Editorial

EDITORIAL: Effective Communication Means Listening First

As reporters, we’re charged with providing our readers the most up-to-date information on everything from children’s vaccinations and high school graduations to the number of infections and deaths connected to COVID-19. What remains essential to the quality of our work is effective communication.

Unfortunately, far too many of our nation’s leaders seem to have forgotten the premise of effective communication which requires listening as well as speaking — sometimes listening before opening our mouths.

We’re reminded of that song by James Brown, “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing,” in which he tells the listener that they can’t tell him how to run his life or criticize what he’s doing wrong.

“You can’t tell me how to run my life,” he says, or “hey, how to use my mess.”

Once again, it seems that fiction is more like fact than we may wish to admit.

Thankfully, there remain among us a few local leaders who understand that sometimes they may be planning a preemptive strike that may not be in the public’s good. They reconsider after listening to the advice of their colleagues and revise their strategy. They admit that maybe, just maybe, their plan would do more harm than good.

Such is the case with our trio of leaders in the greater Washington area: Govs. Northam and Hogan and Mayor Bowser. We’re not promoting them as candidates for sainthood — just three who understand the importance of “sense and sensibility.” And there are others who have emerged as voices of reason as well.

Northam, clearly feeling the pressure, had planned to begin reopening businesses in Virginia even though the commonwealth had failed to reach many of the benchmarks that would justify the move. Then, he received a letter from his neighbors including a governor, mayor and county executives who urged him to reconsider. Northam has since revised his plan, we assume, after reevaluating the facts and taking another look at the potential outcome.

That’s what effective communication is all about. Some people want to be right all the time. But who profits from the missteps of such individuals when the cost of being right results in being “dead right?”

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