January 8, 2020Silence, Stalling, Denying, and Lying: Four Toxic Communication Strategies Part I: False Conundrums My father used to say, “When in

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January 8, 2020

Silence, Stalling, Denying, and Lying: Four Toxic Communication Strategies

Part I: False Conundrums

My father used to say, “When in doubt do something.” I have modified the thought to, “Do it now,” “Say it now,” “Fix it now,” “Change it now,” and “Question it now.”

The reasoning is that when there are crisis-caused victims, there is never a satisfactory, believable explanation for indecision, silence, delay, or stalling; and action and communication are clearly called for. Why leadership failed to promptly act and communicate are the two most common first killer questions asked of those apparently responsible for the crisis; thus, creating an irreversible perception.

Other timeless crisis management truisms:

1. Bad news always ripens badly
2. Every moment of indecision creates unseen victims and avoidable collateral damage
3. There is no such thing as 20/20 hindsight because there is no such thing as 20/20 foresight
4. Silence is the most toxic strategy
5. Doing nothing in a crisis never passes the straight face test
6. Job one is stopping the production of victims
7. Job two is helping victims manage their victimization
8. Job three is prevention of further victimization
9. Critics, commentators, bloviators, bellyachers, back bench bitchers, and victims accumulate from the start of the crisis
10. Victims and critics always outlive their perpetrators, have keen memories and live to take the perpetrator down
11. Once a critic, enemy or victim, always a critic, enemy or victim

These truisms make prevention of victimization among the most important functions of leadership and leadership survival.

Part II: To Act or Not to Act

When the crisis is imminent or happening, avoid management huddling, where leadership spends their time in a back room somewhere discussing and debating how best to stall, delay, deny, or avoid dealing with victims rather than standing up, acting, and talking now. Stalling, delaying, or denying diminishes credibility, erodes trust, enhances victimization, and creates additional embarrassment and collateral damage.

Frequent but Unbelievable Excuses to Stall, Delay, or Deny

1. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves”
2. “Don’t have all the facts”
3. “Don’t trust the facts we already have”
4. “If we act, we legitimize something or someone we don’t like or that isn’t deserving”
5. “Information sources are not trusted”
6. “Information sources are not vetted”
7. “It’s too late”
8. “It’s too soon”
9. “No benefit to us”
10. “No credible information”
11. “No proof of need”
12. “No urgency”
13. “Not our fault”
14. “Not our issue”
15. “Not sufficiently important to react to”
16. “The victims don’t deserve our help”
17. “The victims haven’t earned our help”
18. “We don’t believe the victims”
19. “Who really cares?”
20. “Acting or talking makes us guilty”
21. “Our peers and colleagues prefer that we stall”

Powerful Reasons for Acting and Talking Now

1. Ultimately, stalling, delaying, and denying are career defining decisions
2. Avoids the unbelievable and often phony excuses caused by stalls, delays, and denial
3. Better control of the outcome
4. Better control over the next steps
5. Fewer victims are created
6. Honorable people and organizations act promptly
7. It’s your destiny, fail to act promptly and it’s likely somebody (you don’t like) will.
8. Less time for your mistakes and more time for additional criticism and misinformation from your critics and enemies
9. Speed regularly beats smart
10. Stalling, delaying, and denying give those who oppose you more control of the outcome