Authentic advocates must fight ‘boy crying wolf’ damage caused by social justice warriors

Racism is all too prevalent. So is sexism, and any number of other isms that deny justice, perpetuate inequity and inflict severe harm on others. It is maddening to those who are passionate about righting wrongs and seeking to balance a decidedly imbalanced playing field.

However, a danger lurks beneath the surface of this desire to set the scales right. Because problems exist in so many places, there is temptation among over-zealots to claim it is virtually everywhere. In so doing, they are their own worst enemy. Seeing the world through this skewed hyper-lens is counterproductive and self-destructive because it creates “false positives”–instances where a sense of injustice is exaggerated or imagined outright. And false positives undermine legitimate instances where one or more isms is indeed at play.

We are treading on highly subjective ground, no doubt. We are told that we mustn’t deny another’s “lived experience.” True enough. And in my lived experience, there are times where most anyone can see what’s going on. Think of these instances as being akin to the Jussie Smollett Debacle.

As I wrote when that sham story unraveled a year ago, I was skeptical of the story from the outset. The most gullible, the easiest prey for the far-fetched wee-hours tale that was a veritable orgy of isms and phobias? Social Justice Warriors, of course.

The worst fallout from that shameful, still-alive chapter is the negative impact that the has-been actor’s false claims have had, and will continue to have, on authentic reports of hate crimes.

Certainly, Jussie wasn’t the first to misappropriate social justice issues for selfish gain, nor will he be the last. And for every hustler out there, there are many more legit victims whose pleas for justice, tragically, get compromised by the misdeeds of all the Jussies in the universe.

Jussie Smollett: lying shame, indeed.

Such is the case for earnest social justice advocates whose efforts are saddled by self-serving, self-righteous Social Justice Warriors.

These faux activists have a thirst for personal validation and acclaim that eclipses any ethical conviction they may possess. They hitch their wagon, political, professional, or otherwise, to a larger movement with an eye toward their own advancement or glory.

What’s one sign to look out for? Consider when someone chronically, knee-jerk style, resorts to racializing situations or issues. Yes, some of those cases are bound to have a racial component, but all the time, and when there is a notable absence of a substantive, logical argument supporting the assertion? Often, they will resort to emotionalism and sweeping generalizations, but as for those pesky things known as “facts,” they are MIA.

Their strained efforts become so over-the-top that, over time, even casual observers will start to detect a “boy who cried wolf” element to these hysterics.

Meanwhile, these bad SJW actors are watering down those times when they have a valid point–remember, there is no denying the all-too-common prevalence of racism, homophobia, xenophobia and myriad other social ills. More insidiously, the SJWs are also weakening the moral authority of the sincere, rightly motivated social justice advocates.

So it is urgent and vital that authentic advocates call out SJWs. At minimum, take steps to create distance from them. When a “boy crying wolf” moment emerges, say so. In the end, authentic advocates will grow credibility and trust. Those assets are instrumental in winning over the many individuals who are weary of the self-serving overreach of SJWs who detect an ism at every turn.

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Be a person, not a bot: don’t cheapen your social media network with garbage-like invites

“Feel like a number
Feel like a stranger
A stranger in this land

I feel like a number
I’m not a number
I’m not a number

Dammit I’m a man
I said I’m a man.”
-Bob Seger

Those lyrics come at the end of “Feel Like A Number,” from the 1978 album, Stranger in Town. It chronicles the alienation that comes from being just another “spoke in the wheel” of some monolithic entity.

Don’t add garbage to someone’s in-box — it’s already overflowing with unwanted stuff

However, with disturbing frequency, it is the feeling that arises at least once a week when I receive a LinkedIn invitation from someone. The pattern isn’t slowing down, either, even though a growing number of people have had more time to adjust to this social media space and come to their senses.

It’s time, then, to issue another plea for common interpersonal sense. If you are prone to inviting people to link-in with you, based solely on words on a screen and not any real-life flesh-and-blood interaction, then this is especially intended for you: stop cheapening your social network by inviting every Tom, Dick and Harry who has some remote tie-in to you (such as the fact that you both reside on planet Earth.)

Each time you issue an impersonal, shot-in-the-dark LinkedIn invitation, you are contributing to the overflow of garbage in the world. You are also revealing some damaging details about yourself. It’s lazy, it’s presumptuous and it positions you as a LinkedIn lemming–a follower (of all the others committing this sloppiness) and not a leader.

When you meet someone, preferably in person but possibly otherwise, that’s the time when you should consider connecting on LinkedIn. As you do so, give context and briefly state how you see such a connection serving both parties. Consider writing a recommendation shortly later, to cement the relationship and add value.

If you find yourself with hundreds of connections, but hardly anyone for whom you could write a recommendation, then that’s a red flag.

Conversely, being able–and willing–to craft recommendations results in value that flows not only to the people you recommend, but yourself. After all, your connections’ networks are more apt to read the relatively tiny number of recommendations your common connections have received than wading through the long list of connections they have amassed.

So, a parting public relations and marketing tip for you as you consider your own version of You, Inc.: when you remember to treat people like individuals, not another spoke in some expanding wheel of superficial contacts, you build up the quality of your relationships.

And in a world where it doesn’t take much to have quantity on the surface, it’s the depth of your quality relationships that will serve you much more in the long run.

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Deep (Throat) Lessons From Bob Woodward: Strike Up Conversations, Then Listen Up

Do you have the gift of gab?

It’s actually a trick question–because it’s not a gift at all, but a series of choices. The biggest one is to choose to put your focus on others rather than yourself.

