Packaging your message

I attended a course today called “Think on your feet” which teaches communication skills. To illustrate the point that the message has to be positioned and packaged so as to be acceptable to the listening party, the trainer told a joke.

Some people are not comfortable with packaging and “selling” their ideas in ways that are very different from their own internal values and beliefs. I think this is a good example of how one can package the same message convincingly in different ways and yet not be lying (too much) to the audience.

The story goes that the Titanic was sinking and the captain realised that there were not enough life boats and life jackets to go around. This was one of the reasons why there were so many casualties during that tragic accident. To jump off the ship without a life jacket was to run a very high risk of dying so the captain tried to convince the men to do so and to save life jackets for the women and children. (Ah those times of selfless chivalry. Anyway.) The captain came across a group of British gentlemen and tried to appeal to their sense of honour. He told them that the honourable thing to do is to jump, and so the British gents did that. To the Americans he told them that it will be heroic for them to jump and save the life vests for those who need it more. To the Germans he told them that it was the rule. To the Japanese, it was the consensus. And all these people jumped overboard because they were convinced. The reason appealed to something in their culture and so it was accepted.

As this point some local joker must have added that for the Singaporeans he threw a life vest overboard and shouted that he is giving it away free. The Singaporeans jumped after the freebie and the Malaysians shouted “Malaysia Boleh!” and jumped after them as well. Of course there were no Singaporeans or Malaysians on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but it struck a chord among us in the class. And by the way, Malaysia Boleh is a joke that anything Singapore does, Malaysia tries to follow and to say that they can do it also.

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Filed under blog, haha, lessons, singapore

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