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In a recent podcast interview I was asked a very interesting question; what does losing dignity in a High Stakes conversation mean?

To everyone it signifies something different.  However, there is one commonality.  For all of us, it represents losing something that is incredibly important. Something that we would go to any length to hold onto if our life depended on it.  

This might be a fear of losing control of a conversation or our emotions.  Losing an argument and being concerned our reputation will be tarnished. Losing the ability to articulate ourselves well and looking stupid. Losing face and walking away with our integrity intact.  Losing the opportunity of being heard. 

Why Do We Strive to Maintain Dignity?

The meaning we attribute to ‘losing dignity’ is driven by a specific value we place in high esteem.  This might be for example, respect, reputation, fairness, family, belonging or inclusion.  When this value feels threatened or challenged, we react, lash out and will do whatever we feel we need to do to protect it or defend it. It is this perceived threat that drives our behaviours and actions.

What Did ‘Losing Dignity’ Mean for Harry and Meghan?

To put this into some kind of context, let’s examine by way of example, how this played out for Harry and Meghan?  While I do not wish to comment on semantics of whether they were right or wrong to do the Oprah interview, I would like to explore what might have driven them to participate in it, knowing the explosive outcome it would create.

Why didn’t they quietly settle down to enjoy their new, liberated life pursuing their commercial opportunities? 

In their eyes, moving to the US seemed their only option. Their ‘terms’ for staying were not accepted so they had no choice but to escape being ‘trapped’ in full time Royal Service without the support, inclusion and respect from members of the family or the institution. 

However, despite their actions, they still hoped to maintain some of their Royal duties.  Perhaps keeping the door open to return one day?  Who knows?

When this clearly wasn’t forthcoming, relations started to become more fractured than they already were.  Compounded by the reasons they chose to move in the first place, it appears for them, their ‘lost dignity’ during negotiations manifested as a failure to be heard, accepted, respected, included, valued or recognised.

So what was the real motivator to pursue the interview and what did they hope to achieve from it?  They must have realised it would stir a hornets’ nest and impact relationships that were clearly already very tenuous.  

Did they seek ‘justice’ to set the record straight?  Was it driven by the lack of ‘fairness’ in how they had been treated and portrayed disingenuously? (in their opinion) Did they feel they no longer ‘belonged’, they lost their identity and felt alienated? Was it driven by retaliation?  The fact that they were so shocked and hurt by racist comments and wanted to inflict the same pain and humiliation on certain members of the Royal Family too? Was it motivated by their need for ‘recognition’ and ‘significance’ because they had wanted to maintain some of their Royal duties? Or did it boil down to a perception of betrayal of ‘trust’ and ‘loyalty’ that pushed them over the top?

So What Now?

There are still many unanswered questions. Too many difficult and uncomfortable conversations.  Too many words said that can’t be unsaid. A few too many holes in their story which has cast an element of doubt on the veracity of their version of events. 

While it appears (at time of writing) the Queen has taken matters into her own hands, the interview so far seems to have created a greater chasm between Prince William and Prince Charles. Was that the intention?

One thing is for certain, right now, it will take a concerted effort to rebuild those crumbling bridges if this is in fact what all concerned want. Too much damage has been done.  

Plainly put, perhaps the real reason they forged ahead with the interview was  they felt they had lost their voice, their power, their status and their dignity during those challenging conversations!

About the author

Nicole Posner

Nicole Posner is a communication and conflict expert, supporting leaders and high performing teams to communicate more effectively and navigate difficult conversations with confidence, courage and compassion. As a Consultant, Trainer, accredited Workplace Mediator, Executive Conflict Coach and finalist in the National Mediation Awards 2020, Nicole has an interest in the Psychology of Conflict combined with extensive experience in communication. Her clients include CEO’s, Leaders, Senior Executives and their teams across multiple sectors. To find out more about Nicole and her work, visit: email: LinkedIn:

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