation of what I had said could be a tsunami that had nothing to do with the truth, the impossibility of rectifying, of explaining… And the brutal break without return from an experience that I had enjoyed so much. People who never see you again, professional relationships you thought were friends and for whom you no longer exist. It was a terrible lesson, firstly as a business owner I didn’t know the pain of a professional break-up and secondly I discovered that one aspect of my personality was certainly a strength but also a weakness and a permanent threat: to say what I think, in all circumstances! The lesson didn’t really serve me, I am unable to hide my opinions, worse, I write them down and affirm them in the media at my own risk.

You have written a lot on the subject of the “telephone”, particularly in connection with telemarketing and then as an “anti-mobile phone”.
Beyond the object, it is a whole different mode of communication that “opened up” in the 2000s… What made you so passionate about it and today, looking back on what you have written on the subject, what do you think?

Sophie de Menthon :

I love words, I love written and verbal expression, I love to communicate, I have made a profession out of it. The telephone is a real relay… I even had the incredible good fortune, for this first book MIEUX UTILISER LE TELEPHONE when I was a total stranger with my small business, to get a magnificent preface from Marshall Mac Luhan who said, among other things:

“Sophie de Menthon has discovered the multi-directional uses of the telephone; this approach is comparable to the art of Cubism or African art. She uses the telephone as a tribal telegraph that reaches man through an acoustic phenomenon (…) The telephone as an electrode connected directly to our brain.

Didn’t he humorously prefigure the mobile phone!

In the course of your life, your outspokenness has not only attracted praise. Is there a need for provocation on your part or is it simply your opinion on things, which you present as they are, without ‘frills’?

Sophie de Menthon :

I explain this flaw by my horror of hypocrisy and double-talk. Perhaps it’s a consequence of my education and my schooling with the nuns, who used to say “woe betide the one who causes the scandal”. There’s more of a form of bravado, and even of revenge rather than provocation, in this way of saying things, sometimes bluntly, certainly wrongly! And then I like formulas, repartees, I can hardly resist a good word.

What do your children think of their mother’s personality?

Sophie de Menthon :

Terrible question! I would like to say that they appreciate it.

In fact, they are wiser than I am. As a child, they had to deal with my moods and my shouting; all this was compensated, they say today, by my total absence of resentment, things could be expressed violently, but they were in my arms an hour later.

Children need to be able to count on their parents, but I am extremely lucky to be able to count on my children, even when they were small. They have always supported and forgiven me. They have a great sense of humour and we have always laughed together and at everything. They know that they come absolutely first, even in my schedule. On the other hand, I don’t get much leniency and very rarely a compliment, their cheekiness has prevented me from ever taking myself seriously!

What is the place of radio in your life and what do you think of this mode of expression?

Sophie de Menthon :

I like radio, this form of intimacy… public. I’m an extrovert and it’s this opportunity to communicate with everyone that delights me, I like talking to strangers and there’s a particular contact that is created. Without knowing it, I have a real vocal signature, people often recognise me by my voice. I liked it when someone said to me, referring to a radio programme I regularly took part in: “I love to hate you!

It’s a challenge to convince people of opposite opinions with real arguments … Moreover you understood, a great pleasure in my life is to give my opinion!

Do you feel today that people born in the first part of the 20th century (during the 30 Glorieuses) have a different culture from those born in the last quarter of the century?

Sophie de Menthon :

I am afraid that it is not just a different culture but an absence of culture that is winning… Everything is different, and even if I live intensely in the present, I believe that we are degrading many things and that we wrongly want to wipe out the past. Parents are afraid of not being loved by their children and are swimming in an incomprehensible guilt that has relegated authority to the background.

Some children are no longer educated, they are sent to shrinks to be dealt with.

The disappearance of social classes would be interesting if we didn’t indulge in a form of levelling down. We have not recovered well from May ’68, and even more badly from the French revolution, which is resurfacing at every moment, including with the Yellow Vests… Beyond certain entirely understandable demands. A totally new world is opening up and we need solid foundations to tackle it, whereas on the contrary, we are abandoning our fundamentals in an erosion of individual responsibility. Let’s not forget that the culture of those born in the last 20 years was given to them by us, so I’m not sure we have much to be proud of. But all this can be reborn better and differently if we respect the sense of effort in all areas: school, private, professional.

You once said that if your husband had not harassed you, you might not have married… Does this mean that the word ‘harassed’ does not mean the same thing to you as it does to some of the new generation?

Sophie de Menthon :

It was a joke of course! A bit of humour… Ah, this first degree of political correctness that undermines us. It was at the time of “Denounce your pig”, everything had become harassment. Instead of distinguishing these women who are subjected to real attacks and real violence, from the customary flirtation, the slightest compliment in the street became punishable by a fine! I wanted to say that if one persists in qualifying everything as harassment when it is often a simple and slightly inappropriate insistence, Cyrano de Bergerac should have been put on trial, Roxane would be a victim!

So I just wanted to say that if my husband, and even “my” husbands had not insisted a lot at the beginning, thank you very much, I might not have married them! Smile! By the way, they were not offended by this joke, they have a sense of humour.

