Beware of the Assassins

Beware of the assassins. No, I don’t mean a military, spy, or James Bond type of assassin. I mean, those people that seek to kill your idea or messages.

More specifically, when I say “message assassin” I don’t even mean the people who confront your ideas and messages with obvious force or even candid, direct discussion. No, the message assassins are the people who will watch, wait and then fire a single shot or two from a distance to kill your messages, ideas, career or business. They may poison the discussion with rumors and suggestions to other. Perhaps they will come in the disguise of someone who seems friendly, then launches an unexpected attack.

Assassins may be your competition, looking to knock you out of business they seek. They may be your colleagues, whether they feel they are competing with you or they simply find it easier to defy new ideas than to make the effort to grow.

Your management may be message and idea assassins, either afraid to directly discuss ideas or afraid you will outshine them. If you work in such an environment, leave. Soon. There are opportunities that don’t require oppression from so-called leaders.

I am not suggesting that every idea or message deserves to be protected. Some need to fail or die so that others may flourish. In healthy effective communication, our ideas are refined, grown and changed through open discussion. This includes disagreement. The discussion may or may not be friendly but it should be polite and professional. This type of discussion is encouraged. It is where growth occurs. It is how good ideas become better or great.

6 Tips for Protection from Message Assassins

You can protect your best ideas and messages by improving your communication skills, including these six ideas:

1. Don’t be a message or idea assassin yourself. If you do this, it encourages others to return fire instead of engaging in a useful exchange of ideas. Being an assassin also suggest to others that they “may be next” and that can stifle future communication with them.

2. Listen and consider the remarks of others carefully instead of assuming that anyone not with you is against you. Some of the best suggestions can be taken as criticism or as discussion. Consider it the latter every time you can (even if you are wrong sometimes).

3. Work hard to disarm the assassins. How might you do this? I suggest you find ways to agree about something the assassin has to say. At the least, work to understand the assassin’s perspective, whether you agree with it or not. When you can rationally and clearly describe all points of view on a topic, you will have a great opportunity to be seen as fair, reasonable and worthy of being heard.

4. If the assassins in your world can be avoided, do so. I don’t mean hide from them. I mean that in a firefight, the observers rarely know who’s right, just who is fighting. So distance yourself from those you don’t have to spend time around that don’t add value to your life and work.

5. Be honest. Messages that contain dishonest information, even from selective omission, are much easier to kill. Honest and well thought out ideas are far more resistant to attacks from the assassins.

6. Find a way to have empathy for everyone. This does not mean you have to be friends with everyone, but if you can honestly see why another person believes what they believe, right or wrong, it will build more honest rapport, better relationships, and even more productive discussions. In turn, this will reduce the size of the target your ideas carry with them.

Naturally there are a number of other ways to protect your ideas and messages, but hopefully this is a helpful start. The message assassins are a part of life and work. We can’t stop them, it is not our job to “fix” them, and not our role to teach them a lesson. We simply should understand how to better deal with them and keep our ideas and messages from inappropriate harm.

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About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.