Thermostat set at 68'There’s a lot of rhetoric these days as we listen to various pundit discuss the many aspects of our country’s fiscal crisis. You can’t go more than 5 minutes without hearing/seeing someone weighing in.

This morning my friend Mike Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA posted on Facebook: “Obama needs to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate of opinion; a thermometer just reflects it.” I don’t want to talk about the debt ceiling or the deficit, but what struck me was…am I a thermometer or a thermostat?

As communicators we have an opportunity to be thermostats for our clients, our organizations and our community. We have an opportunity shape the climate of opinion, rather than to just reflect it.

When I counsel clients on the direction their communications should take, I often do so naturally but my choice of words, my tone and my mannerisms definitely shape how people feel about the recommendations I make. As counselors, we need to make sure we’re thermostats.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit today and thought I’d offer these thoughts:

  • Enter a room or a conversation quietly and calmly. Those around you will likely assume you’re in the know and listen more attentively.
  • When you speak, do so with conviction but not with a bully pulpit. Use positive words (will instead of would, can instead of could, etc.).
  • Stand up for your beliefs but actively listen to others who might have different ideas. It is from that listening, you can gain more respect. Together you will collaborate on a new plan.
  • Actively listen to others in the room and offer gentle responses rather than abrasions. Ask questions and gain knowledge from their answers. Concentrate on what others are saying.
  • Understand the influence you have over people and try to use that for good. Help others to grow through your example

In conclusion, I found this quotation which has been attributed to a number of different people before quotation websites put it in the public domain:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

There’s very little more important to a communication than character. These words are my guiding focus. Are you a thermostat or a thermometer? Or, a little of both?