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No. 40 – Positioning for Desired Social Role

September 7, 2011

Over the course of this blog we have explored the value of establishing specific social roles for effective communications. Your audience (whether 1, 10, or 100) will interpret your message according to the social role or position which you appear to represent. No matter how hard you try to appear as an unbiased, impartial, professional with concerns for radiation safety, you will likely be perceived as having a vested interest in your own welfare or that of your company or agency.

Last post we considered the family or human social system as the most likely to succeed when communicating radiation health issues. However, you cannot simply declare your preferred role. To do so invites your audience to agree or disagree. Positioning is preferable.

Positioning is the art of allowing others to discover your intended social role without your declaration. If others discover your role, they are more inclined to find you credible. When you declare your role, those who already favor your views will find you credible, others will not.

The strength of the family social system is based on sharing information on radiation risks at the personal level. This is difficult for many health physicists who usually want to be seen as competent professionals. As such, you may be seen as cool, aloof, uncaring, and not in touch with the real risks of radiation. When you let the audience discover that you are a human being with similar cares and concerns, you may open doors for real communication. In the human role you also have a great responsibility to maintain integrity and honesty in your beliefs and values concerning people and their issues. Your audience will accord you trust based upon a reciprocal respect.

When you position yourself as the professional, the audience has a tough decision. How do they discern your professional image from the company or agency that pays you? If you want to be seen as a professional, you will have to stress your independence.

When you position yourself as a company representative you will experience the transfer of credibility that the company has with the audience. The question is, what can you do if the company image is not favorable for the issue at hand? This is where positioning in the professional, or preferably the family, social system will gain success as you relate to the audience at the level of their needs and concerns.

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