To those working in development cooperation, where the pursuit of positive change is paramount, the words of Robert Greene in The Art of Seduction might resonate deeply: “No one is born timid; timidity is a protection we develop.”

In this blog post, I delve into the intriguing connection between Greene’s insight and the prevailing behavior of communicators within the development cooperation landscape. I explore how timidity can inadvertently hinder progress and discuss the transformative potential of bold communication in driving impactful change.

The Paradox of Timidity

Now, I don’t want to take Green’s quote out of context without letting you know. He is not concerned with development cooperation. Green’s work focuses on influencing people in general. Therefore I give you the entire quote and you can see for yourself if you find a certain resemblance with how development cooperation communicates.

“No one is born timid; timidity is a protection we develop. If we never stick our necks out, if we never try, we will never have to suffer the consequences of failure or success. If we are kind and unobtrusive, no one will be offended—in fact we will seem saintly and likable. In truth, timid people are often self-absorbed, obsessed with the way people see them, and not at all saintly.” The Art of Seduction, p.410.

Greene’s observation sheds light on a paradoxical truth. Timidity, a seemingly safe harbor, can actually impede our growth. In our quest to avoid the consequences of failure or success, we often find ourselves restrained and self-absorbed. By sticking to a kind and unobtrusive demeanor, we may appear likable, but this can obscure our true potential and prevent genuine impact.

Timidity in Development Cooperation is happening

In the context of development cooperation, timidity can manifest as a reluctance to challenge the established norms, a fear of offending stakeholders, a hesitance to voice dissenting opinions, or pointing to faults in the approach. This reticence often stems from legitimate concerns, such as job security or upsetting the delicate balance of power within the sector.

Embrace communication more boldly

However, what if we dared to step beyond these self-imposed boundaries? Imagine the impact of a development cooperation ecosystem where communicators moe fearlessly express opinions that challenge the norm. Envision the potential for progress if we openly discuss failures and successes alike, free from the constraints of timidity.

It can be a catalyst for change

Timidity has its roots in the desire for self-preservation, but it’s time to consider the broader picture. What if we reframed communication as a catalyst for change, rather than a means of maintaining appearances? Bold communication doesn’t advocate for recklessness; rather, it champions critical thinking and the exploration of innovative solutions.

Change the purpose from reporting to empowerment

Development cooperation implementation is not solely about appeasing donors; it’s about empowering local communities, addressing complex challenges, and fostering genuine progress. By breaking free from timidity, we can channel our communication efforts towards amplifying the voices of those who matter most—the communities we seek to support.

Bridging the divides and forging a new path

In a sector marked by diverse backgrounds and experiences, bridging the gap between perspectives is essential. This includes acknowledging the divide between those hailing from developed nations and those rooted in developing ones. By embracing bold communication, we can dismantle barriers, build understanding, and collectively work towards a common goal.

Bold communication in development cooperation is not just about enhancing the credibility of our efforts; it’s about fostering a culture of openness, innovation, and progress. It’s about acknowledging that our journey is marked by successes, failures, and most importantly, the courage to learn and grow. As we reflect on Greene’s words, we could challenge ourselves to step out of this timidity and into a future where our voices resonate more.

Further reading

If you liked this article, you should check out this one as well: Overcoming Systemic Challenges in Development Cooperation.