Technobabble & Trust

Listening to the Polka Channel on Sirius/XM the other day and reading the story about the Harlan County Kentucky Coal Mining Museum switching to solar energy got me thinking about how people decide who and what to believe. Knowing who and what to trust naturally follows. We all need to earn more trust.

Stay Curious,


Technobabble = Bad  

Recently I was sitting in the audience at a series of truly painful government public meetings – the kind that make people around you squirm in utter frustration. I’m sure that the presenters had swell intentions; however, they were clueless to the fact that they were delivering technobabble that people just didn’t comprehend.

The right words and tone are way more important than most experts understand, and ignoring that fact helps nobody:

Vague language, technical jargon and the endless number of acronyms that permeate government agencies are a part of government culture. Unfortunately, these are not a part of public culture. We need to write and speak like the people we work for…

Technical writing is probably part of your job, but writing for public consumption requires a different approach and style. It all starts with the lead paragraph:

Hard to Believe  

The business of misinformation is lucrative and powerful these days. As such, the psychology of belief is something that we need to understand better:

Isn’t it interesting to see what people choose to believe? We’re all prone to “Confirmation Bias”…

Somebody smart once pointed out that, before we can hope to be understood, it’s important to first understand. In communicating and dealing with the public – real people, this is one of the more interesting and important pieces on the subject of current social science that I’ve seen:

In this newsletter we’ve talked a lot about managing people’s anger and opposition, but this is the first time we’re introducing you to the Dreaded Drama Triangle — another way of looking at some of the tougher public and stakeholder challenges that you might run into:

One of the bigger challenges in the world of public involvement is working with project owners and agency officials who have a lot of trouble giving up complete control of decision making. Effectively engaging the public requires giving the public some actual level of influence in the decision-making process, and it’s tough for managers who don’t delegate well. Here are some thoughts:


Working in government has probably never been tougher than it is right now. Although demonizing people who work in the public sector has always been a popular sport, I don’t think it’s ever been under fire the way that it is in 2017. Some thoughts for government employees…

Stephen M. R. Covey, the son of the classic 7 Habits author, is himself the author of one of the bibles on building trust: The Speed of Trust. If you’re too cheap to buy it or lost your library card, here’s a very nice synopsis:

These days more attention is paid, and money spent, on trying to fix employee trust in the business workplace than ever before. After all, those happy workers contribute to their bosses’ and shareholders’ bottom line. That’s a hell of a lot more important than public policy…but I digress. The lessons learned from companies are frequently applicable to the public sector, like these:

Conflict Resolution Strategies & Conflict Resolution Techniques  

The Participation Company (TPC) partners facilitate, consult, coach and train public- and private-sector people with their community conflicts and public engagement programs. Our job is to help you do yours.

Open registration International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) classes include:

The IAP2 Foundations 5-Day Course:

* Denver, CO: June 5 – 9
* Chicago, IL: June 26 – 30
* Orlando, FL: (Moved to Fall 2017)

IAP2 Emotion, Outrage and Public Participation 2-Day Course:

* Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ: July 27 – 28
* Chicago, IL: August 17 – 18
* Denver, CO: November 16 – 17

Facilitation for Public Participation Practitioners:

* Denver, CO: October 25 – 27

Click on to
to join us and watch for more IAP2-branded and other original courses in 2017. We continually work with a variety of clients to customize in-house training for their specific challenges.

You’ll also find a lot more original ponderings from Debra Duerr, Wendy Lowe, Doug Sarno and me, and an occasional guest at

The Participation Company LLC is a strategic partner and provider for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). 

Please forward this to anyone who you think might find a story useful. We’ll never abuse your privacy and trust, we’ll never SPAM you or your friends, and subscribing/unsubscribing is simple.

Remember: We waste our time scanning the Worldwide Interweb so you don’t have to…

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in General