Professional, ethical, effective journalists cannot write with long gazes into their navels. They must seek input from other sources.

Public relations professionals seeking to build solid rapport with media members do not merely “smile ‘n’ dial” and hope that some coverage-worthy mud sticks to the wall. PR pros try to figure out how journalists tick, what they are looking for, and in what form they prefer to receive information.

The top-performing salesman poses a few questions, allows the prospect to talk about his or her objections and needs, and then zeroes in on the closing approach that stands the best chance for success.

In all of those cases, the individual seeking to learn more from key contacts is taking a page out of the playbook described in Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Carnegie shares the story of how he met a botanist at a party and sincerely began asking questions about his world. The botanist talked for hours. At the end of the evening, he gushed to the host about Carnegie, whom he described as a “most interesting conversationalist.”

Noting that he “had said hardly anything at all,” Carnegie recalled that the key was that he had “listened intently.”

“I had listened because I was genuinely interested. And he felt it,” Carnegie stated. “Naturally that pleased him. That kind of listening is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone.”

If it’s such a precious commodity, then why is it so rare? Much of the answer boils down to fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of rejection are two biggies.

Those are self-absorbed ills. All of the focus is on our little selves, and worst-case scenarios of what could happen to us if this, that or the other thing ensues. But those are statistically remote illusions, a fervent faith in negative results that hardly ever materialize.

Consider what you can gain by practicing the discipline of focusing on others, of speaking very little and listening very much.

In his account of how he first met W. Mark Felt, the man who would later become his pivotal Deep Throat source, Bob Woodward experienced the powerful impact of looking beyond himself and stepping out of his comfort zone.

In 1970, while he was in the U.S. Navy, Woodward was in the White House waiting to deliver documents to the chief of naval operations. Felt sat down near him. After several minutes of silence, Woodward introduced himself.

For many of us, saying anything to a stranger can push us out of our comfort zone—especially when we are in the company of someone whose stature may intimidate us. (Woodward recalled Felt as “very distinguished looking” with “a studied air of confidence.”)

Woodward went on to share more about himself with Felt. Though the older gentleman initially did not reciprocate, he became more engaged when Woodward hit on common ground. Woodward was taking graduate courses at George Washington University, and Felt replied that he had gone to night law school there before he joined the FBI.

Bingo, a key fact emerges. From there, the two found more common ground and spoke at length as Woodward continued to push through any comfort zone constraints he may have had.

“I peppered him with questions about his job and his world, and as I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter–one of the most important in my life–I see that my patter probably verged on the adolescent. Since he wasn’t saying much about himself, I turned it into a career counseling session. I asked Felt for his phone number and he gave me the direct line to his office. He was going to be one of the people I consulted in depth about my future.”

While the meeting may have been “accidental,” Woodward’s boldness and persistence transformed what could have been a routine, superficial mutual head-nodding moment into an historical turning point.

Think about your moments, minutes, hours and days ahead.

It’s not a gift, it’s your choice.

What’s the worst that can happen if you say “hello” to someone on the elevator? How uncomfortable is it, really, to introduce yourself to someone in the crowd at the city council meeting? Why don’t you make that contact you’ve been putting off for days?

Better yet, ask this question: What’s the best that can happen?

Matt Baron originally wrote this column in July 2005, and posted it on his PAVE The Way to Powerful Communication blog.

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Stop Talking About All Your Cool Gizmos!

“The problem with most news releases: they mimic other news releases—which fall far short of furthering organizational goals.”

That was my closing remark in an email last week to a senior executive with a company that appears to be kicking butt in business. Alas, it is struggling to communicate its rapid growth–and the reasons behind that growth–in an effective manner.

The corporation’s momentum, which includes a recent “best place to work” recognition and multiple years of “fastest-growing” status, is proof that you don’t always need to have external and media communications savvy to thrive in business.

Of course, there’s no telling how much opportunity has been lost, and will continue to go untapped, as a result of not having a robust communications strategy.

One of the points I conveyed to the exec: rather than use vague cliches like “bring more offerings and values to clients,” use layman’s language and get specific: what are those offerings, and what value does your company add to others?

In short: why should people care, and what difference does it make in end users’ / customers’ lives? Stop talking about all the cool gizmos, and turn the spotlight on the profound impact those gizmos are having on the world.

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We Hear It, We Say It–We Even Believe It–But The `Less is More’ Truism Can Be Lip Service

“Less is more.”

We’ve heard it on countless occasions. We may even have said it more than a few times. And it’s so often the perfect counsel, in any variety of situations. But how often do we blow the opportunity to actually practice it?

Before the (often-overdone) chatter: that's me on the far left, with six other school board candidates.

Before the (often-overdone) chatter: that’s me on the far left, with six other school board candidates.

This comes to mind on the heels of the first candidates’ forum in my campaign for the District 200 Oak Park and River Forest High School Board.

There are nine of us vying for four spots and even with two absent, that left seven people communicating their background, their motivation for running, the issues that we feel are top priorities, and so forth.

To a person, we all stumbled on occasion in keeping within the time allotted by the moderator. Some were more stumble-prone than others, and I like to think I was among a subset who weren’t quite as long-winded. Even so, at the next forum, and the one after that, and the one after that, I will do my darnedest to heed the words of Brian Burkhart, “Chief Word Guy” at SquarePlanet Presentations + Strategy:

“More information in less time isn’t better. To use an analogy, drinking from a firehose leaves an audience with the message equivalent of feeling disoriented, tortured and still thirsty because nothing actually went where it was supposed to.”

Yep…what he said!

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