Anyone who serves the public learns how to manage upset customers.
When someone says you hurt them, do not argue. Listen. Apologize. When people are angry, upset, or heartbroken, you must stay silent. Offer support.
There is no other rational response.
Of course, listening has limits. Threats, yelling, or swearing must end the conversation, with help from security if necessary.
Doctors and nurses deal with upset people every day. We allow room to express and grieve, even if we do not like or value the content. We embrace expression and limit inappropriate behaviour.
Politicians and journalists should do the same with the Truckers’ Freedom Convoy.
There is only one rational response: help the people speak.
- Facilitate peaceful protest.
- Hear them out.
- Be ready to limit bad behaviour – with force if necessary.
The only way to win the moral high ground in the face of protest or complaint is to help the aggrieved party.
- If the aggrieved party refuses help, you win.
- If they refuse to talk or negotiate, you win.
- If they become violent or irrational, you win.
- If you attack the aggrieved party, you lose. You become a combatant, not a leader.
- If you slander the aggrieved party, you lose.
- If you try to twist their message, you lose.
- If you argue, you lose.
- If you refuse to meet and speak with them, you lose.
Let them speak. Even better, help them speak! Amplify their message. If they speak nonsense, it makes your position stronger with the larger audience. If protesters speak truth, you win support having helped expose the truth and changed your own mind in the process.
You win either way.
The strength of your argument or the righteousness of your position does not matter as much as your response.
If you attack, slander, dismiss, or silence your enemy:
You. Will. Lose.
Force will be your only option remaining, and that is all people will remember. No one remembers the justice of your cause.
Many Canadian elites have shown an unexpected level of incompetence in response to the protest.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose to attack the Truckers’ Freedom Convoy 2022. Listening was beneath him. He slandered instead of showing compassion. He refused to meet. Trudeau only listens to those he likes.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, did the same. Many individual MPs hurled insults. The media made us dizzy with spin.
This response eliminates any winning option.
It does not matter if the upset party has no case. You lose the larger crowd if you do not listen.
Even if the larger crowd leans your way, you still risk losing its support – your attack creates martyrs of the minority position.
Of course, listen with limits. Do not tolerate violence or bad behaviour.
But if you refuse to listen and foment frustration instead, the larger crowd watching may turn against you if they haven’t already.
The elites may have lost the larger crowd already.
Thousands of regular people have gone to see the Convoy for themselves. They find a happy celebration. They sing and dance in the street. They wave flags and exchange high fives. People hand out free hot food on every corner.
Close family and friends return with pictures and videos of a moving, patriotic event. I now have dozens and dozens of first-hand reports from people I trust: this is not a violent protest.
There is only one rational response – only one positive way forward. Let’s hope a real leader rises up to guide us there soon.
Shawn Whatley is a physician, past president of the Ontario Medical Association, and a Munk senior fellow at MLI. He is author of When Politics Comes Before Patients – Why and How Canadian Medicare is Failing.
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