A hard lesson in communication

“Darrell Dexter is blaming his election loss on Nova Scotians who misread or refused to believe what his government was trying to achieve, and the media of misinterpreting his message (Taber, J. 2013, October 21. Dexter speaks out after stunning loss. The Globe and Mail, p. A4).”

Dexter and his New Democratic Party were soundly defeated in the provincial election held on October 9, 2013. The party went from a majority with 31 seats in the Legislative Assembly to third party status with only seven seats. How did this happen?

According to Dexter’s interview in the Globe and Mail, it happened because “business and the media cloud[ed]the issue.”

If I can quote the line from Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

You see, as Dr. Janice (Ginny) Redish noted in her presentation at PLAIN 2103, “Communication doesn’t happen when you talk. It only happens when the [listener] ‘gets it.’” By that logic, if voters “misread” the message or if the media “misinterpreted” the message, then Dexter and his party failed to communicate.

Dexter also told the Globe that “95 per cent of reasonable people” understood what he was trying to do when he explained it to them on their doorstep.

That’s a weird statistic. What proportion of the people Dexter talked to did he consider to be “reasonable?” What is his definition of “reasonable?”

This again appears to be another instance of blaming the listener for not getting the message. If they don’t get it, are they, de facto, unreasonable?

One of the biggest mistakes people make in communication is focusing on what they want to say rather than on what the listener needs to hear.

Question: Are these statements things the NDP wanted to say or are they things voters needed to hear?

  • We balanced the budget.
  • We secured a huge shipbuilding contract.
  • We provided a new vision for energy in Nova Scotia.

Challenge: If you think these are things the NDP wanted to say, try turning them into things voters need to hear. Hint: It helps if you have a few particular voters in mind.









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