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Gini Dietrich

Your Mom Tells You What You Want to Hear

By: Gini Dietrich | January 31, 2011 | 
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I was reading Umair Haque’s review of Davos titled, “Ten Things You’re Not Allowed to Say at Davos.” For those of you who don’t know (and why would you, if you’re not the CEO of a Fortune 10 company or, well, Bono), Davos, Switzerland is where the upper, upper, upper (did I say upper?) echelon meet for the World Economic Summit annual meeting. And it took place last week.

Umair takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the summit and the “tiny hint of a feeling that Davos isn’t exactly fighting to tooth and nail to right the ship — but to hoard the food, and puncture the lifeboats.”

Of the 10 things you’re not allowed to say at Davos but he said anyway, there is one that really sticks out to me.

Your Mom tends to tell you what you want to hear. Davos loves diversity — as long as said diversity doesn’t carry the terrifying prospect of actually generating perspectives that question the primacy of the obsolete, crumbling paradigm known as industrial age capitalism. But here’s the thing: especially in a time when your fundamental assumptions are breaking, it’s probably your fiercest critics — not your compatriots — who have the sharpest, most resonant insights.

And that brings me to something we should all consider.  We tend to attract like-minded people. In our personal lives, at work, and through social media. We read, and comment on, blogs and articles we agree with and whose writers we like. We join groups where there are others who think like us so we feel like we belong. We even judge people with friends who judge the same way (I’m really bad in airports; like someone handed me a fashion police badge and a book of blank tickets).

So many of us are scared to death to put ourselves out there, in life and online. And so many business leaders are afraid to participate online for fear of what people will say about them or their companies.

But here’s the deal: Why wouldn’t we want to attract the detractors? Because, like Umair says, it’s your fiercest critics who provide the most resounding advice. And, let’s be real. When people say negative things to or about us, those are the ones we really listen to and take heed.

So here is my challenge to you for the week. Go find a reporter, blogger, or even colleague who you completely disagree with and have a conversation with them. But, instead of getting defensive and letting your blood pressure rise, really listen and see what you can learn. I’d be willing to bet your mind is open to possibilities you’d never considered.

You up for the challenge? If you disagree with me, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise I’m off to find someone I disagree with and start my own conversation.

Oh, and in case you were wondering and really wanted to attend Davos next year, a ticket is yours for a mere $71,000. But don’t plan to invite any friends or colleagues. Because then the price tag reaches $137,000-$622,000, depending on if you bring one or five friends.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

110 comments
New England Multimedia
New England Multimedia

Excellent post, Gini.

The greatest strides, by the way, have always been made by those who were willing to stand alone and be criticized for their ideas. Sometimes they're really just fools, but once in a while, a real game-changer comes along -- like a Martin Luther King, Jr. or a Rosa Parks.

What you're talking about doing here isn't going to change the world, but it'll at least change your life.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

Gini: Please disagree with me!
Everyone else: GINI YOU ARE SO RIGHT!
Gini: WAIT A MINUTE

Gini then nudged me on twitter that I couldn't say "no comment" so I'm going to just disagree with Gini - Yes Men are where it's at. If you attract enough of them, your blog can become really popular! Your Klout score will rocket! Suddenly you're Kind of a Big Deal on Twitter. So you can have dissenting opinion - or you can have popularity.

Jenn, who can't believe she found a way to disagree with this post.

Marc_Luber
Marc_Luber

This is great Gini. I couldn't agree more. The best way to learn is to hear opposing views....and the best way to grow is through being challenged. Sometimes those views just help to reinforce what you already thought/knew and other times you get a whole new perspective. I think people in general fear debate. Whether it's a fear of being told they're wrong or a fear of not being politically correct and potentially rubbing someone else the wrong way or a fear of controntation in general...I don't know. Personally, I love debate and hearing all kinds of views.

