A controversy in the news today concerns the publicist for the ACT Party, John Ansell, who sacked himself because the party wouldn’t use some of his copy in their advertisements. Leader Don Brash said he was tempted by some of the statements John Ansell used, but in the end toned them down. John Ansell claimed the whole party are cowards because they won’t speak ‘the truth’ about what is going on.
Without getting into the details of the controversy, here are two things we can learn about workplace communication and community dialogue from this incident.
The first is workplace communication, which includes crucial conversations, difficult conversations and conflict resolution, requires us to address the tough subjects. If we have ‘no go’ areas of conversation then we are not engaging in good communication. We do need to be courageous to enter conversations that have high emotional values connected with them. There is no place for cowards in healthy conversation. John Ansell is saying that many people don’t want to even have these conversations because they are scared.
The second is that when we do enter these conversations we need to understand the complexity of all positions. Listening to the other person’s whole story gives us a good chance of understanding them. Life is complex and the relationships between people and between groups of people is even more complex. It often takes time to understand this complexity. Reducing the arguments to one line statements, no matter how clever, only distorts communication rather than clarifies it. John Ansell’s clever and witty slogans are not 'the truth'- they are only one perspective on the issue and do little to help anyone understand the complexity of the situation. With difficult conversations in the workplace, beware of slogans or simplistic solutions.
First posted by John Faisandier on 10th July, 2011