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Waging Peace and Winning Means Sitting Down with Critics, Bloviators, Bellyachers, and Back Bench Complainers…Why?

…Because That’s Just the Way It Is

by Jim Lukaszewski, America’s Crisis Guru®

One of the more frequent questions I get in a variety of forms, temperatures, and skepticism is about sitting down with the enemy. “I was wondering whether you think it’s a good idea for us to sit down with a group of people who are the equivalent of the chain-themselves-to-trees people, who have a list of demands which are in some cases reasonable and in most cases impossible.”

The short answer to the question of engaging with those who bother, disturb, denigrate, and disparage you, is yes.

Too many managers today still look at this idea as something to avoid, unnecessary, onerous, chicken, shameful, and raises the eyebrows and ire of their cohorts from business school or the business community.

Lesson #1: Resolution Only Comes When the Victims are Satisfied

Controversy, conflict, confrontation, and complexity are resolved only when everybody is brought to the table as soon as possible. Keep coming to the table until settlement magically happens, when the victims are satisfied.

In civil litigation, as a non-lawyer adviser, I often recommend dividing a case into the litigation part and the settlement part. Both proceed independently at the same time. Work to establish a mechanism at the earliest possible time to engage and involve the worst of your critics, the harshest of your enemies, especially the victims. Courts always support settlement strategies.

The litigation part can pursue victory or vindication in court after much-required preparation and procedure. The settlement part begins by asking a simple question of the victims, “What would it take to settle this matter? what do you really want?” Find out, settle, and win.

Lesson #2: Failing to Take the Step of Direct Reconciliation, Resolution, Exploration, and Discussion Revictimizes the Victims and Compromises Your Credibility

Whatever the case, whether there is litigation involved or not, you must meet with those affected – or make serious attempts to do so. In every culture I’ve worked in, when there is contention, reasonable people ask why the contenders haven’t been invited or compelled to sit down and talk. Step up. You have to try, even if the outcome, at first, seems fruitless, which is as likely as not. Yes, you have to sit down if possible because your own supporters need to know that you have tried. You will be criticized by some of your supporters for doing so, for lots of really stupid reasons, but still, you must make the effort.

Yes, it is really hard to sit down and work these things out. Peace ultimately involves face-to-face contact, asking the simple question, “What will it take to settle this matter? What do you really want?”

The foundation of your success is your preparation for these face-to-face meetings. Your preparation will include developing key documents that you can post that directly comment, correct, or clarify (CC&C) what others are saying, or advocating about you.

If your critics refuse to meet, post the documents so those who care about you and your goals know of your efforts. If your critics advocate things that are different from what you expect or have experienced, prepare another CC&C post contrasting their statements and comments against what you expected or experienced.

Take good notes…they do. Send out and post additional communications that continue to clarify, correct, or comment on their postures, purposes, assertions, and allegations. Clearly, you need a platform; find one. So much transpires on a variety of platforms these days. You might establish your own platform, which is what I usually recommend.

Failure to take these aggressively appropriate and timely approaches is why good people lose. It takes real work and discipline to succeed.

Good People Lose Because They Are Not as Committed to Winning as Those Who Oppose are Committed to Defeating Them

Actually, the negative behaviors of those who oppose us benefit us because these negative behaviors and statements give us a platform for our views, ideas, and rebuttals. Good people like to whine about people attacking them, but whining is neither strategic nor successful. There is nothing sillier and sadder than a whiny do-gooder, who is losing.

Yes, but Why?

However noble your cause, you are the one who will have to prove why, how, and what you do matters and is essential every day. Your opposition just has to repeatedly claim or allege something you fail to answer. To be right, to prevail, you need to engage, realizing the truth of these simple questions:

Question 1: Why do good people and good works have to defend themselves and justify their actions and beliefs? Becausethat’s just the way it is.

Question 2: When do good people doing good get some credit for what they do? Why? From whom? For what? Becausegood people can speak for themselves modestly, humbly, respectfully…  that’s just the way it is.

Question 3: How good do good people and their good works have to be to get some credit or a good defense? It depends on how convincing and persuasive the good people and their support base can be on their own behalf.

Question 4: When do we start to manage our own destiny? When we stop waiting for someone else to do it for us. They don’t exist. They never show. The “other guys” are always waiting in the wings to do it for you. Manage your own destiny, or someone else will. Because… that’s the way it is.

Doing good is hard and getting harder… In reality, seems even the best idea gets an antagonist or adversary to prove its value. Look around. No matter what the culture is, it’s good vs. anger, sometimes evil; conservatives vs. liberals; liquid soap vs. bar soap; my truth vs. another’s truth; my data vs. your data; my vaccine vs. leave me alone. That’s just the way it is.

There’s Always Someone Out There Ready to Manage Your Destiny for You

Sitting down with your critics and naysayers time and time again is actually the crucial strategy for resolution. Yes, the moment you sit down with opponents, you will be criticized by many of those around you. Your friends are going to ask, “What are you thinking?” Fail to sit down and many in your own base will question and reject you faster than your opponents and so-called friends.

Fail to sit down, and your mom is going to ask you why you haven’t reached out. She will remind you of what she taught you!

Getting to an agreement requires contention reduction. Why leave getting face-to-face to the end of a struggle when you could win or lose much faster? Start with face-to-face and win earlier because you answer questions and keep finding better answers; stop whining and start winning.

If you find yourself in a serious game, get prepared for serious opposition.

The Final Lesson: Serious Whining and Suffering are Individual Activities About Which No One Cares but Those Who are Suffering

You’ll suffer alone, whine alone, and lose alone.

Becausethat’s just the way it is!


Jim Lukaszewski is the author of Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication: What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management.  Click HERE to get your copy NOW!

In this industry-defining book on crisis communication and leadership recovery, Jim Lukaszewski jump-starts the discussion by clearly differentiating a crisis from other business interruption events and introduces a concept rarely dealt with in crisis communication and operational response planning: managing the victim dimension of crisis.

lukaszewski-on-crisis-communication-rothstein-publishingJames E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, teaches you exactly what to do, what to say, when to say it, and when to do it while the whole world is watching: stop creating victims; communicate effectively with all stakeholders; prevent lawsuits; and reduce the negative impact of media hounds and activists. All are supported by case studies and real-life examples, by trusted advisors to CEOs and practitioner/trainers named among the 100 Top Thought Leaders of 2013 by Trust Across America; profiled in Living Legends of American Public Relations; listed in Corporate Legal Times as one of “28 Experts to Call When All Hell Breaks Loose.”

Lukaszewski’s book should be compulsory reading for leaders, aspiring leaders, and students of the business game.” ~ Steve Harrison, Non-Executive Chairman, Lee Hecht Harrison

Lukaszewski is also co-author of The Decency Code: The Leader’s Path to Building Integrity and Trust.


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