On a recent Friday night, I was invited to a friend's house for dinner. The invite said "be prepared for a group discussion". The 15 people at the dinner were of all ages, ethnicities and religions. The topic: Are you religious? What does religion mean to you? Do you believe in God? How have these thoughts changed between childhood and today? Heavy stuff! This was the type of stuff many people might feel awkward discussing with those who may see things differently....and everyone in the room saw things differently! But it was a blast! A fascinating discussion. It reminded me of those nights in the college dorm when a group of randoms gather to debate the meaning of life and argue over the trivial differences of opinion. I think we could all benefit from more time in the melting pot.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

I love this Gini. I've said it before, your critics can be your biggest fans. If they're really challenging, really arguing - professionally, respectfully - that shows they are listening, they care. Per my comment below, I do apply the approach of listening to smart people with whom I sometimes disagree. I follow a few on Twitter; I read their blogs, sometimes comment with a "I can see that but..." thrown in for good measure. Reading differing views keeps me honest, shows me there's more than one approach. We can can get too locked into our beliefs of the "right" and "wrong" ways of doing something when it's just not the case. Even though I've not found X to work, maybe someone else has. May not meet the challenge this week, but am sure to spot a post or something with which I disagree. FWIW.

hackmanj
hackmanj

I used to enjoy this a lot more than I do now, that said I think it is healthy and will agree to your challenge.

When is your chat with @dannybrown planned anyway? Let me know if you are able to keep your cool!

lauraclick
lauraclick

An excellent challenge, Gini. Thanks for pushing us to get out of our comfort zone for our own good.

Although it might be hard to find someone to spar with, the harder part is doing so without both parties becoming defensive. I think most of us feel pretty comfortable with challenging a blogger or colleague with a different perspective. The trouble is that the constructive criticism isn't always welcome. But, maybe we just have to be okay with that.

I also think you have to walk a fine line of disagreeing and being disagreable. The web is full of cynics who disagree with everything just to get a rise out of someone or to get noticed. I don't think that is productive either. It's certainly a balance.

You definitely got my wheels turning today!

mikecollado
mikecollado

Love Statler & Waldorf (the old men) from the Muppets! Next week, Gonzo or Beaker, please...

Your statement that "many business leaders are afraid to participate online for fear of what people will say about them or their companies" sounds like many of the discussions I have with executives. When pressed, most say they are afraid of giving up control. Of course, there is no such thing as control. Never was.

It’s interesting that these business leaders will gladly hire a pro to critique and fix their golf swing but are reluctant to solicit potentially unflattering feedback about their company or product even though that’s how they earn their living.

Thanks for the reminder!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Did you read this? http://blogs.reuters.com/davos/2011/01/25/jealous-davos-mistresses/
I'm like ewwwww! gross lame rich people.
It is pathetic. Proves to me that I more change in the world gets done at SXSW, Burningman, and Miami WMC! Also I saw a lot of scathing journalism about how since its inception the event is all talk and nothing ever gets done. Why should it, it would rock that paradigm. If you help fix the worlds problems you fix that obsolete paradigm because that is the worlds problem!

Love your post. There was a nice Economist article how the US is segregating into Conservative and Liberal enclaves on our own. And of course we all love yes people.

I started yesterday before you write this. Trying to prove to @Danny Brown that Bonsai really is spelled with a Z. Of course maybe in Canada it's different.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

@3HatsComm @ginidietrich Hey Davina, thanks for the link - somewhat comforting to see that we aren't the only ones who sometimes suffer from this issue.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@ginidietrich @jennwhinnem I'd rather be lucky (good luck, just to be clear) than smart, I'd rather be successful than popular, I'd rather be playing than working right now (but secretly this is kinda fun too). Read something the other day, about echo chambers and popularity and success. The comments were great and loved that it was a science blog, nothing to do with PR and social media. But same problems w/ "Klout." One comment said essentially that credibility is built in the community (echo chamber) while popularity is developed outside of it and that you need that industry cred to then branch out. http://bit.ly/i7fCzY

IMO success, credibility, popularity give you some freedom to dissent, to upset the status quo. So if you ARE a big deal on Twitter, you can offer that wild opinion once in a while and keep your popularity.. even pick up street cred for sticking to your own beliefs. JMO.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jennwhinnem You are crazy! LOL! I guess you're right...as much as I hate to admit it. I'd much rather be popular than have dissenting opinion.

