Carl Mays: Fear can destroy communication and human relations

Aug. 28, 2014 @ 01:06 PM

I haven't kept up in detail on the situation in Ferguson, Mo. However, just like anyone else in the world who is exposed to print or electronic media, by osmosis alone there is no way I couldn't have picked up facts and fiction regarding the actions and reactions that began Aug. 9. The media reporting has run the gamut from being good and fair to being sorry and biased. The communication, or lack thereof, from some leaders on the community, state and national levels has run a similar gamut.

Little by little we continue to be fed facts and fiction. With a wide scope of backgrounds, experiences, biases and understandings of our own, we are still trying to determine if this was a situation of a sorry cop brutally shooting an all-American young man or a good cop shooting a hoodlum in self-defense as he was being attacked – or something in between. Hopefully, we will eventually get clarification.

Whatever the case, two things have again been solidified in my mind. One is something I have emphasized over and over again in my writing and speaking, and appears on page two of "Are We Communicating Yet?":

"According to the American Management Association, 90 percent of all problems in any organization is a direct result of poor communication."

The second is something in which I have had a long-time belief. This belief is shared now not because I have already made up my mind as to what actually happened in Ferguson. It is shared because the Ferguson facts and fiction reports caused it to rise to the surface. The thing is, in dealing with a police officer, practice the same philosophy and demeanor you would (or should) use in dealing with anyone else. If an officer stops or detains you for some reason, cooperate with this person rather than resist.

Many of us have had experiences in dealing with individuals and organizations in which, hopefully, we have learned that we get better results when we cooperate with people than when we assault people with our actions, words or demeanor. Let's face it, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was correct when he said, "People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other." This is not relegated to being just a racial thing.

I believe many people are "scared to death" of being stopped by a cop. It's sort of a natural thing. But keep this in mind, officers never know what they are going to encounter when they detain or stop someone for any reason. To me, and I believe to you also when you think about it, that seems to be scarier. In a way, even though it is a much more serious situation, it is sort of like serving as an employee at a customer service or merchandise return counter. You never know what kind of person/customer you are going to encounter.

The best thing to do when dealing with a frontline employee, either in person or on the phone, is to set the person at ease. Same holds true with an officer. Sure, there are a few bad apples among officers, just as there are bad employees. But relating well with bad employees has helped me accomplish some things that otherwise would have been impossible. I thank God that I've not yet had to deal with any bad police officers. Well, one was rather prickly and had poor human relations, but I sensed that immediately and certainly didn't get him riled.

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books, including the top-selling classic "A Strategy For Winning" (foreword by Lou Holtz). E-mail