I recently moderated a panel discussion at a state-wide conference of non-profit organizations that highlighted state government priorities for this year. The intent was to learn how the new governor and legislators are dealing with the economy, particularly as it affects the non-profit community. Not surprisingly, there were more lowlights than highlights. Every speaker detailed the dreadful projections for both the state budget and the near impossible effort it will take for non-profits to make a case for and receive state funding. The presentations were well-prepared, thoughtful, realistic and thoroughly depressing. So what is a presenter to do when bad news needs to be communicated and there is no real good news to report?
I applaud the presenters’ reluctance to jam pieces of good news where it doesn’t belong, but I longed for a sense of hope. I wanted some specifics on how contributing solutions is uplifting. Speakers did ask for input from the community, but neglected to specifically say that helping is healthy and productive and ultimately rewarding. The connection was not made between the effort in difficult times coming back to benefit someone when better times prevail.
Ultimately I left the experience feeling that individual actions will do little to change the course of economic events over the next couple of years. Yet, that is exactly the opposite of what the speakers intended. I ask all speakers tasked with delivering bad news to be specific about how people should interpret the news as a personal call to action. What can they do to improve their lives and their outlook? How can they help others, knowing that a friend in need is a friend indeed? Be realistic, but don’t forget that human beings can’t function without hope and need to hear about the positive outcomes they can help bring about.
I would like to know how you are coping with these constant negative messages. Are you trying to change the way bad news is delivered? Do you think our leaders (business and political) need to adjust the way we talk about the near future?
Posted by: Michael Sigman, Senior CommCore Consultant