In hindsight

Free speech.

Freedom to speak.

Freedom to share what’s on your mind.

Today publishing and information dissemination has become so easy. The gap between something happening and how we react…well that gap no longer exists.

Thinking before we speak is a lost art. We shoot from the hip first. I am not sure if afterwards, in the wake of feedback if we dig our self-righteous heels in and stick to our guns…if we refuse to see perhaps, that we should have given some thought first before speaking out or sharing publicly.

There is always going to be all the words and emotions that pour out of us in the heat of the moment. Let those words serve as the first draft, not the only one that goes out uninspected.

Once it’s put out there we can never take it back, even with the best of intentions. There always needs to be a pause before pressing send – some pauses much longer than others depending on the situation.

On a personal level we have been taught, at least when I was growing up – THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK.

When you represent an organization or Government – that ‘think before you speak’ needs more than just a pause. You are no longer sharing your thoughts and views, you are not giving a personal perspective; what you are required to do is ensure that whatever comes out of your mouth dovetails with the vision, values and goals of the organization you are representing.

This requires having key messages to guide you and talking points to support those key messages. It requires that it be less about what you think and more about the message you want those whom you are targeting to receive.

What I got from looking at the comments shared by the Honorable Fitzgerald Hinds MP with regard to the Rose Hill RC School incident in his Facebook post was that he attempted to put a situation into perspective:

  • It looked worse than it was
  • The children and teachers were not in danger
  • He was briefed by the proper authorities on the facts
  • It was unfortunate that citizens have to actually deal with this to the extent that children are now being taught to ‘get down’ whenever they hear gunshots
  • He acknowledged that this could be the norm for many depending on where they lived
  • He provided reassurances that the technical security issues were being addressed
  • He provided guidance to the at risk youth being used as pawns by gang leaders

Unfortunately this was not the message received, and this is at the crux of all communication efforts: unless what you wish to communicate is effectively conveyed to those receiving the message then you have failed to communicate.

Instead this was the message being circulated:

Hinds downplays shooting outside Rose Hill school, calls video ‘misleading’

I believe that even under the gun (no pun intended) to respond, those same key messages and talking points could have been put together in a more effective manner – a little less factual and with a lot more empathy speaking to the general fears of the public with regard to crime and violence. I believe that the video gave a glimpse of what could quickly become the norm, if something drastic wasn’t done about crime in Trinidad and Tobago. I believe that the video triggered outrage and that that outrage cannot be managed with word reassurance that no one was in danger and everything is going to be alright as the children will resume school on Monday.

What I know for sure is that hindsight is always 20-20. Hopefully others can learn from this. Think before you speak, organize your thoughts, ensure that your words are effective and can advance your good intentions, that those listening to you and depending on your leadership and guidance will understand that you are working for them, with their interest at heart and that you will fix the situation – whatever that situation may be.