For a number of years I worked as a political reporter at Parliament Buildings in Wellington (New Zealand).
During my time in that highly competitive pressure-cooker environment I learned a lot about truth, perception, political ‘reality’, and human nature. I hope I also learned to be careful with what I say.

While I was in the Press Gallery and for a while afterwards I filed a regular ‘Politics’ column for the NZ Federated Farmers magazine Straight Furrow. Once, writing a column about some issue to do with how ‘maverick’ Winston Peters was functioning in the then Bolger government I made the comment “This man has lied to me before”. By saying it, I was alerting readers that Peters — who I still regard as arguably the most naturally talented politician of his generation — was a complex operator, and a man of many shades. Someone to watch.

Shortly after publication, Peters stormed into our office in the Press Gallery (he may have been clutching Straight Furrow or not, I don’t recall) and angrily demanded of me: ‘When have I lied to you?

I quickly gave him three examples each of which involved me personally and looked him in the eye. After two or three seconds, his trademark smile appeared and he calmed down. He said something like, ‘Oh. OK then’, muttered to himself, and left the office. He was a man about it.

As Kim Hill, who I worked with at Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’, would say:

‘Which is it? Do you say I’m wrong? Or just that you don’t like me saying it?’

I’ve learned that there are two basic approaches to argument (and these can apply to me under pressure, just as much as the next person):
(1) debate the issues, stand up for yourself and carefully explain your case
(2) deny everything, try to fudge mistakes or wrongdoing and attack your critics

Some people’s aggressiveness towards others whenever challenged demonstrates that they veer towards the latter approach.

In the investment ‘advice’ area, perhaps that’s because in some instances the hype used to spruik ‘investments’ or ‘deals’ resemble the equivalent of headlines on the covers of women’s magazines: ‘20 minutes to a firm bum and thighs’ or ‘Drop a dress size in 7 days’.
In other words, indefensible.

If hyperbolic sales claims can be justified, or if emaciated so-called ‘investment strategies’ promoted by a slippery sales team (whatever their disguise) can be explained as sound or plausible, then, I say: make the case.
If, on reflection, claims have been made that are baseless, or communications issued which are clumsy or misleading — apologise for the error and put it right.

The fevered ducking and diving that some operators engage in when confronted with their shortcomings is an awful spectacle to behold. Far from taking responsibility for their actions, or even delivering a straight answer to a straight question, they bob and weave, deliberately miss the point, and spew venom at their ‘opponents’. (Just like politicians?)

It matters not a damn to me that some of these hyperbolic salesmen may be under financial pressure themselves if they have built a business on separating the naive from their money.

Like most ‘normal’ people, I try to be upfront and careful about how I treat others and how I do business, but I ain’t perfect nor do I claim to be.

We’re each of us entitled to express an opinion, based on experience … what do you think?

[expanded from thoughts I posted elsewhere earlier this year]