Luke Blair: avoid the flak jackets

In times of challenge and uncertainty, conflict breaks out all over the place and communications teams are often in the thick of it.

Luke Blair: calling foir a calmer voice
Luke Blair: calling foir a calmer voice
I won’t say anything more about the pressures on public sector communications in particular – it has already been thoroughly well covered in this publication.

But it is worth thinking about how this impacts on the individual and the job in hand – that is, how do we as communications people respond to pressure and conflict?  How do we typically behave? And how do we ensure our response enables us to do our job better, not worse?

We all know about the typical response to pressure. We have all seen friends and colleagues revert to bad behaviour – losing their tempers, getting aggressive, and generally throwing their weight around.  

Others react to this, not surprisingly, with anything ranging from shock to the same response back – aggression on one side often provokes just the same in return. But as we also know, the way to resolve conflict and find a way through the middle of two seemingly irreconcilable standpoints is not to raise the temperature, but to lower it.  

The best response to conflict and pressure is calmness, peace of mind and a clear vision of where you want to get to – as a team, not just as an individual. Conflicts in communications, just as anywhere else, need UN peacekeepers, not simply bigger armies or more powerful weapons.

To stretch the analogy, an awful lot of us are donning flak jackets at the moment. Some I have noticed put them on as a journalist might – for self-protection but not intervention. Others put them on in order to be prepare for a backlash produced by, sometimes, their own behaviour as much as anyone else’s.  

But here’s a different suggestion: why not avoid putting a flak jacket on in the first place – that way you can demonstrate to others how you can resolve conflict without provoking violence and that there is a calmer, more productive approach. If you can persuade your whole team to do this too, you will be able to achieve even more.

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