Strategically Navigating ‘Cancel Culture’

By Dr. Daneen Skube, Interpersonal Edge

Dr. Daneen Skube, executive coach, trainer, therapist, and speaker, addresses “cancel culture” and the best way for business professionals to manage this part of contemporary society.

Question:

My career puts me in the media spotlight. I’m increasingly nervous about saying or doing the wrong thing in our “cancel culture.” I feel like I’m walking on eggshells and that one wrong word could destroy my career. How do you advise your clients with public jobs on navigating cancel culture?

Answer:

You can navigate cancel culture with a combination of two habits:

1) Keen awareness of trigger words and social issues

2) A general attitude of humility.

People with public jobs have never found the spotlight of public attention to be easy. As a public personality, you have the privilege of influencing mass culture. As a public personality, you belong to society, will be openly criticized, and can never please everyone.

A public career means everyone gets to express their opinion about your behavior. The more arrogant we are, the harder it is to listen to all the negative opinions people will have.

The first thing publicists tell many public personalities is, “Don’t read reviews.” These days, with the internet, not reading what people think about us is hard for anyone, not just public personalities.

Now … enter the power of “cancel” culture in which an angry mob of strangers can ruin your career. The upside of cancel culture is that public personalities are encouraged to have social consciousness. The downside is an online mob making decisions with inaccurate or biased data.

Studies of mob psychology demonstrate that a crowd operates at the level of the lowest functioning person in the group. Cancel culture can have vast power because of numbers even though the decisions made by the mob may be irrational or wrong.

As a 63-year-old white woman with a media spotlight, I think carefully about what I say and write. I used to say in corporate training the phrase, “You guys.” I now say, “Y’all,” which makes me sound Southern, but isn’t sexist. I can’t just say what I’ve always said; I need to keep reflecting on my language.

As a country, we’re trying to learn how to be inclusive, respectful, and thoughtful about language. I had a family member in the hospital recently and the sign in the hospital said, “Please be aware of the energy and words you’re bringing into this space!” I think we could use this sign in most public spaces.

Being aware of our words, however, should not mean we’re subject to mob rule. There’s a reason we have a country where our courts presume innocence. An angry mob gives no space for facts and guilt to be determined, but instead can act as a swift judge in situations where facts don’t matter.

If you have a public job, consider that you’re speaking into a powder keg of issues. Learn as much as you can about social issues, triggers for interest groups, and be willing to listen when people are upset. The less defensive you are and the more receptive to information, the less likely you’ll be to experience the rage of a mob.

If despite your best efforts, the cancel culture comes after you, humility is your best shield. If you said a word that triggered an avalanche of reaction, realize your self-worth is not on the line. Acknowledge that you can see that word was a poor choice, and keep your message intact with new language.

We’re stumbling toward a world that’s more mature, and the growing pains are everywhere. I often advise clients, “You are not who you were, you’re figuring out who you are, but you haven’t yet met who you’re becoming.” Remember that as you find your way through these sensitive times.

The last word(s)

Question:

Are there simple things I can do to help myself stand out interpersonally at work?

Answer:

Yes, consistently apply the common courtesies that are no longer common: punctuality, gratitude, keeping commitments, and diplomacy.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.

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