Johnnie Moore

The downsides of vehemence

Forcefulness is not clarity
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

when we're vehement, we think we're being clear but we're often muddying the waters

Transcript of this video:

Decades ago when I worked in advertising, I had a sideline doing brochures, or prospectuses as they liked to call them, for schools. 

These brochures usually had two or three pages in the back of small print terms and conditions that no one ever read. 

But I remember glancing at one and noticing in the middle of it somewhere in bold block capitals, something like “the school does not tolerate illegal drugs under any circumstances.” 

And I remember thinking straight away, ah, this is a school that must have some kind of drugs problem. 

And I often think about that when I’m witnessing people being vehement, especially people in leadership positions, because they don’t realize how what they think is them speaking with conviction actually, instead of making their message clearer, introduces an element of noise or anxiety for people. 

And often the people below them in the organisation are more afraid than the leaders realise of being fired or disciplined. And so the vehemence becomes counterproductive. And, and often when I’m working with them, I say, well, can we practice saying this in a slightly more contained way? 

And we experiment often with saying less and saying it more calmly. 

And funnily enough, in that advertising career, I only ever had one manager who was really good at managing me. I was difficult to manage. I was young. I was that strange mixture of cocky and insecure. And most of the people trying to manage me talked too much, explained too much, and tried too hard,to convince me. 

Whereas Angus, the good manager, was very skilled at asking me to do, often quite demanding and challenging things, but in a very matter of fact, kind of calm, almost throwaway voice that actually conveyed a lot more confidence and created a lot more confidence. 

And so I think of this whenever I’m tempted myself, or I see others tempted, into being vehement. 

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

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