October 12, 2014

I was reminded today about the importance of words. In a campaign you are always judged by the words you choose, as you should be, because your words are taken as your position.

The wear of a campaign often causes mental fatigue and that is where you are most vulnerable. You need to guard against this by speaking as clearly as you can.

There is always the possibility that you will be misinterpreted or your words used against you out of context, but then there is the situation where you where not careful and simply misspoke.

Today there was an article about housing in the Journal. I was speaking freely and failed to follow the rule of precision. I was accurately quoted in the piece, but it really didn’t state what I had meant, and the fault is on me.

In the piece, I was quoted as saying that those needing affordable housing “probably don’t have a car”. The thought process was that many in need of affordable housing are looking for shelter over transportation. The thought process was that since I ride the buses with so many in need of ‘affordable housing’, who are often with grocery bags and other possessions, they are reliant on access to public transportation.

The use of the word “probably” was imprecise. I freely admit it. The proper word should have been “possibly”. As you can see, the wrong choice of word makes a world of difference.

In running for office, you have put yourself in a situation where you must monitor your precision. That being the case, many of your answers are hedged. You grow accustomed to devising answers that attempt to clarify your position.

The problem is that you are being asked hypothetical-based questions and are expected to return with solid answers. This is a candidate’s most difficult challenge. You really do wish to answer the question to the best of your knowledge and ability, but you are also contemplating the question, possible answers, and choosing words. Sometimes you slip, but recognize it.

It is for this reason that candidates work from scripted answers, that pabulum that is often reported. My point is that if you are of the ilk that truly thinks about the question anew each time it is asked, be better prepared for precision in words.

As noted, my use of the word ‘probably’ instead of the precise word ‘possibly’ was my error. The accurate reporting made it clearer as to my point of my personal need for precision. There is limited space in a newspaper and therefore, it was incumbent upon me to state matters in a more understandable format. While I was speaking generally about how there is a need for the ability to get to work from affordable housing, and therefore, it was more logical to locate it in areas where there is greater access to transportation, this was left on the cutting room floor, and I was left with a less than accurate quotation (again, not at the hands of the reporter).

I share this tale to demonstrate the point that you must be ever vigil when speaking. If you want the people to hold your words in high regard, you must practice precision. You will inevitably fail, but you will see the lesson and try harder. Constantly remember, you put yourself in a position where you want your words taken seriously, and that being the case, make your focus on precision in your words.


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