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Mind Your Language!

Published: Nov 09 , 2017
Author: Sam Macbeth

The climate of fear for British MP’s seemed to rise to new levels last week – with one BBC reporter stating that the emerging stories of sexual harassment would be bigger than the expenses scandal of a few years ago.

Labour MP Clive Lewis is now being investigated after a formal complaint was made against him. Mr. Lewis said, "I don't as a rule at packed Labour party conferences grope people's bottoms when I greet them."*

On the face of it, the comment may sound like a reasonable retort. However, if you deconstruct the qualifying words (or signals, as we at Scotwork call them) in the quote with an alternative inserted – it could ready quite differently –

  • I don't (I know somebody else who might)
  • as a rule (but possibly if it was unwritten)
  • at packed (less than half full might be OK)
  • Labour party (other parties could be acceptable)
  • conferences (possibly at different functions)
  • grope (?)
  • people's bottoms (maybe other parts of the anatomy)
  • when I greet them (I might wait for 30 minutes)

Now I am in no way suggesting any impropriety on Mr. Lewis’ part. The plain fact is that when there is a charged atmosphere, and we’re under pressure, our use of language is going to be scrutinised very closely. Unfortunately, any potential signals of flexibility in this type of situation – no matter how innocuous, could fuel the fans of suspicion.

When you negotiate on any subject, if it is within an adversarial, tense or competitive environment – take your time and deliver your message as clearly and succinctly as possible, failure to do so may mean that the message which is received is different from the one that was sent – potentially increasing mistrust and suspicion. Not something that is generally to be advised when building long term deals in negotiation.

*Taken from the BBC New Website 4/11/2017 


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Sam Macbeth

About the author:

Sam Macbeth
As a Senior Consultant I advise clients on our training and consultancy and deliver our negotiating programmes. Before joining Scotwork, I was a Regional Manager with a former subsidiary of BP – developing and supplying environmental products and services within Europe, Asia and Russia.

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Latest Blog:

Qualifications

“When it comes to the qualifications we demand of our president, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously.” Michelle Obama. Don’t stop reading - this blog is not about Donald Trump. In the run up to the election of a new Labour Party Leader 4 years ago, the four candidates were invited by LBC radio to quiz each other. You can see the questions to Jeremy Corbyn here. There are two points of note. Firstly, when asked if he wants to be Prime Minister he ducks the question several times, instead referring to the ideological changes he wants to make within the Labour Party. Secondly when asked about his qualifications and experience to be leader of a major political party his answer is objectively underwhelming – before being an MP, he says, he had been a local councillor for 10 years. I don’t think it is difficult to relate those answers in 2015 to the current divided state of the Labour Party.

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