Recently there’s been a lot of noise around about gaslighting, unconscious bias and imposter syndrome. While there’s no denying that deliberately toxic behaviours happen, and opportunities are limited because of them, especially along gender lines, there’s one aspect I simply don’t get.
Firstly, let me be clear, I am not condoning these terrible behaviours. I am simply puzzled by the reactions of some people to them, and I hope to help in finding ways to deal with it when it happens to you. I’ll even do it through the witty use of song lyrics.
I’m not dumb, but I can’t understand
A classic line from The Kinks that sums up my approach to almost every meeting. In so many cases the less you understand, the better the conversation is. The more you have to listen, to be open to what others’ opinions are, and to consider them carefully as a mediating or moderating factor to your own understanding.
When it comes to marketing creative works, the person I’m talking with often has a greater depth of knowledge and passion about a topic. As a non-expert, my views can easily be dismissed or diminished as unknowledgeable or even uncaring. I’m aware of this, and I’m ok with it. By listening critically and asking the questions that make me feel dumb I am often able to get the other people to look at things a different way. I can pierce their bubble and offer a new perspective that helps me to understand what they are trying to express.
I know what I know
Paul Simon crooned this line as he stood in front of the imposing entirety of Ladysmith Black Mombassa. Once I was talking quite frankly about philanthropic strategy, and made the point that if the strategic aim is to raise operational funding then private donors are better than trusts or foundations as they have no acquittal process for inspecting where their money has been spent.
There was a senior arts professional in the room who vehemently disagreed, stating that in her experience nobody personally hands over money without wanting to know where it is spent. True enough, but with grant application processes and acquittal processes what they are, it is very difficult to secure operational funding rather than project funding. Where as private donors are often willing to donate to the organisation as a whole, trusting them to spend the funds where they will have the most impact.
I attempted to reframe my explanation three times, with the person simply disagreeing with the entire premise. I was relatively new to this group, and the person disputing me has a solid fund-raising record, so I became flustered and unable to communicated my point clearly.
After the meeting, reflecting on her input, I was able to see where my presentation of the argument had fallen down and to decide within myself to that I still believed private funding to be more appropriately spent on core operations than grant funding, in most cases. I’m sure she still believes I am misguided too, and that’s ok. As an aside, new legislation surrounding donations in the environment space make this area even more murky.
Isn’t it ironic
Alanis Morrissette was universally panned for her incorrect examples of irony. Something tells me she doesn’t mind so much, given the Grammys and worldwide chart hits. It’s ok to think something, hold a belief in your view of the world, even if it is inaccurate.
I am yet to meet a client who likes to be compared to other organisations. They’re always a little special, unique, different. Which in most cases is a question of scale. As Australian arts organisations who are creating things, at some level we are all the same, and at some level we are all different.
One of the things I like to point out is that often even when your organisation is a snowflake, your audience isn’t. They’re the same people who watch reality television, who think petrol is too expensive and like to have fun in a social setting. That is to say, your audience is the same as someone else’s audience. Which is actually more than ok, it makes your marketing more likely to be effective because you don’t have to start from scratch. Being similar to someone else doesn’t diminish your own uniqueness.
I’m my biggest fan and I can’t get enough
Santigold’s 2016 ode to self love is less of a classic track but just as strong in message. It’s ok to be proud of your achievements and to be vocal about them. If you’re ok with being the dumbest person in the room, with being called on your own privilege and bias, and with who you are generally, then it makes handling toxic comments and behaviours a lot easier. It is easier to agreeably disagree with someone, to know what to take on board and what to accept as difference of opinion. And you still won’t be in the right 100% of the time, but that’s ok.