My son, I’ll be honest with you. You can become a successful person or an alcoholic. I have to be honest. Learn honesty from me. Also, you could be killed in a car accident. Your odds are 1 in 606. You never know, you could become a criminal as well.
That statistical truth does not help that son. Most people would settle for more positive outlooks. But the question is not so much these statements but the airtime. The above is an exaggeration. But it contains the seeds of a trend: we give surprisingly high time to negatives. Often on behalf of… honesty.
In the School of General Street Wisdom, you have to talk about mistakes, about things that went wrong. That did not happen, this was a fiasco, we screwed up that one. It is called … honesty. If you are not ‘honest’ – those with the Wisdom Qualification say – you are just hiding the truth. There is also a sense that this is the only way to learn how not to make more mistakes. You are supposed to learn from mistakes, by relentlessly talking about them.
In my School of How Behaviours Spread, airtime is what matters. Airtime is the Mother of All Reinforcements. Talk about mistakes all the time, chances are you will make more mistakes, not less. Give airtime to negatives, you won’t get many positives.
In media training they teach you not to repeat a negative for a reason. You can spot a media trained person easily. Journalist: isn’t it true that your product has a terrible reputation? Untrained person: No! It does not have a terrible reputation! (That is two ‘terrible reputation’ in 15 seconds airtime). Trained person: my customers keep growing all the time; we are proud of this.
Honesty and highlighting the negative don’t have to be married. Negative airtime is not a moral requisite.
In our Storytelling system within the Viral Change™ Mobilizing Platform, we insist on positive stories. We are not in Pollyanna mood but in the business of multiplying the perception of real good achievements. It does not make the negative ones irrelevant but you don’t gain anything with politically correct pseudo-honesty negativism at all cost.
My son, I’ll be honest, you could become a criminal and an alcoholic and be killed in a car accident. But, hey, be positive.
You don’t create an epidemic of goodness by discussing in depth the origins of nastiness.
You don’t bring hope of a bright future to people by highlighting everything that is wrong around them.
You don’t solve more problems by talking mainly about problems.
Airtime, to be honest.