The greatest lesson I have learned in 2012, and one which I now hope to pass on to anyone who will listen, is the importance of talking things out. Radio station 4BC had a great line in its recent TV advertising campaign: “Talk is cheap but it can free your mind. It can start a war. Talk can end a war”. It’s so true. I want to tell you a story that goes back to a bmag column in July. The story ends a week ago, with me and a bloke called Brian having a good old laugh in the coffee shop which is situated directly underneath my radio studio at South Bank.
On 10 July, I suggested a possible
compromise and way forward on the issue
of same-sex marriage. I wrote: “We need two
different types of marriage, to be known as
a Church Marriage and a Civil Marriage. A
Church Marriage would remain between a
man and a woman – unless religious leaders
one day decided otherwise. A Civil Marriage
would include same-sex couples.”
That column generated more feedback
than any other I have written, but one email
stood out. Among those disagreeing with me
was Tony Salacich who wrote: “I’d like to meet
and talk for an hour about the issue.” He went
on to say: “My attempts at writing to [writers
of ] other newspaper articles were either
poorly received or misunderstood.”
And so I agreed. It was the first time I’d
ever sat down with a stranger (albeit a bmag
reader who felt he knew me) to discuss a
difference of opinions.
And it was great. We
talked for just over an hour and I came to
understand why Tony, a former high school
chaplain, was so protective of the institution
I’m not going to elaborate here because
it involves other people in Tony’s life, but
it’s fair to say we both walked away with a
greater appreciation of each others’ views.
inspired was I by Tony’s enthusiasm for sitting
down over a cup of coffee that I then invited
another bmag reader, who had also disagreed
with my same-sex marriage compromise, to
do the same.
I guess she thought I was being
provocative, for she replied: “Thank you
Spencer but I think I’ll give it a miss. I’m just
hoping that some of what you write is just a
job to you and you yourself are a moral and
Fast-forward to earlier this month and a
Twitter user by the name of @GuruatLarge
decided to let fly at me one night, saying
(among other things): “You ruined my radio
station with your knob (sic) ego.”
Again I channelled bmag reader Tony
Salacich with my response: “Come and have a
coffee and we can chat about this.”
Well blow me down if he didn’t say yes!
So just last week, @GuruatLarge (real name
Brian King) and I spent a good 45 minutes
thrashing out our differences!
Except, it wasn’t really like that.
probably spent 10 minutes discussing Brian’s
concerns – worthwhile reminders for me
about what listeners want and need from a
radio station – and then we just connected as
blokes and shot the breeze.
Turns out Brian’s a musician whose band
has been trialling an unusual new recording
technique – he’s going to send me one of his
songs to play on 612 ABC Breakfast – and we
both have a fascination with a phone app that
lets you identify aircraft.
We finished with Brian taking a “selfy”
photo of the two of us, which he later tweeted
with the message: “Had a great time talking
radio with @SpencerHowson this morning.
Great bloke to talk to.”
What Tony and Brian both taught me is
that we should take the time to talk – and,
more importantly, listen. How many times
have you complained about something and
felt your concerns weren’t even heard?
So if, like me, you’re in a position that
involves customer contact and the odd
complaint, see if you can’t take a moment to
understand where they’re coming from. Often
that’s all any of us want – to be heard.
And so we come to the end of my second
year writing for bmag. Thank you for reading
and engaging. It’s a real thrill for me to have
this exchange of ideas every fortnight. Keep
the emails coming. May I wish you and
yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy