Anti-Government Groups & Conflict Resolution: Are You Making Matters Worse by How You Define Your “Public”?

Things in Burns, Oregon might get have officially turned ugly.

And while the folks at the wildlife refuge in Oregon aren’t your average opponents, their stance isn’t legitimate, there is an element of their stance that no public official should ignore…

Unfortunately, NO ONE is immune from anti-government attitudes.

(Ironically, especially in a democracy… But we’ll cover that topic on March 8th in Clinic #78.)

  • Because this attitude is something you either ARE dealing with or likely WILL be confronted with, we’ve adopted “Anti-Government” as our theme for all of our monthly Consent-Building Clinics in 2016.

In a self-governing society, it’s THE PUBLIC who decides — via our rules based decision-making process — what government institutions it wants to create and maintain.

If you encounter stakeholders who perceive an “Us vs. Them” relationship between the (them) public and (you) the government . . . something’s gone wrong.

Chances are it’s simply a misunderstanding . . . a misperception.

Because even “simple” misperceptions can be challenging to correct, don’t expect that lecturing these folks is going to change their view of the world.


Your stakeholders need to discover . . . they need to see — with their own eyes — and conclude on their own terms that it’s ultimately THEY, the people (i.e. all of us) who make all the decisions.

It’s WE, the people, who created your agency and it’s mission.

  • It’s critical that your stakeholders realize this paradigm-changing insight.

But how do you stimulate you stakeholders to have such a critical insight? 


While there’s no quick-fix, there IS much you can do.

The first of which begins by answering 6 Questions

  • In addition to the recording of this webinar, we’ve created a follow-up video with 6 questions to help you make real headway in preventing such attitudes from being aimed at you and your organization.

Starting with the basics in this recorded webinar, we delve into every angle of WHY Anti-Government sentiments are ratcheting up all across the country, and WHAT you can do to diffuse them, and even better yet — PREVENT them in the first place — from impeding your ability to accomplish your mission.

In this session, we’ll cover something so SIMPLE and yet POWERFUL . . .

6 Points We Cover

1. How you DEFINE “public” and “stakeholder” plays a central role in anti-government attitudes towards you and your agency.

2. Whom should you INCLUDE and EXCLUDE in your definition?

3. Should your definition of your “public” and related “stakeholders” SHIFT from project to project?

4. How should you handle people who THINK they are affected?

5. What’s the appropriate ROLE of number of constituents, majority vs. minority opinions, and representativeness?

6. How to identify WHICH of the 4 Fundamental Points your team is failing to address.


Don’t be caught off guard by anti-government attitudes that are sweeping the country!


Why Your Website Needs a Makeover to improve informed consent

We’re often asked: “How should we use our agency’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed . . . to engage with our public?” 

It’s a great question. (One that you won’t find answers for, even if you Google your heart out trying.)

You’re not an employee in a business — so going after “leads” and “conversions” doesn’t translate well into the mission the public gave you.

Yet, your public expects you to have an online presence….!

But how do you do it?!?

Rightly so, you’re probably concerned about:

  • Staff hours spent generating and monitoring Social Media platforms
  • The risk of posts taking on a life of their own and backfiring on the organization
  • Giving the impression everything is up for popularity vote
  • Only scratching the surface on complex projects, and as a result — creating false impression of the key issues
  • Technology and Terms of Use for 3rd Party Platforms change frequently
  • What constitutes “engagement?”  Is it a legitimate objective?
  • What’s the best way to reach our public?
  • “Do people even look at our website anymore?!?”


We’ll answer these questions, your specific questions — and more — in our monthly Consent-Building Clinic.


During Clinic #74, we’re going to show you:

  • How VITAL your agency’s website is,
  • Why we can virtually guarantee you’re FAILING to use it to inform your public,
  • and Why you’re priorities are all WRONG.

Then, even though we only have 45-minutes with you, we’re going to really shake things up!

Because we’ve got advice that is loaded with value on how to turn your website into a Consent-Building powerhouse.


Don’t miss the BONUS video below on “Adding some Kryptonite for Your Opponents on Your Website”


Follow these tips and not only will you generate trust, respect, credibility and legitimacy.

Even your work’s fiercest opponents will conclude you’re committed to being fair and transparent (assuming you are!).

Get the Recording


Managing Stakeholders: You Can’t Take Sides, but You Aren’t “Neutral” Either

Consent-Building Clinic #73: Recorded October 2015

“Our CP Process can turn into a free-for-all of various stakeholders, each fighting as a special interest, . . . while we try to remain neutral.”

“It’s a jungle out there!” is what comes to mind here. Because, of course, it IS a jungle out there! Let’s face it; there is not fuzzy, warm “public.” Your public – on any given Problem-Solving/Decision/Making case – consist of:

  • Individuals, Groups, Corporations, Institutions, Other agencies and Other officials.

Each and every one of them pursuing THEIR agendas – and ONLY their agendas. All of them have their own priorities, values, concerns, worries, fears, hopes, . . . i.e. agendas that they pursue.

You ARE different . . . though “neutral” is probably not the right word to describe that difference. Here’s the real difference:

  • You’re motivated by a RESPONSIBILITY, the responsibility to accomplish your Mission . . . which – strictly speaking – came from the ‘public’, that cacophony of individuals, groups, corporations, etc.

The question, thus, comes down to: “How can you – in the midst of this free-for-all — make sure you are EFFECTIVE?

Get the Recording


Don’t Jump to Decision Making Solutions! Protecting Your Public from Fatal Conflict Resolution Pitfalls

Consent-Building Clinic #72: Recorded September 2015

Help! When we involve stakeholders early in our planning process – which is something we strive to do – many of them jump prematurely to a solution.”

