Two Ears, One Mouth

In a dispute, success or failure is a measure of perception.

In a dispute, success or failure
is a measure of perception.

There are reasons, the old saying goes, why you have two ears and one mouth.

First: You learn more by listening than by talking.

Second: The less you say — and the more carefully you select your words — the better your message is heard.

This is true in all walks of life. It is fundamental in Crisis & Reputation Management.

Regrettably, people caught in the spotlight are inclined to parry every accusation in agonizing detail and to talk endlessly. It’s innate and emotional. They’ve been wounded and want to lash out. That’s never beneficial.

A better idea: Take a deep breath. Ask yourself a few questions — and answer truthfully. How much credibility does the accuser have? How much truth (if any) is there in the accusations? Which are the most serious? What damage might they cause?

This separates the serious from the frivolous. Only then do you have a clear sense of what you’re really faced with. It provides twin benefits:

First: You can hone your message to target the few points that are truly relevant and ignore the rest. And you can do so in few words — so your real message isn’t lost amid excess verbiage.

Second: You frustrate the other side. By refocusing the spotlight on what’s most important to you, you deflate the accuser’s efforts to distract the media and the public with peripheral issues that are off-point.

Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Though the Looking Glass got it wrong. Words are precise. They don’t mean what you “say they mean — neither more nor less.”

But you can control the imagery — what people “see” and “feel,” and how they respond. Because in a dispute, success or failure is a measure of perception.


“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Preparation & Training. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.

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For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”

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2 thoughts on “Two Ears, One Mouth

  1. People always say to “pick your battles,” but never explain how to do it. This blog is the first time I’ve ever seen worthwhile advice on how to pick your battles. Really excellent.

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