March Newsletter: The #FakeNews Issue

Dear Valued Associate,

Human behavior and dealing with the emotional states of people are uncomfortable topics for most professionals. C-suite types, scientists, lawyers, planners, engineers, etc., typically don’t do emotion and they get queasy when we bring it up. Emotions are apparently to be discussed only in the privacy of their own home – and even then, reluctantly, I suspect. But professionals are also people and the truth is that we’re all driven by our lizard-brains, the limbic system – the part in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, and fornication. So pooh-pooh it if you will, but it always tries to run the show. It is a challenge to get professional clients to recognize the importance of dealing with emotions, moods, feelings and trust in engaging and communicating with real people. You’ll find help below, so read on.

Stay curious,



You’re Odd

And by you I mean we – we’re all human, different, and irrational sometimes. And most of the time we have to operate in a (alleged) rational, objective, fact-based world. The world of our humanness and the world of reason frequently clash, which can make it tough to work with people. It is imperative to understand the nuances and yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Managers in a public or private sector setting get some of their best practice in dealing with the emotions and motivations of their team members. The points in the following piece also apply to project managers dealing with the public and other stakeholders.

Bad Language Alert: If you are offended by earthy words, don’t click on the following. But I felt this PG-17 post from a Stanford psychologist to be valuable for those of us who sometimes find ourselves dealing with real jerks.


The Best Response Starts With Any Response

The ‘Outrage’ course that we teach explains attributes that cause people to be more or less angry, fearful or trusting of you and your organization. One is whether or not people deal with individuals or institutions that actually respond to them. If you’ve tried lately to find a real human being to resolve an issue with a bank, airline, a piece of software, or some other behemoth, you probably know what I mean. Consider the following.

The fact is that much of what we talk about in the ‘Outrage’ course isn’t exactly rocket surgery and it’s amusing when I run into real brain science being applied to challenging conversations.


Being Soft is Hard

The world and working in it will continue to evolve at an astonishing pace with technology growth and artificial intelligence (AI). Oxford economics says that 47% of today’s jobs will be gone in 10 years. And that means that essential skills – empathy, communication, speaking, decision-making and good judgement – will be critical for the jobs of the future.


Trusting Strangers

In spite of what Mom said, I frequently ride in cars with strangers. I travel a lot so I’ve come to rely on and trust Lyft and Uber. Now, normally I’m not a very good passenger – I much prefer to be the one driving. But I’ve become comfortable with being picked up by strangers in front of airports and street corners. Trust in all institutions continues to erode while trust in people that we don’t know is going through an interesting evolution. Watch this.



An 11-year-long study in the journal Science corroborated by six independent fact checking organizations found that false news stories spread faster, farther, deeper and more broadly than truthful news. Fake political news is most likely to spread. The problem is that what’s true is often boring or hard to understand, so making up stories that are simple, shocking, entertaining or crazy gets people’s attention. It’s a major challenge but it’s fixable with time and trust.


Public Outrage, Involvement and Group Facilitation Training

Learn how and why agencies and municipalities succeed or fail in their dealings with the public. The Participation Company (TPC) facilitates, consults, coaches and trains public and private sector people about their community conflicts and public engagement programs. Our job is helping you do yours.

2018 IAP2 Public Participation Foundations (5-day) classes:

·       Phoenix, AZ – March 19-23, 2018

·       Arlington, VA – April 16-20

·       Boulder, CO – April 26-27 (Techniques only)

·       Minneapolis, MN – July 30-August 3

·       Chicago, IL – September 24-28

·       Orlando, FL – October 15-19

2018 IAP2 Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (2-day) classes:

·       Salt Lake City, UT – March 26-27

·       Orange County, CA – April 19-20

·       Los Angeles, CA – April 26-27

·       Denver, CO – June 28-29

·       Minneapolis, MN – July 26-27

·       Chicago, IL – October 18-19

IAP2 courses from The Participation Company are eligible for Certification Maintenance (CM) credits through The American Planning Association (APA)’s professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

You’ll also find more original ponderings from Debra Duerr, Wendy Lowe, Doug Sarno, me, and other very stable geniuses at at our blog.

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