Lessons from The “Debate”

My job with The Latimer Group is to coach and train our clients to be better communicators. And regular readers of this blog know that I will use stories or examples from any area of my life to draw out the lessons I want to discuss.

Occasionally over the years, I have gently referenced real-world examples from the political arena to make my points. But my colleagues and I always tread lightly with those examples, because we honestly believe our work should remain a-political. Trust me… everyone at The Latimer Group has political opinions, and all my colleagues are well-informed citizens. But as a company, we believe that our public face should be a-political. So I will stick to that in today’s post as well.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “debate” as follows: a discussion between people in which they express different opinions about something. A debate can be an organized event, an informal discussion between two or more people, or a general discussion that involves many people. 

And what was broadcast last night was not a debate in any way, shape or form. It was a free-for-all, a shouting match. I eventually turned it off, because I couldn’t stand it anymore. But there are still some things we can learn. So, sticking with the a-political theme, I will share a few thoughts, all of them about coaching you on what to do… or rather, what NOT to do.

  1. When discussing or debating something with colleagues, clients, or ANYONE for that matter, don’t interrupt them. Not once. And certainly not over and over again. No matter how much you disagree. Show some restraint, composure and self-control. Restraint does not equate to agreement, or weakness. Restraint shows that your emotions are in check, and that you are thinking with your brain and not your ego.
  2. Don’t ever belittle or get personal with the person or people you are debating or discussing something with. No matter how strongly you feel. No matter how much you disagree. No matter how right you think you are. Don’t do it.
  3. When you are debating with someone who keeps trying to change the subject and overpower you, stick to facts, data and stay on message. Don’t let the other person drag you off your game. It’s called composure. Keep your composure.  
  4. And, finally, if all else fails, and you are debating or discussing something with someone who keeps trying to push you around, at some point you have to stand your ground and push back. Lead with composure and restraint. But at some point, you have to (figuratively) punch the bully in the nose. If you don’t, your lack of an effective response eventually reflects badly on you.

I could write an entire book about what I think about last night’s debate, this election, and politics in America right now. But I will stick to my goal of being a-political in this blog, and focus exclusively on coaching you to be a better communicator. Do I have more I could say? You bet. But I will pause right there.

Have a great day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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One response to “Lessons from The “Debate””

  1. Mario Dipola says:

    Dean, thanks again for these excellent blog posts. I have 2 very separate questions.

    1. I agree with most of what you write, including this … but I always play devil’s advocate to reinforce things I agree with … which leads me to this question: Can’t violation of these rules lead to better rapport sometimes?
    -Don’t get me wrong; if these candidates were both my employees, they would be sent to one of your trainings as a mandatory step to avoid termination!
    -However, as 1 example, Rule #2 has been broken frequently and arguably EFFECTIVELY by President Trump.
    –Examples: Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Sleepy Joe (“Adderall”, “someone in his ear”, “dementia”, “nobody goes to his rallies”, “son was dishonorably discharged for cocaine”), Chris “Fredo” Cuomo….
    –Although wrong by ALL of our standards and general concepts of decency, this President HITS BACK HARDER…and it reinforces the points he wants to make. I can’t remember all the attacks he made against Ted Cruz regarding the Gang of Eight bipartisan Poison Pill…but I DO REMEMBER Lyin’ Ted…and I remember there was some evidence–right or wrong–that led the President to that title.

    I am a President Trump supporter, by the way, but agree he breaks a ton of your rules. (I know your post was directed against both candidates, but it’s more effective to critique MY GUY than the opposition.) How does he make such great points, even when he disregards people, talks over them, gets personal, brings up the past, changes the topic to include multiple historical accounts, etc.?

    As much as the media loves to hate the President, and as much as EVERYONE largely states they hated the debates, can it be true that it’s like negative news? Everyone says they hate negative news cycles or 24/7 hurricane coverage, but guess what sells? The very thing we hate. Maybe communicators know what we want better than we, ourselves, do?

    I love and agree with your post, but I have to bridge this gap–this discrepancy–this dichotomy–between what we know is bad communication–and what seems to work. After all, this bloodbath of a debate is even now getting more coverage and discussion than we would have anticipated.

    Thank you,
    Mario Dipola, PE, MPBA

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.