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By: Korie Marshall, Editor

You have to build up some thick skin when you are in the public eye. Whether it is politicians having their lives scrutinized, or their work in politics questioned and criticised, movie stars and musicians having their art critiqued along with their faces and private lives, or volunteers standing up to try to help organize an event – other people are going to be watching, forming their own ideas, and quite often saying something about it.

It is a good thing that people are free to share what they think, because discussion starts with questions, with getting to a common understanding of a situation. It seems to me there is always a reason why people have a certain opinion about something or someone, but it is often hard to get to.

Someone recently told me about a technique that allows you to get to the root of issues, but it takes some work and some willingness and understanding on both sides of the conversation. It involves asking “Why?” five times.

No, it’s not like a little kid constantly asking why about everything you say. It’s more that when you get the answer to the first question, you ask why is it that way, and continue that process. If you are tired, that may be because you didn’t sleep well last night. So why didn’t you sleep well? Maybe you were having a lot of dreams that kept waking you up. Why were your dreams different last night than usual? Maybe because you watched a movie that freaked you out, and you had too much coffee.

OK, that is a simple example, and only three layers of asking why, but I think it demonstrates the theory. But it is much harder to do than to explain, and it takes a lot of time – is something that is often not available between public figures and the public.

I took psychology in university, partly because I was always thinking and wondering about those deep reasons, both in myself and in other people I knew. Psychology tries to answer some of those questions in general terms, but I’ve always found it is hard to apply general terms to anyone in particular. Now, working in the media, I find I am constantly struggling between the things I think I know (and how I know them) and what other people understand, or how they perceive things. I keep having to step back, look at a story or a situation from another perspective, and see if I’ve covered the questions that should be asked. Sometimes I miss things, and I appreciate that people point them out. That is where I need to start thickening my skin sometimes, because I do feel bad about missing something, and that makes me want to do better. But if it hits me too hard, I can’t function to deal with all the other things that are going on.

We all see things differently; we all have different experiences that have formed the base of our personality and opinions. And we are stronger together if we can recognize those differences and build on them. Communicating is the first step to building that strength, and sometimes that means being open about things you’d rather not share. Sometimes that stuff is going to come out anyway.