Polite skunks can work wonders

If you're brave enough to be one.

This week I was delivering a webinar on what we’ve learned in fundraising over the last two years and how we make sure we don’t revert back to old habits that no longer serve us.

The next day one of the people on the webinar told me;

‘Thank you for the session – I had to apply the polite skunk at a picnic mantra this morning! But I do so with some confidence from your session. Thank you.’

What is a polite skunk at a picnic?

Being the skunk at a picnic means you’re not wanted or you’re even actively avoided.

A skunk at a picnic asks questions about ‘how we do things here.’ Skunks ask ‘Why?’ Skunks will challenge if something doesn’t feel right. Skunks are brave because they ask the questions that others are thinking to themselves but are not courageous enough to ask out loud.

You have to have bravery and resilience to be a skunk at a picnic. However, if you have insights or ideas as to why something might not work, or is not working, or you have a different viewpoint it’s vital to speak up. Otherwise groupthink and the status quo rules and the different and potentially better approach never sees the light of day.

Being the skunk at a picnic means speaking up.

Not everyone will like you doing that. That’s why it’s important to be a polite skunk.

Voice your opinion in a kind and measured way, that encourages discussion and so that others don’t lose face or feel criticised. (people are often emotionally attached to ideas, products and the way things have always been done)

Use ‘yes and’ rather than ‘no but.’ In fact start every sentence at your picnic with ‘yes and’ to soften the blow. ‘Yes and, help me understand why we do it this way’ ‘Yes and, what if we approached it from a supporters perspective?’

‘Skunk at a picnic’ might even be a useful phrase to highlight that you know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion but it’s your role to challenge the status quo.

If you’re not occasionally a skunk at a picnic are you doing the best job or are you taking the path of least resistance?

And back to my webinar attendee… when I asked them how it went they said ‘It was met openly, and a follow up discussion around it and an apology’

And we agreed that ‘Polite skunks can work wonders…..’

Being a polite skunk at a picnic requires bravery and confidence. If you’re looking for confidence boosting tips check out my ebook on ‘How to have confidence at work’ or if you’re looking for more direct help, join a Lucidity mastermind group or the Lucidity Network. For more information get in touch at lucy@lucidity.org.uk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to the weekly email for tips on creativity and innovation

Subscribe to Lucidity Insights