Last night I had a strange dream. In this dream I was watching television. The national news was about to start. The glossy, authoritative news set was in view. Generic news music – the type of music that makes you think this is serious news – played.
Then I heard a smooth voice that you can trust. The voice evoked feelings of security and knowledge. It said, “Welcome to the news. I am your anchor.”These words were spoken by someone seated behind the desk. That someone was fully adorned in clown makeup and clown clothing. In the dream I remember asking myself if I can really trust this clown.
Although I don't suffer from coulrophobia, I found the dream disturbing. Of course, it gave me cause for pause. Within was an application to corrections. In corrections, information fuels our actions. Often, we find ourselves juggling data and assessing the veracity. Acting on false information can pull valuable resources away from necessary places. Here are a few thoughts regarding how we assess our sources of information.
In end, it seems that we need to filter between the messenger and the message. We don't need to believe everything that we hear. However we must continue to listen. Also, we must be aware of facts and trends rather than focus on personality traits and charisma of the messenger. Of course, if the messenger is a reputed liar, we should take heed. In essence, the safety of staff offenders and the public may depend on our ability to filter messages.
- Some sources are absolutely spot on. Their accuracy is unparalleled and their authority is impeccable. All institutions have at least one dispassionate source of information such as this. However, just like the Farmers’ Almanac, no one or nothing is correct all of the time. So, when assessing the source, one should be aware of the overall track record rather than single predictions that were wrong. Look at the big picture.
- On the reverse of the coin, some sources are incredibly inaccurate. Of course, this does not mean that we should dismiss everything that the source asserts. Just as an analog clock's that has frozen hands can be right twice a day, even the least a reputable source has a chance of being correct once in a while.
- The protracted track record of inaccuracy will usually make the messenger seemed disreputable. It is as simple as recalling the story of the boy who cried Wolf. The boy reported a wolf over and over again that no one ever saw. When the real will materialized, no one believed the boy.
- Strong resolve does not necessarily mean the truth. Some people can deliver a well rehearsed lie with a straight face and direct eye contact. Others may run with something that they believe firmly to be the truth, but that is not so. Belief does not mean fact.
- Emotion in any speech varies. The manner in which the information is regarded when laced with plenty of passion lies with the receptor. It is prudent to remember that not everyone has the ability to filter out and passion, from the facts.
- Some messengers simply like to stir the pot. The information disseminated may be wrong on purpose. The pot stirrer has a variety of tools at his or her disposal. He or she can, for example, whisper a juicy gossip tidbit to a willing know-it-all. The letter eagerly spreads word, effectively taking the instigator out of the visible equation. More audaciously, the pot stirrer may bring the information directly himself. Either way, the pot stirrer can enjoy the reactions of colleagues and prisoners.
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