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Six dangerous communication mistakes: Lessons from Mel Gibson


Mel Gibson

Ok. We’ve had some time to sleep on it, though I must confess I didn’t have the stomach to read the juicy details.  But I do have to say, that I’m really surprised.  I didn’t take Mel Gibson to be a fool.  I assumed that he valued his career.  Anyway his quest for self-destruction is complete and it’s safe to assume that his career is over.

There’s much to learn here, and this an important lesson.  It is absolutely critical that you figure out how you sound to others.  Whether you’re writing a blog, building a business or marketing an idea whose time has come, your words do matter, and they can either build you up or tear you down. 

Here are six dangerous communication mistakes that could destroy your career.

  • Saying too much: Part of being a business leader and communicator, means assessing and disseminating information down to your base.  It is important to know what information to broadcast to the organization, and what to retain behind closed doors.  This is especially critical when your organization is going through times of uncertainty or change, such as lay-offs, restructures and down-sizing etc. And be extra cautious at office parties when the beer flows freely – it tends to losen the tongue.
  • Listening too little: You know the saying, “no-matter how thin you slice it, there’s always two sides.”  That means that everyone in the organization has a right to speak their opinion and to be heard.  One of the simplest ways to gain affinity with your base is to listen to their concerns so that you might know how to address them.  Once you stop listening to your audience, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll be packing your business in a box.
  • Making controversial announcements:  Sounds pretty simple – just don’t do it, right?  But if you ask Mel, he probably couldn’t tell you why he keeps sticking his foot in his mouth.  Again, situations that give rise to controversy are driven by anxiety or pressure due to organizational changes, departure of personnel etc.  The important thing to do is NOT to make any kind of announcement until you know who will be affected and how they will be affected by a decision. It is a good idea to speak privately with the affected party before making a mutually agreeable statement to the rest of the organization. 
  • Lying:  For some strange reason, this problem is not taken seriously.  Perhaps it’s because lies are labelled- ‘little white ones’, and ‘big hairy audacious ones’! And as long as we don’t cross the line from one frontier to another, we’re good!  The problem with little lies, is that they make it easier to lie the next time, and the next, and the next.  Pretty soon, it becomes that much easier to make the leap from a little lie to a dangerous situation.  Practice honesty and learn how to keep the confidence of others.  Rather than lie, you may also refuse to discuss a matter if the need arises.  It is never ok to lie.
  • Disrespecting your base: You didn’t get where you are by yourself.  There are people who have supported you all along the way.  All too often, we see executives behaving badly and expecting that a scripted, self-depreciating apology will extract sympathy and forgiveness from the base. This charade is dishonest, and can only last so long – your base will eventually abandon you for a more worthy opponent.  Get into the habit of engaging in meaningful conversations with your base.  When using social media, there is a tendacy for the tone of the conversation to relax.  That’s fine.  But there is no excuse for using four letter words or coarse language on Twitter and Face book.  I simply ‘unfollow’ anyone who doesn’t meet my standards for clean, intellectual discourse.
  • Using a threatening tone:  This is a no-brainer.  Unlike the other five, this one carries a legal consequence which could destroy your career and your life. Mel Gibson’s agency has since dropped him and an investigation opened into any crimes that he may have committed against his ex-girlfriend.  A threatening tone has no place in the business environment and no self-respecting professional should excuse this kind of behavior.

Let me just conclude by reiterating how desperately important it is to keep a tight leash on ‘the spoken word’, in the business arena.  As his career draws to a dramatic close, it is important to understand that the communication mistake Mel Gibson made is a very common one.  One of the best ways to avoid these mistakes is to encourage transparency and accountability in the work place.  What kind of communication mistakes have you observed in your business arena?


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