James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

Wherever there is conflict, confrontation and crisis, there is contention. In today’s Twitter, Blogger and bloviater dominated world, working to resolve important issues, questions and decisions often begins very contentiously and ends only after one side is beaten and leaves the field; there is a mutual withdrawal, or mostly commonly, one side wins and the other side stays angry.

Winning, it turns out is never about getting 51 percent of individuals or groups to concur or comply; it’s getting 51 percent of those who matter. This thinking leads to an axiom and a law.

Lukaszewski’s first axiom of winning in contentious situations: Almost every decision of any consequence is made despite serious, often powerful collateral contentiousness. The media can be mad, or support someone else, some of your neighbors can be irritated, even your employees can be against you, but stay the course, be constructive in your approach and you can win.

Lukaszewski’s law of success and survival: Neither the media, your severest critic, angry neighbors, irritated legislators, nor regulators can truly stop what you have set out to accomplish. The most significant damage is almost always caused by the intervention, timidity, or hesitation of an overoptimistic boss or Board, well-meaning friends, “supporters,” or relatives, and failure to address the issues raised by those who feel victimized by the process.

These seven principles are the components of a strategic approach for winning:

1. Wage peace every day: Reduce the production of critics, enemies and victims at every opportunity. Talk tough, act tough, or threaten and you will have war for sure. War produces casualties, victims, and new critics, all of whom will live long enough to destroy, delay, or stop your best efforts.

2. Reduce contention: Contention is the absence of agreement. Work for agreement, incrementally, every day. Stop causing contention.

3. Seek permission rather than entitlement: Getting permission depends upon gaining public agreement and consent. Avoid and resist anything, anyone, or any decision, that delays, denies, disables, or damages the permission process. Act like you’re entitled to a public decision and you’ll really be stopped cold.

4. Control testosterosis: Anger, irritation, frustration, and confrontation cloud judgment, damage relationships, cause misunderstandings, create critics, naysayers and rarely accomplish anything good. Stop taking contrary views and negative messages personally. The only one who is suffering from this is you. No one else cares. Remain calm and carry on.

5. Be Democratic: Recognize and leverage from the patterns of democracy, avoid political games and game players, all those people have their own agendas. They will dump you in a minute.

6. Work as directly as you can: Like most everything that matters in life, agreement is generally achieved, when the principals commit to sit down face-to-face and directly work out their differences. Engagement builds stakeholder support, and reduces the production of critics.

7. Communicate Intentionally: Success depends on simple, sensible, positive, declarative and constructive communication, common sense, direct, prompt action, empathy, transparency, and engagement. Explain to everyone as well as remind them of your communication and behavior intentions so they will know what to expect and how to behave in return.

Continue Reading Winning When Everyone is Mad at You: How Waging Peace and Reducing Contention Can Bring Success — Seven Strategies

In many contexts of our life experience, "fine" sadly seems to have drifted toward embodying mediocrity.

Consider this all too common dialogue: "How are you?" "Oh, I’m fine."  Or, perhaps, "Just fine."

Translation: "O.K.," "average," "acceptable," "passable," "satisfactory," "I can’t complain," "I’ve been better," or maybe "could be much better" . . . .

After all, how interested or excited does someone sound with their "fine by me" response to your generous invitation or suggestion? Especially when accompanied by emoticons or real-life eye-rolling body language?

Whatever happened to the leading dictionary meanings of this orally over-used four-letter-word?:

"Of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade: fine wine."

"Choice, excellent, or admirable: a fine painting."

Outside the context of wine, art, food, china, jewelry, dining, and perhaps blogging, extolling fineness does nothing to draw me in.

Perhaps this recognition is consistent with why the term appears in less than 1,500 live marks on the USPTO database. In fact, there are more dead marks including this term than live ones. In addition, it appears less frequently in the USPTO database than other laudatory terms like "best" or "choice" — by considerable margins. And many of the live marks that do exist lead the adjective with another one (i.e., SuperFine Bakery, Veryfine Juice, or Damn Fine Tea) — futher evidence the f-word seems emotionally weak standing on its own.

I’m left wondering whether the term’s meaning decline began with Toni Basil’s "one hit wonder" from 1982 entitled "Mickey," with the ad nauseam lyrics: "Oh, Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mickey, hey Mickey." Just a thought.

Having said all that, I’ll have to admit, I’m still definitely a sucker for quaint red neon signs appearing in frost-paned country windows reading "Fine Dining," even when the exterior of the establishment might speak otherwise or even beg to differ. My family certainly can attest that these dining adventures have led to mixed reviews over the years.

In the distant world of comic book grading, a "fine" grade is only a 6.0 on a 10.0 scale, according to CGC. Worse yet, a "fine" designation using the Sheldon Scale of Coin Grading yields a meager 12 out of a possible 70 score.

I’d love to hear from our expert naming friends on the question of how and why the word "fine" has lost its "superior" meaning, at least in so much of our day-to-day common English usage.

Now, when it comes to the context of lawyering, "fine" can mean something much more negative than mediocre: As in, you better read the "fine print" in the contract!

References to "the fine print" also can have negative or controversial connotations in the world of advertising and marketing, as in the context of deceptive or misleading advertising.

So, in my humble effort to rejuvenate the "superior," "excellent," "highest grade," and "admirable" meanings behind the four-letter-word "fine," below the jump you’ll find twelve of my favorite and mighty fine guest posts from a diverse collection of our fine guest bloggers during 2011.

Continue Reading When it Comes to Guest Blogging: Fine or Just Fine?

James E. Lukaszewski ABC,APR, Fellow PRSA, President of the Lukaszewski Group Division of Risdall McKinney Public Relations

When we analyze what causes management communications programs to implode, explode, derail, self-destruct, or simply slide into the ditch, there are identifiable behaviors and activities that precede or predict disaster or negative collateral damage. Here’s a checklist