Ban “no comment”

by David Harris on December 10, 2010

The worst comment of all is “no comment.” It implies you are trying to hide something or that the person asking isn’t worth your time to answer. There is always something you can say that is better than “no comment.” As much as fear in management drives the desire to say “no comment,” fight hard against it because you can always be more effective.

How many times have you heard some big corporation say “no comment” only to find out a little later what was really going on? How rarely do you hear “no comment” and see an investigation disappear? More than the merely the literal meaning of the statement, which is already ironic because it is a comment, it has picked up so many associations of corruption that the words are dangerous to utter.

When somebody wants to say “no comment,” what are the alternatives? Of course it depends on what the reality is. In most cases, though, there is something going on that can be explained. For example, if you can’t give content details, give context. Don’t let the rumor mill drive that discussion. If you can’t talk about an ongoing process, at least describe the process in detail and give an expected conclusion timeframe.

If your organization is truly hiding something then you are in a difficult position. So just remember when you walk out the door, the best comment you can make to the world about why you left is “no comment.”

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