November 30, 2017

Double Negative: Meeting Ignorance with Impatience


I’m not the first to say that there is a lot of tension in conversations these days. Whether on social media, at the Thanksgiving dinner table, in office discussions, in political discourse and beyond. I’ve been listening to this dis-course: Listening to the dis-comfort, the dis-ease and to the general dis-content as well-intentioned people enter and exit interactions with co-workers, friends, family members and perfect strangers.

When you take a meaningful moment to truly listen, with a clear, open mind and with the desire to understand the intention and motivation behind the opinion, you learn a lot. I’d like to share one of these insights by way of this article, and provide us all with a tool for addressing a problem point that continues to create breakdowns in communication.

The issue (negative #1): One side of the conversation says something that is not fully vetted. This person shares a point of view that disregards important information or distorts critical data. The individual will speak with conviction and passion about a topic that they haven’t carefully examined and evaluated before asserting their position.

The issue (negative #2): The other side of the conversation will be quick to dismiss this person’s appraisal of a situation — directly or indirectly — and formulate an opposing opinion about the person and their position as ignorant and the conversation as intolerable.

This double-negative pattern is becoming all too familiar and I witness daily acts of: “I don’t want to deal with this person,” “How offensive and destructive can you be?” “Let’s agree not to talk about issues we clearly can’t come to agreement on again,” “I’ll just block this person from my (social media) life,” “Please unfriend me if you hold your opinion or don’t assume mine.”

The tool: One of my main mantras is: “I can’t control other people’s actions, but I can certainly change my reaction.” When I look in my mind’s mirror at how I respond, I can see whether I go “below the line,” to a threatened state of resistance and toxic fear, and to a scarce state of drama and defensiveness in what I say, do and believe……or whether I go “above the line” to a secure state of acceptance and trust, and to an appreciative state of presence, curiosity, growth and learning with regards to my statements, behaviors and beliefs. This one-sheet from the Conscious Leadership Group is an incredibly powerful self-management tool to help us shift from reactive to proactive mode, and to prevent us from meeting others’ ignorance with our own impatience.

In closing: What can I learn from this interaction and how can I strive to make connection and build trust and rapport? These are questions that challenge us to uplift and elevate and are much tougher than passively judging, aggressively arguingand/or passive-aggressively dismissing the other. Assertively addressing the topic and not avoiding and poorly handling conversations means that we have to open our mind’s eye and respect (literally “see again”) how we and others communicate. Only good things emerge from this available approach.


Lee Broekman is a communication coach and trainer with a mission to make the world a better place, one communicator at a time. Her company Organic Communication works with high level leaders and trains decision makers in top organizations to communicate, collaborate and innovate naturally and effectively. Delivering programs in concentrated bursts, with high intensity and elevated engagement, Lee turns powerful content into actionable, applicable tools. Her forthcoming book, Stop Blocking, Start Connecting: 8 Key Skills of Successful Communicators, is available for preorder at