Words count… and have consequences…

OK, I promised an occasional rant — here is my first…

Less that a week ago, and less than 100 miles away in Tucson, AZ, a crazed gunman tried to assassinate a US Congresswoman. He failed, but he did kill six other innocent bystanders, including a beautiful nine year old girl. (As a grandpa, I can hardly even bear to think about the this.)

When asked, Pima county Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (a well respected lawman) offered his professional opinion that the political rhetoric and vitriol from certain radio and television commentators may have been a contributor. Not as fact, but as opinion. He bluntly stated as only a gruff old sheriff can, “Yes… words count, and they have consequences.”

Sheriff Dupnik behaved as any good consultant should. Rather than sugar coat things, he called it like he saw it. As a professional in law enforcement for over 50 years, his opinion certainly has credence.

As a professional engineering consultant, I sometimes must offer an unfavorable opinion. I often joke that I must tell a client “Your baby is ugly.” I also joke that when doing so, one must be careful in how you phrase things. After all, words count.

The reaction to those criticized was not unexpected. Rather than accept or address the criticism, they immediately lashed out and attacked the sheriff — but not the problem.

Argumentum ad hominem, if I remember my freshman philosophy class — attack the man. (Yes, some engineers take philosophy classes.) It is one of the oldest of debate fallacies, yet favored by the most manipulative — and believed by the most gullible.

A word of warning. Expect the same when you offer an unpopular opinion. Those under fire will criticize you, your family, your upbringing, and more. You are seen as attacking their ego, and perhaps even their livelihood. Like cornered rats, they may well fight back.

But like Sheriff Dupnik, be polite and stand your ground. As a professional, your opinion counts for much more than those of the self-serving. And remember, “Words count… and they have consequences.

My sincere condolences to the bereaved – Daryl – Mesa, AZ

© 2011, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

2 Responses to Words count… and have consequences…

  • Daryl, I really relate to the “your baby is ugly” statement. I often have to tell students that their writing is unclear, not up to snuff…at a failing level, even. That’s hard on me, but students don’t see it like that. More people need to see the heart of the matter and try their best to fix problems, not rant and rave and point fingers. Like you, I send my sincere condolences to all the victims and survivors and their families in Tucson.

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