Yes, there are degrees of harassment, and even nuances in the word itself: you can also say to a teenager who keeps asking for a new mobile phone, “stop harassing me!

Do you think that women have let men down? And saw off the branch they were sitting on? At what point did the machine break down?

Sophie de Menthon :

The machine, i.e. the relationship between men and women, has never stopped working, and it never will, there will always be servants, mufti, aggressors, rapists, defenders; what has changed is the refusal to be dominated, and that’s the main thing.

Let’s not confuse women’s legitimate desire for parity with today’s feminism, one could say with ultra-feminism! When I think that the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty has been changed in some nursery schools because the princess is woken up by a “non-consensual” kiss from Prince Charming! The ridiculousness of excess is taken into account. A ridiculousness that is harmful and counter-productive, because it is a question of denying sexual differentiation. At the same time, the contradiction is embarrassing in its absurdities; for example, it is more than normal to achieve equal pay, but at the same time feminists demand one day off per month for painful periods…

Are we sitting on a branch, as you suggest in your question? I don’t think so, we have built an evolving relationship over the centuries and let’s congratulate ourselves for having established courtly love, a first real feminist victory in terms of relationships. On the other hand, yes, we must be careful not to destroy a male/female balance that will always be fragile, because men and women are not interchangeable, and that is what the ultra-feminists would like to achieve. Gender theory is a threat.

Violence, depression, environmental scarcity, the world is not exactly rosy. Is it worse than before or do we see it as worse than before?

Sophie de Menthon :

I have the impression that we are going through a worldwide sociological, economic and political crisis. Even if we can’t say “it was better before”. One of the problems is also linked to globalized voyeurism. Indeed, the spectacle of unbridled capitalism, the display of luxury on screens that penetrate the countries most painfully affected by famine, is all the more unbearable. In the same way, this famous transparency at all costs is far from being “ethical”, what we see, what we denounce is only the visible part of an iceberg. The ignorance of the economy and the detestation of the rich in France produce rather a jealousy with unhealthy revolutionary overtones in response to this deserving transparency. This does not prevent the major objective of reducing inequalities. And how can we not fear the new technologies, anonymous refuges of all detestations and bad instincts. Let’s lift anonymity.

Why don’t we like the rich in France? Why do we bite the hand of the man who feeds us?

Sophie de Menthon :

It’s paradoxical, because the rich are often equated with the boss and the latter takes risks and pays salaries… But in fact, the good news is that the company is doing well and getting better in the French imagination. The hatred is concentrated on the CAC 40, the multi-nationals, the unfortunate ones, which convey France’s talent to the whole world, and which nevertheless employ hundreds of thousands of SMEs and employees… But a scapegoat is needed. These companies are a flaw: their bosses, their creators, their managers are rich because they are successful! In a country where we cut off the heads of kings, we would like to reserve the same fate for the rich (rich and king have the same etymology REX).

We have been brought up on the state’s teats and we don’t really understand individual responsibility, risk-taking, the legitimacy of getting rich… The class struggle has been transposed to business. And then, we have a difficult relationship with success, we have to pity it, we have to be able to pity it; at worst, we have to envy it, but never admire it or want to equal it, the exception: football!

The Yellow Vests: Karl said it was ugly and unimportant… But that it could save lives.

Sophie de Menthon:

Can this “movement” save anything? Does the State have the means to give even more? To do more social work? When we are already the world champions of the assistant?

A phrase often comes up: “Work for what? I’m going to earn less by working…” The system is completely rigged, what do you think?

Sophie de Menthon :

A caricature of the disaster of the pseudo-benefits of the state that wants to redistribute.

It redistributes too much and badly.

It redistributes thanks to the taxes it levies in all possible forms, too much and badly.

It discourages instead of encouraging work.

The more we develop care, the more we ultimately harm the French. The left has always explained that “when there is no more money, there is still some” and that the state coffers are a bottomless pit. Look for the error


Ethics… Did you say Ethic? Tell us about ethics and deontology in politics, Sophie.

Sophie de Menthon :

Ethics is just a question of individual morality and intellectual honesty. The problem is the distortion between what it takes to be elected and the reality of exercising power. Promises, funding, etc. But again we are responsible, we voters, we citizens, we want everything and its opposite; we do not want to hear the truth. No one will be elected on the basis of a reality check, the time it will take to reform and the limits of what can be done in a global economy. We are in the land of “responsible but not guilty”, we must move to the requirement of responsibility AND necessarily guilt, when in power and in life in general. We have forgotten the individual responsibility that should govern our lives, the State has exempted us from it in order to better manage.

Power imposes duties, not rights.

Addicted to buzz, Bad or Good, how do you manage your digital public image? E-Reputation ?

Sophie de Menthon :

The answer is in the question: I don’t manage it!

What do you want from life today and what makes you run?

Sophie de Menthon :

It’s the search for happiness, I think, that makes me run, certainly the fear of the void of tomorrow. Not to be confused with the search for pleasure, which is a succession of gratifications and happy moments, insufficient though indispensable in my eyes.

My impatience, which unfortunately structures my character, means that I am constantly in action; it is also the consequence of this certainty that I have: time spent and lost can never be made up for. Never put off until tomorrow…

Thank you for this meeting Sophie.

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