P2 tip #9: Be human

26 07 2011

In a seemingly cold, stark world of government regulations and red tape, public participation provides the human side of the work government agencies are set out to do. We are the literal and figurative eyes, ears and face of the project and in order to do it well, it is important to be yourself.

It is easy to get caught up in the technical jargon, legal precautions or become shielded by rigid rules and procedures. But effective public participation even for large, complex projects must start with sincere person-to-person communication. It is best summed up in the simple mantra, “be human.”

To “be human” means acknowledging people’s emotions, questions and concerns. They are valid and legitimate. To “be human” means speaking in your own voice. Find ways of explaining information and processes that fit your vocabulary and personal style. To “be human” means engaging in good, old-fashioned conversation. The kind where there is a sincere attempt to listen and understand; to enter into an exchange of ideas; and speak respectfully even when differences in opinion exist.

People long for community connections and honest communication. In a fast-paced world of real-time communication, hyper-commercialized and constant entertainment, the opportunity to be listened to and appreciated as a fellow human being is a gift.