People Power: Take responsibility for the truth - Aug/Sept 2022

By Sam Allman

In the early 1960s, when I started in the flooring business, it was either sink or swim; information on how to succeed was not readily available. By the early 1970s, when I opened my own retail store, there still wasn’t much information, especially on how to run a retail flooring business. I was lucky that I had my father and, later, my mill reps for advice and information, but I became frustrated by how little formal education was available. As a sales manager for Horizon Carpet Mills and then Mohawk in the ’80s, my passion for learning did not wane. Nor did my frustration at the lack of information.

In the ’90s, I pestered both Peter Spirer and Don Mercer, presidents of Horizon and Mohawk, respectively, about the need for an employee training program. Shortly after Mohawk purchased Horizon, I moved to Georgia and was made vice president of training for Mohawk and then became dean of Mohawk University. That is when I became aware of Floor Focus. I vividly remember developing one of my first training programs by scouring the magazine for its information.

I am grateful for Floor Focus and its 30 years of existence, which we are celebrating in this issue. Its content has helped me as I have navigated my career. I believe it provides the most comprehensive, unbiased information for this industry. Yes, the magazine carries advertisements, but it reports the news and facts without spin in favor of advertisers.

It’s comforting to have a trusted media resource, when very few of us have confidence in what we read or hear. Consider the latest (July) Gallup Poll findings: Americans’ confidence in two facets of the news media-newspapers and television news-has fallen to all-time lows. Just 16% of U.S. adults now say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers and 11% in television news. Both newspapers’ and television news’ readings are down five percentage points since last year, and, for the second time in a downward trend, a majority of Americans, 53%, now say they have very little or no confidence at all in TV news. (Gallup has tracked Americans’ confidence in newspapers and magazines since 1973 and television news since 1993 as part of its annual polling about major U.S. institutions.)

I believe that Americans’ lack of confidence in the media in general is because many of the news stories sound like advertorials or editorials. Advertorials are written to sell, influence and acquire customers. And that is exactly what propaganda is designed to do.

Rather than complaining about fake, editorialized or spun news, I really should celebrate the plethora of differing viewpoints, agree to disagree with those whose thinking is different from mine, figure out ways to collaborate and find creative solutions agreeable to the mass majority of us. For a free society to function, it is important for different perspectives to be communicated and tolerated. I certainly do not want to leave that power to some government bureaucrat to decide for me. But with that comes the responsibility to determine what’s true, what’s opinion and what is blatantly false.

In the name of political correctness, there is an increasing trend of shutting down discourse that some believe may be subjectively offensive to certain people. We must never accept that we are only free to speak so long as we are expressing thoughts approved by those in power. Free speech involves a degree of tolerance and mutual respect, whereby an individual may not like what someone says but would defend their right to say it. Note, however, that there is a distinction between free speech and harassment, abuse or incitement to commit acts of violence.

The free exchange of ideas, even conflicting ideas, has shown itself to be an engine for creative and out-of-the box thinking. I believe that an environment in which there is an open marketplace of ideas is the only way forward toward greater freedom.

To Separate Truth from Conjecture, Opinion or Falsehood: This responsibility requires us to evaluate everything we hear or read before we accept it as truth. “Healthy skepticism is the basis of all accurate observation,” said Lord Byron. “If I am fool, it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom.” It takes effort to discern the truth. We must do the work to fact-check our information resources. This healthy skepticism is the basis of critical thinking, which I have written about before. Do you accept everything you read or hear because it’s on the Internet, in a book or a prestigious publication?

To Speak the Truth: We must take responsibility for the information we choose to consume and repeat. Let us be sure that what we say is not just something we heard that fits with what we already believe or allows us to avoid acknowledging that our own views are mistaken. The Nazi regime’s ominous words sound very familiar today, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” A person with integrity does what is right, is not deceitful and speaks the truth, even if it is not safe or what will keep him or her in power. Throughout history we have seen countless people who stood up against a falsehood though it may have cost them friends, family, their job, their political office or even their lives.

To Defend the Rights of Free Speech: In a free society, no one has any right to intimidate another into silence through threats or force. Government is in no way positioned to decide what is best for free people to believe. An environment in which people can be criminalized for expressing their point of view will only serve to promote the demise of freedom. Stand up for the right to express ideas and opinion; protect those who are abused, denigrated and bullied for their personal expressions. The consequences for a person’s speech should be limited to having counterarguments put against their ideas.

To Listen to Those with Whom You Disagree: Listen to opposing viewpoints. You might learn something. You might learn that you are wrong. Listening intently to others engenders understanding, opens minds and actually increases the ability to influence those with whom you disagree-“Seek first to understand, and then to be understood,” says author Stephen R. Covey. Besides, you might find common ground, be able to collaborate and find a beneficial solution for you both.

To Articulate a Retraction When Wrong: People (and publications) with “people power” are more interested in what’s right than in being right. It takes real courage to admit when you are wrong, no matter the consequences. Ironically, the willingness to take responsibility for failure or for being wrong increases trust and builds personal credibility.

To Identify Trusted Resources: Building trust takes time. That’s why Floor Focus is one of my trusted resources-30 years of credibility. Trusted resources make it easier to separate truth from falsehood.

It was interesting how many of the German people wanted to blame Hitler and their leaders for World War II. The people were right: their leaders were evil men. But ultimately, the German people bear some accountability. It all started with letting their freedoms be taken away a little at a time. They did not separate for themselves truth from fiction, truth from opinion and real news from fake news. And by then, it was too late.

Copyright 2022 Floor Focus 

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