Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak, Slow to Wrath
If you are like most fisheries biologists, you chose your career because you like working with fish, not because you like working with people. You definitely did not choose your career because you wanted to field complaints from disgruntled anglers or commercial fishers. I consider the fishing to be pretty good here in Vermont, where I serve as a fisheries biologist, and yet people still complain. “The best fishing in Vermont is in New Hampshire,” they say. So the anglers in New Hampshire must be really happy, right? No, there the saying is, “The best fishing in New Hampshire is in Vermont (or Maine).” In truth, there are many happy anglers, and in most cases, the satisfied anglers are far more numerous than the dissatisfied ones, but angry anglers are much more motivated to contact their local fisheries biologist. When a disgruntled stakeholder does come to call, the interaction can be negative, frustrating, and wasteful or positive, exhilarating, and educational, both for the biologist and the stakeholder. The outcome depends largely on the skill and composure of the fisheries biologist, who can see any interaction with a stakeholder as an opportunity to inform and be informed. My experience in Vermont, where arguing is a sport, has demonstrated the value of three simple principles when dealing with disgruntled anglers (or coworkers or friends or family members). These principles are swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.