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Conversation Stoppers in Advertising

By Chuck Husak

1)      “Let me play devil’s advocate” really means…I don’t like your idea or solution, but I don’t want to be the dissenting voice. So, I’ll employ a little gamesmanship here. I can appear wise and thorough by inviting a critique from a hypothetical third-party perspective that “some other person” might conceivably have. This tactic allows me to plant a seed of doubt without appearing to be a naysayer, and also to invite a forum that could flesh out the doubts of others – effectively killing your idea by committee.

2)      “I thought we agreed…” really means…I’m twisted that this project has taken a new turn.  I was comfortable with our former resolution, as were other people.  Now you’re changing the rules in mid-stream, even if you thought you had a value-added perspective to enhance the original concept – and for ignoring the approval I gave earlier. This means extra work for me, and some extra risk. I’m annoyed with you for countermanding my authority.

3)      “Why am I hearing this now?”…really means…I’m alarmed at this new development. This changes everything and it’s not good. I want to be on record with my bosses. They need to know that I could have done something had I been kept in the loop, but you chose to stonewall me from events. Now it’s too late for me to bring all my powers to fix this debacle, and it’s your fault for not reporting to me in a timely way.

4)      “Help me understand something”…really means…I think this is a hare-brained idea. But I’ll pose my perspective with a shallow and infuriatingly disingenuous attitude of fake non-comprehension – requesting that you explain your concept in terms of its support points, of which I’m certain I can find some flaw that shoots down your whole initiative.

5)      “I don’t disagree with you”…really means…so what? Your perspective might be true enough, but it’s irrelevant.

6)      “Some people might think….” When reacting to an idea, a colleague says, “But some people might think…” this really means… I believe this idea is suspect.  But I don’t want to be the one accused of shooting it down. Rather, I’m going to snuff it by invoking my superior powers of wise, human understanding and identifying a sensitivity no one else has thought of. According to my more informed perspective, your concept could unleash racial, ethnic, cultural or social backlash. Not mine, you understand, but someone else’s. Good thing I’m here!

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