GUIDELINES FOR ETHICAL SPEAKING

Make Sure Your Goals Are Ethically Sound

Make Sure Your Goals Are Ethically Sound

Not long ago, I spoke with a former student—we will call her Melissa—who had turned down a job in the public relations department of the American Tobacco Institute. Why? Not because of the salary (which was generous) or the work schedule (which was ideal). Melissa declined the job because it would have required her to lobby on behalf of the cigarette industry. Knowing that cigarettes are the number one health hazard in theUnited States, Melissa did not believe she could ethically promote a product that she saw as responsible for thousand of details and illnesses each year.

Given Melissa’s view of the dangers of cigarette smoking, there can be no doubt that she made an ethically informed decision to turn down the job with the American Tobacco Institute. On the other side of the coin, someone with a different view of cigarette smoking could make an ethically informed decision to take the job. The point of this example is not to judge the rightness or wrongness of Melissa’s decision (or of cigarette smoking), but to illustrate how ethical consideration can affect a speaker’s choice of goals. Your first responsibility as a speaker is to ask whether your goals are ethically sound. During World War II, Hitler stirred the German people to condone war, invasion, and genocide. More recently, we have seen politicians who betray the public trust for personal gain, business leaders who defraud investors of millions of dollars, preachers who lead lavish lifestyles at the expense of their religion duties. These can be no doubt that these are not worthy goals.

But think back for a moment to the examples of speechmaking. What do the speakers hope to accomplish? Report on a business project. Improve the quality of education. Pay tribute to a fellow worker. Stop the plague if gun violence in theU.S.Support the Special Olympics. Few people would question that these goals are ethically sound.

As with other ethical issues, there can be gray areas when it comes to assessing a speaker’s goals—areas in which reasonable people with well defined standards of right and wrong can legitimately disagree. But this is not a reason to avoid asking ethical questions. If you are to be a responsible public speaker, you cannot escape assessing the ethical soundness of your goals.

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Comments 1 comment

arminaswittenburg 4 years ago

Ethics are a necessary part of our atmosphere and is incorporated a focus or division of my consulting management and advice. Without ethics in every area of your life, you live a life full of compromise. Thank you for sharing an important focus point for life.

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