New England Multimedia
New England Multimedia

@Marc_Luber My kind of dinner party, Marc. I love discussions that get us out of our comfort zones and talking about things we're usually afraid to bring up.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@3HatsComm Oh heck! I never said anything about being open minded about sports. My heart is broken right now.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@ginidietrich I'm just as guilty as that.. hear things that make want to go "that's wrong!" I stick to my gut quite a bit but there are times even when I do, if it's a reasonable, intelligent counterargument, I at least open my mind to seeing how others see it from the other side. Or I try.. unless we're talking football and I'll remain a diehard SEC fan. ;-)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@3HatsComm I'm pretty stubborn and was raised by parents who wanted us to always be right. It's REALLY hard for me to put that aside and really listen. I've gotten much better at it in the past couple of years, but you're right...we get too locked into our beliefs about the right and wrong ways of doing something.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@HerzogIND It's a shame because rethinking the status quo, changing what's always been done the old way for one that is different, mutally beneficial.. that is what makes a real difference, win-win for everyone.

HerzogIND
HerzogIND

@3HatsComm I live in an industry that doesn't listen to its critics. It is soooo hard in developed industries/countries to take on new ideas, because they don't support the status quo. Only the enlightened can push past... ;-)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich @HerzogIND @Danny Brown @hackmanj I remember when coming here meant free organic free trade coffee and scones. I lobg for the good old days. Now its Nescafe Instant coffee with that fake powdered creamer no food! A-D budget cuts really hit home here at SpinSucks.

HerzogIND
HerzogIND

I'm not sure I do either

GD is certainly less-enjoyable these days. LOL!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@hackmanj Did you just call Gini's blog less enjoyable than it used to be? Oh my...

lauraclick
lauraclick

@HerzogIND @ginidietrich I tend to agree with you. It would say that yes, it is our human right to have access to social media at work. But then, if you consider all of the ways employers can dictate other aspects of our lives (i.e. clothing, hours we work, etc.), why can't they dictate our ability to use social media too? I suppose this is a better conversation for the OTHER blog post! ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@lauraclick The fine line between disagreeing and being disagreeable. You are so right. The people (trolls) who can't disagree professionally. Or are just plain grouchy. This comment and our DM exchange has led me to think about today's blog post on social media and Egypt a bit differently. Is it our human right to have social media access at work?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@mikecollado Deal! I'll figure out a way to use Gonzo or Beaker next week.

I love, love, love your analogy to getting the golf swing fixed. I'm totally stealing that. Well, I'll credit you. So it's not really stealing.

meganbeausang
meganbeausang

@ginidietrich @HowieG @meganbeausang She really does love a good debate. So do I. You know just as well as I do that the, sadly, the finance industry is just jam packed full of 'yes men.' The herd mentality is what drives bubbles and panics. Whenever I questioned a product/process, and dealing with structured products, believe me, I had A LOT, I was told to "shut up and do your job." It is so refreshing to work at a company where, one, I'm encouraged to question the status quo and two, that question usually sparks a healthy debate.

Griddy
Griddy

@HowieG @Danny Brown Hola Howie and Bonsai Boy (with an S),

Are you referring to Kamikaze, Howie? Or I am mistaken?

Cause if that's what you meant - then that's what they use to call the Japanese fighter planes that would crash on purpose with the men still inside. You know - kinda like what they refer to as terrorists today. They just had a prettier name back then.

Oddly enough - it's also the name I gave my outfielders (teammates) - I use to yell Kamikaze which meant - go for everything - throw yourself at the ball if you have to. Okay off topic, I know :).

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@Danny Brown HAHA! Actually Danny I think American's my age or older think Bonzai because that was what we assumed the Japanese said when attacking our troops in WW2. I just watched Ken Burns the War. And I was born just 32 years after it ended. I had relatives who fought and a few concentration camp survivors. Funny looking back because I have no idea if the word Bonzai was just an ignorant American thing from the movies or really a Warrior Scream into battle.

But I once had a lovely Bonsai Tree for many years in LA.

Now in more current and politically correct times I wonder if children now play Cowboys and Displaced Native Americans or US vs North Korea with toy plastic soldiers. Not quite as fun I think.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@HowieG It's only spelled with a Z by you crazy Americans, that took all words that should have been spelt with an S and made it Z. End-of-alphabet-letter-users that you are. :)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich @meganbeausang I think if you are destined to be a Nobel Prize winner you probably are going to marry someone who is as smart as you. Hope Mr. D is stoked when you win yours.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@HowieG OMG! I just read that Reuters blog post! I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS WOMAN! It'd be really nice if we didn't all love yes men. Ask @meganbeausang . I love a good debate!

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