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Don’t Shoot the Messenger – Focus on what needs fixing

Don’t Shoot the Messenger – Focus on what needs fixing


Far too often, when we don’t like the message, we make the mistake of shooting the messenger.

The media are routinely the recipients of such shots and we have hardened our backs, but sometimes the messenger is a public servant or private citizen who renders a professional opinion which may not sit well with some members of the public.

Two recent examples come to mind. Last month, one of the psychologists at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH), in decrying the alarming level of sexual assault on women and children in our society, labelled the environment in which this exists ‘rape culture’. Then two weekends ago, a medical doctor, also a public servant, pointed out the health risk of the mould which he observed growing on the ceiling of the Accident and Emergency Department of the MCMH.

We may not like the packaging or manner of delivery of a particular message, but packaging and delivery usually have very little to do with the message itself. Although packaging and presentation may help a message to be more easily accepted, the window dressing neither adds to nor takes away from its truthfulness.

We are also not so naive that we do not acknowledge that in some cases, the messengers may be malicious or motivated by partisan political agendas. That type of messenger is easy to spot, but we need to train ourselves to look past the perceived motivation and critically assess the information they are conveying.

The hostile attacks on the messengers and the sometimes total rejection of their messages may be knee-jerk reactions — a not unusual emotional response to unpleasant or unwanted news or public embarrassment.

This sort of reaction may also deter future messengers who may fear becoming victims should they point out something that may not paint a particular public agency or the country in a positive light. However, should we pay heed only to those who flatter us, we stand the very real chance of remaining uninformed about the things of which we ought to be aware. Our energy needs to be directed at analysing the problem to determine its urgency and the strategies needed to fix it.

Stop alienating the messengers; focus instead on what needs fixing!