This can happen even with the more sophisticated stakeholders, such as other government agencies. They immediately want to know: “What are going to DO?” . . . This, at a time when you’re still in the head-scratching phase of trying to understand what the problem is. The trouble is: Early in the process you normally DON’T yet know what the solution is that you’re going to wind up proposing.


And yet, if you begin to reach out to these stakeholders only AFTER you’ve decided what solution you’re going to propose, they’re likely to say: “NOW you come to us, AFTER you’ve decided what to do?!”

What we have here, is a head-on collision of several Public Involvement truths:

  • The most constructive public involvement results from EARLY – and continuing – involvement.
  • The first nine steps in any Problem-Solving/Decision-Making process have to do with understanding the Problem and its causes. For example, in our 16-step planning process “Generating Solutions” is Step 10 . . . i.e. It is NOT an early step.
  • But, the human brain – even the brain of subject-matter experts – tends to race almost IMMEDIATELY to the Solution Generation step . . . side-stepping, short-changing, pole-vaulting-over . . . the several Problem Analysis steps . . . It appears that THIS mistake is in our DNA! So, of course your stakeholders are going to make it. Just be sure YOU don’t make it!


As is true of so many of the frustrations on which our Brownbag sessions focus, there is a lot more to this particular one than meets the eye. The three enumerated statements, above, ARE true.

The trouble is, every time you think you’re going to involve your stakeholders early in your process, . . . WHAMMO! . . . these three truths collide head-on, creating a public involvement car-wreck!


Always remember: It’s for stuff like this, i.e. for figuring out how to minimize damage to your effectiveness in Public Involvement car-wrecks, that you are paid the huge salaries that you are paid (ha!).

Tune in; we’ll do all we can to help you pull the fat out of the fire for your team and demonstrate to your team and your supervisors that you’re worth every dollar of that “humongous” salary.

Get the Recording


How the Harbormaster Used This One Tactic to Gain My Trust & Informed Consent

How do you gain the trust of your public (including those who aren’t even affected by your work)?

The Monterey, California Harbormaster seems to know.

In Consent-Building Clinic #71, we got into the nitty-gritty of how you can “Convince Stakeholders Their Input Matters (While Setting Reasonable Expectations),” so we’re following up with another example of how to get your public to believe it when you say “We need your input.”

Even though the local officials in Monterey have more trust than their counterparts in neighboring communities, no one believes it when they solicit input.

Except, for the harbormaster . . . When he asks for input, he gets responses that actually impact his work!

What makes him so convincing?

He demonstrates that he means it when it asks for input.  Not that he always uses or follows the input, but he makes it apparent he really is listening to the responses he gets.

Does he use fancy software or surveying devices?  Nope.

Does he talk or write about how he’s “customer-oriented and responsive?”  Heck no!

His tactic is so subtle, his audience probably doesn’t even realize he’s using it.


See for yourself if you can detect the tactic.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent newsletter he emailed residents and boat owners in which he discussed the budget he intended to present to City Council for the upcoming year.

The harbormaster explained the projected shortfall he expected if he didn’t increase user fees, and what increases he concluded were necessary.

Then he requested the public’s input . . . Particularly from those who would be paying the higher fees.


A month later, the harbormaster emailed an update along the following lines:

  • “A number of you have talked to me about the changes in fee structure that I had in mind; thanks for the various suggestions and ideas.”
  • “Based on what I learned from talking with some of you, I’ve concluded that I was wrong about a couple of the changes I was contemplating . . . Here is my altered budget and fee-structure proposal. I think it IS an improvement from what I had in mind.”
  • “I am intending to present this altered budget to City Council . . . unless some you have further suggestions.”


Did you catch it?

He meant what he said!

He demonstrated he meant it by showing how the input caused him to reconsider (and in this case, revise) what he would propose to City Council.

Even though I (Hans) would be affected by the increased fees, I hadn’t been more than a armchair observer of the input the harbormaster was soliciting.

Yet his handling of it affected my attitude and trust of him, even though I wasn’t directly involved.

You can be sure I wasn’t the only one that concluded “this guy means it when he says he wants the public’s input!”

Putting the Harbormaster’s Tactic to Work for You

You need to apply this tactic to convince your public your listening.

If you swipe the harbormaster’s three simple steps, even those unaffected will be convinced you actually mean it when you elicit input:

  1. Genuinely listen
  2. Evaluate what you hear
  3. Explain HOW and WHY you will/not use the input you receive


Notice, there’s no chest-beating declaration about truly listening.  There’s simply a demonstration of it.

Put these three steps to work for you and skip the usual cynicism-inducing rhetoric and simply demonstrate you need the public’ input.


Conflict Resolution: Ever Heard these Devastating Words from Your Public (or Your Spouse)?

In Consent-Building Clinic #70, we discussed “What to Do when Your Public is Convinced it’s Too Late to Give Input (and How this Hurts Your Credibility).”

One of the most serious facets of this issue, and related topics we’ve discussed in Clinics (Brownbags) #5, 30, 51, and 60, is the devastating accusation from the public that “You’re Not Listening!”  And worse, that “You Don’t Care!”

In this short segment, we round up our discussion on this critical issue and how you’re likely proving yourself guilty of the accusation — even if you’re actually not guilty of it!


Watch the video below now.

It’ll make sense of:

  • How you can be both guilty and not guilty of “not listening/caring,” 
  • Why your public is convinced you’re nothing but guilty.


What are the specific ways you and your team are working to correct this misperception?

If you, or your agency, have been guilty of not truly listening and/or caring — what made you realize you were paying more lip-service than genuinely listening and caring?