Public discourse, clever writing and dialogue

I do love a good TV show where the writers respect the viewers as adults and write shows accordingly. Like The Newsroom, and as I’m finding, like The West Wing. Yes, both from Aaron Sorkin, and both good examples of where I get washed up in the clever writing. Nothing is given the ‘let’s treat them as uneducated fools angle’. Which is why I also enjoy Modern Family. It’s the writing which consistently produces clever angles on everyday takes.

What these programmes do, in my opinion, is take everyday life and treats them as just that, everyday life. You, as the viewer, are expected to get it and because of this, the programmes are ace.

Gonna shift this now and talk about Barack Obama. Here’s a guy who is one of the best orators of our time. Have you heard his acceptance speech from 2008? It’s so amazing in so many ways – I use it as a great example when I deliver Advanced Presentation Skills. Here, you should watch it – all 17 mins of it.

It’s amazing, isn’t it?

But it’s not his speech I want to talk about, it’s him. The man has such an intellect, that most people can’t keep up with him. Even other world leaders don’t really compare against this man. While he had his term in office, there was huge potential for change, and for influencing what people think about a range of topics.

Sadly, the very thing which puts him head and shoulders above Joe Public is his greatest fault. He’s just too clever. And so Politics gets the better of him and he can’t influence in the way he wants because he’s dealing with people who want to take the debate and lower it, so that it’s about things they can argue about. Mostly because they can’t argue with his intellect, so they don’t. They argue with irrelevances.

Which is why I’m so pissed at Nigel Farage. A clever guy, educated in Britain’s private schooling, worked in a corporate environment, with the potential to really raise the game, and instead he’s making the common person care about things which are nonsensical at best and ridiculous at worst.

Public discourse is a pain in the arse.

Okay, back to the clever writing.

How do you talk about rape in a way which is witty, is seriously clever, doesn’t demean the topic, and in fact does a lot to raise awareness of the problem of consensual sex? I have no idea, but rockstar dinosaur pirate princess landed on an amazing tea analogy and she basically won the internet.

What she’s suddenly done is create real dialogue about consensual sex in a way which is respectful and seriously on the mark, while at the same time being highly engaging and humorous. Big applause.

Organisations are beset with the problem of discourse and dialogue. How to create and cultivate both are incredibly challenging things to do.

Before the days of social media, no one needed to care about either. If it happened, or if it didn’t, no one cared. The only people who may have cared were the media. And in the flash of an eye, people were talking about brands and organisations and making their opinions heard.

Organisations these days don’t have a choice but to have discourse and encourage dialogue. It’s why engagement is so important. If you can’t influence what people think of your organisation through the discourse they hear, they won’t engage in dialogue with you.

More and more organisations are going to need professional writers to help them with this challenge. And this problem isn’t about speech writing or engagement campaigns. It’s about regular discourse and regular dialogue. It’s a whole skill set that most senior people in organisations haven’t thought about well enough. It’s not the same as media training and public speaking. It’s about treating the people you work with as adults and respecting who they are and what they know. It’s about advocating messages which you are going to be challenged on and hearing opinions you may not be comfortable with. It’s about responding to people and letting them know they’ve been heard. It’s about helping others raise their level of thinking because yours is already raised.

There’s a challenge in there for us all.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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