Gentle Power of the Pen

The pen is a powerful weapon. Harnessed correctly, it can do powerful good.

August 31, 1999

People are angry. We’re reading of municipal board members who are physically harassed in supermarkets by people who disagree with them. It seems the art of public discourse is falling by the wayside.

Reuters recently reported on anger in the marketplace. The president of market researcher Yankelovich Partners says stress in daily living is at the root. "Notwithstanding the fact that the economy has gotten a lot better since 1993, the amount of stress people feel in their lives has gone down not at all," J. Walker Smith reportedly said. "So the paradox of this booming economy is that life feels better because the economy is going up, but life feels just as bad as it always did."

That’s sad.

As a remodeler, you might have felt the verbal harassment of a client. More likely, though, you’ve felt the sting of a reporter’s words through an article about the booming remodeling market. Although fairly balanced, some articles leave the impression that remodelers are price-gouging opportunists.

Many of you, as we have, felt righteous anger rising in response. Some of you might have been quoted and been dismayed by the way you sounded in print. Let the anger pass and think calmly for a minute.

If you are approached by a reporter, consider yourself an ambassador for the industry, albeit in enemy territory. Think about who’s hearing the words you choose and who will read them. The public doesn’t live in your world, nor does it understand the nuances of your business. But people care about their homes and projects.

Second, if such an article appears in your market, consider a careful response. You can be an ambassador in print, too, through the "Letters to the Editor" section. Again, though, choose your words and remember your audience. Proverbs 15:1 offers sound advice: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Offer an honest defense of the situation, offer an open explanation of how remodelers should approach clients and maybe even offer to talk with any consumers who have questions.

We recognize that the idea of writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper might be daunting. Don’t be dissuaded; we’ll help. The next time you read an article that deserves a response, we offer two solutions. Fax the article to the editors of Professional Remodeler.. We’ll write a letter to the publication as a representative of the industry. If you’d rather be the ambassador, go to our Web site’s Web Worksheets section at www.housingzone.com for a template to help you craft your response.

The pen is a powerful weapon. Harnessed correctly, it can do powerful good.

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