Game Changers 2020 Essay Series: Old Values for a New Age

Old Values for a New Age

Vintage Foster, President, AMF Media Group

In an era when the answer to an opposing viewpoint is to discredit, attack, or label the opposition as disingenuous – the need to advocate for civil discourse is paramount.

As a former journalist, I am discouraged by the way we now manage dialogue and diversity of thought. And as a father, I’m dumbfounded at how we got here and worry about the world my kids will live in.

But as an executive who leads a communications agency, I choose to rely on the fundamentals I was taught in my early years as a reporter.

Listen whether you agree or not, with the premise of the person or group sitting across from you.

Understand as best you can, why they are passionate about their perspective.

Seek to understand why the person or group with an opposing view finds merit in their position.

Avoid when possible assigning ill will to an opposing perspective.

I’m no Pollyanna and I have plenty of scar tissue. Applying these rules is difficult and I seldom apply them across the board successfully. I’m not free of the temptations to attack and destroy.

Know this – I love to win, both on behalf of my clients and for the simple thrill of it. That is a ll the more reason these principles must guide me in all pursuits.

But these last few years, I have witnessed an intensified appetite in public discourse to lie, deliberately deceive, and to attack the person not the idea. And this approach has a megaphone, because we live and work in a time when the array of communication tools is immense and growing.

Social media can mobilize crowds and create trends as well as spread misinformation. Today everyone is a publisher and there are few gatekeepers of truth. Perhaps most disturbingly, almost anything can find a home on the web.

We need a major course correction. And for me, those principles in journalism serve as my beacon.

Better solutions and resolutions are found when the opposition is given a fair hearing. And life is more enjoyable in a place where people can disagree, winners can appreciate differing points of view, and the argument’s losers can live for the next fight.

In my profession, I am an advocate for corporations, nonprofits and government agencies. It is my job to champion their stance, their perspective and their goods and services. And as is the case in such a profession, there is often opposition.

Managing diversity of thought and discourse doesn’t mean giving up on winning. In fact, quite the opposite. I have found in most cases I have been able to strengthen the position of my clients when I seek to understand the argument and rationale of our opponent.

In some cases, we create a win for the client by giving some ground to the opponent without negatively impacting our project or service.

No one competes to lose. But perhaps we can compete to win and seldom seek to destroy.

June 28, 2019