Brexit: Communication of Catastrophe

Published on 16 June 2016 at 11:09 am #businessskillscourses #communicationskills #conflictmanagement #coursesinlondon #goodleadership #negotiationskills

Let me nail my colours to the mast right now - I really dislike the word Brexit.

Somebody clever thought it up and now we're stuck with it.

I'd like to think 'it' will all be over in a week's time, but of course it won't. Whatever the outcome of the EU Referendum we can look forward to millions more words analysing what happened and what's going to happen and what might have happened, blah blah, blah.

Now, I'm not decrying the issue of whether Britain should remain or leave the EU. What gets my goat is the appalling way in which we are communicated to by our politicians, the news media, social media, vox pop and so on.

I call it the Communication of Catastrophe.

I'd rather watch re-runs of Flog It! than listen to the news and various pundits for and against telling us just how bad it's going to be if we leave or if we stay.

Here are the Rules of The Communication of Catastrophe:

  1. Exaggerate. It doesn't matter what fact you have or don't have, exaggerate it.
  1. Use Emotional Blackmail. Notice that no matter what the outcome, we're all going to be worse off - yes, you right now, the person reading this, is going to be worse off if we stay and worse off if we leave.
  1. When in Doubt, Make It Up. Ever tried to check out one of those facts that are being thrown at us? You can't; they're not real. They're just a whole lot of threatening numbers flung at us to prove or disprove a point of view.
  1. Use Overblown, Emotive Language. Bypass logic and go straight for the emotional jugular. Scare tactics work much better when the language is all bombast and hyperbole.
  1. Do A Trump. This combines the first four rules and it means simply open your mouth and whatever crap comes out is just fine. Someone out there will believe it. Make sure you talk loudly, too.

OK, you get the picture. If ever a lesson was needed on how not to communicate, they are doing a grand job of it.

I don't want to be communicated to like that and I don't want to communicate like that.

If I hadn't already called it the Communication of Catastrophe, I'd call it the Communication of Exclusion. I feel excluded when I'm talked at; I don't feel engaged.

Just think what would be created in our companies if we all used these people as role models on how to communicate.

Communication isn't about catastrophising the issues; it's about creating dialogue and allowing a variety of points of view without vilifying those who disagree with you.

Most of us struggle with communication at some point - it might be about delivering a difficult message or managing your own or someone else's conflict. It might be about a team communicating remotely and how easy it is for things to get missed. Or even a team all sitting in the same room - things still get missed.

The list is endless of ways in which communication can go awry and the last thing that would help resolve these concerns is for anyone to emulate the Communicators of Catastrophe that invade our homes on a seemingly non-stop basis.

So here are my Anti Catastrophe Rules.

  1. Listen. And when you're finished listening, listen some more.
  1. Have an opinion but don't shove it down people's throats. It's an opinion, not gospel.
  1. Allow other's their opinions too, without making them wrong.
  1. Always look for common ground so you have something to build upon.
  1. Be willing to let go your picture of how things should be, so others can have a win.

OK, you get the picture. Notice how much quieter and calmer it is reading those rules as opposed to the first set.

Effective communication is one of the greatest skills we can have to create collaborative, collegiate, open places to work. Home life is a lot better, too, the more thoughtful our communication.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Check out Impact Factory's range of Communication One and Two Day Courses as well as our Elite Five Day Communicate with Impact courses.