Politically Correct

By Scott Westerman
“Being Politically Correct means always having to say you’re sorry.” – Charles Osgood

Nothing torpedoes a career these days like being politically incorrect. Unfortunately, its definition has become so broad that whatever you say, and how you say it, is certain to offend somebody.

Juan Williams is the latest to be caught in the vortex of our hyper-sensitivity to offense, but people are hit with the political correctness baseball bat every day, all across the country.

As your personal brand becomes more prominent, your words and the style in which you express them will be second-guessed. For every person who may congratulate you on a presentation, there will be others who will tell you that you weren’t funny, you didn’t inspire or (worst of all), you offended them.

Make any decision and some who don’t like it may assume you have an unfair prejudice.

That’s life.

When we’ve suffered, our sensitivity to its causal forces is heightened. This is the basis for our own personal biases. We all have em. And we’re all afraid that they might show… and disqualify our pursuit of the American Dream.

We live in a world that’s filled with bias, prejudice, secret agendas, distrust, anger and fear. So how do you say -anything- these days and not get into trouble?

The truth is, you can’t. But here are some ideas to help you maximize the effectiveness of your message, while minimizing unnecessary distractions.

1) Walk in the other person’s shoes – How would you feel if you heard your words? Think about your audience and try to speak to their hearts.

2) Be positive – Avoid terms that diminish or devalue.

3) Be compassionate – Understand that your biggest detractors have a story that causes them to think and act as they do. At one time, we were all helpless kids. Many of us still are.

3) Be honest – This can be risky but, as Edward R. Murrow said, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”

4) Seek feedback – Be a good listener. There is value hidden in vitriol. Integrate what is useful and discard the rest.

5) Be willing to debate, discuss and have an opinion – The best ideas are born in vigorous conversation. Physicist Brian Green writes, “The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility if we are to accept the answers.” Sell your ideas but be open to other viewpoints. The best solutions are often collaborative.

5) Be true to who you are – Don’t be afraid to be yourself. We get into the most trouble when we try to be something or someone we are not. Your authentic self is constantly evolving. Nurture it, teach it, listen to it, hold it accountable, forgive it, love it.

And.. If you treat others with that same firm sensitivity, fear is more likely to evaporate, you will build trust, political correctness will rarely be an issue and true progress will inevitably ensue.