He Said, She Said: Communication Lessons From NOC Saga [TFC 115]

Social media has been set abuzz last month ever since explosive allegations involving some of the key personnel behind NOC (Night Owl Cinematics), one of the biggest YouTube channels in Singapore started surfacing online anonymously. While we are not here to play the judge and decide who’s right or wrong, we do think there are some valuable lessons to learn about communication from this saga that we can apply to our daily lives. Take a break from the gossip and listen to TFC 115 for a fresh perspective.

Not all drama is bad. From what has transpired in the NOC saga thus far, Reggie identifies 3 key ideas on communication that everyone can learn from: recognising dynamic parameters, the importance of de-escalation and questioning what governs our beliefs & thoughts. Enhance your own communication style with these important ideas.

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podcast Transcript

Reggie: Hey Coconuts! Yes yes, I know. I’ve come to a new low to need to join in the whole media cycle and influencers blah, blah, blah kind of thing… just to get streams and get downloads and what have you. But okay, I know some of you guys have been asking me, you DM me about this whole NOC thing. What are my thoughts, blah, blah, blah… 

I know it’s not personal finance related, but I thought it was a good platform based on what has already happened to hone in on some of the communication lessons that we can all learn from. Because I’m sure by now you realize that in your personal finance journey, whether or not it’s starting a family with your partner, whether is it starting a business, whether is it negotiating with your team and your boss, your whatever… it’s a lot of communication involved, right? 

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As much as all these theories or these best practices, it’s a lot about communicating and coming to alignment on all those jazz. So with that, I decided that yeah, I’m going to go here, guys. I’m going to come here and use some of what has happened with the NOC saga to extrapolate some communication lessons that we can all pick up on. I don’t know how to feel about this, but yes. 

Good morning, everyone! I welcome you to another day with The Financial Coconut. In our podcast, we are debunking financial myths, discovering best financial practices and discussing financial strategies that fits our unique life. You get it, ultimately empowering us to create a life we love while managing our finances well.

Today, we’re going to focus on communication lessons… just so happened that I’ll be using some of the NOC examples of what happened out there, at least the known ones to leverage or that to translate those communication lessons.

Okay. I reiterate, my focus today is to talk about communication and share some core ideas that are used for a very long time and I thought they work very well and I have overtime mitigated a lot of these spats and a lot of these issues at least in the recent years. I’ve been there, done that. I’ve been through all the terrible breakups, whether is it relationship, whether is it family, whether is it friends or even business partner and all that. 

You see it play out now with the whole NOC saga… let us come together on this. My goal is communication, not about the saga. I’m not taking sides. I’m not trying to tell you who’s right, how to read in between the lines and all of that. There’s no real point in doing all those. But of course, Xiaxue is the biggest winner here. She just got a lot of traction, a lot of leads and what have you, right? Probably Wah!Banana has a lot of a lot of new projects because the NOC is dead. 

But yes, all that aside, for all of you listening, if all the foreign listeners that don’t know what the hell is going on, NOC (Night Owl Cinematics) is one of the largest, if not the largest, maybe the second largest YouTube channel in the YouTube ecosystem in Singapore. They have a lot of influencers, they churn a lot of content and what have you. 

Recently, two of the founders have come into a public spat about how shitty things were for a very long time. It’s not a one off thing and for all of you local listeners, I don’t need to tell you, and I’m not going to go to the whole flow, like who say what, what happened? Tons of people are covering that already. 

But at this point in time, I think we can realize that underpinning this whole discussion, this whole saga is that there are a lot of communication problems. People have lawyered up and everybody’s trying to take sides and trying to pull people around to believe in their side of the story. I can say that it’s the end. It’s more or less the end already. There will be no pleasant ending on this whole thing so there’s a lot of shit to unravel. 

Yes, if you want to continue to be gossipy about some of these things, to be a lot more intelligent then you can join our friends at Yah Lah BUT… but I’m just going to use and focus on the communication lessons. I want to put it out there that there are many different ways to communicate. Everybody has their own styles and there are many different techniques out there that people use. 

I am a strong believer that it’s not just about the techniques but how you perceive some of these things, the inner world outer world kind of thing. Your inner world: your perspective, your mindsets, how you look at certain things will affect how you present which is your external world: what you say, how you present yourself, the kind of questions you ask is a reflection of how you think and how you feel and how you experience internally. I’m going to give you a little bit of both sides to use them as learning points and hopefully you can elevate your communication abilities and recognize the complexity of a discussion, okay? 

My first communication lesson for all of you listening until now… quite a miracle that you never dropped out of a TFC podcast although we have taken like a super big pivot away from what we usually do. The first communication lesson that I think we all should vividly remember is that parameters are dynamic. What do I mean by parameters are dynamic? First thing you need to understand is that every time when we go into some sort of an agreement, whether or not is it official, whether or not there’s a contract… it can be a “oh, you promised…”,or it could be a mutual understanding or it could be a verbal agreement or could just be… both of you feel like “okay, we’re aligned on this” and it is what it is, okay?

Any time when you go into an agreement, which is where most people want to be at, right? Anytime when you go into an agreement, the parameters are there, which means at that point in time, what is your situation? At that point in time, you’re doing fine. Your work is good. Your life is going fine. Relationship is okay. You have built up all these goodwill with your friends and with your life partner, with the office and all that jazz. All of those are the parameters that are ongoing for you at that point in time. 

So given all the parameters, you decide “okay, I’m going to start a business with my friend.”. We use that example. I am going to start a business with my friend and then he or she will also have their own set of parameters that are based on their current circumstance and then you do a business together. After a while, you realize “oh my god, my situation has changed.” Now, I’ve lost my job or my whole sector has gone down or suddenly, I realized that something has happened to my wife or something happened to my husband or my kids have some issues. 

The thing is, although there may be a contract, there may be a written agreement of some form, the situation has changed so your parameters in essence have moved. This whole parameter thing, it’s always changing, always moving. As you experience new things, as you experience new facets of life, as you meet more people, all these parameters are changing. 

In other words, you have to consistently realign and keep coming back to check with whoever you’re working with, whichever life partner you’ve chosen or all the people that you’re close with that you have something ongoing that you guys agreed previously to constantly realign, constantly check what’s going on. Has anything changed at all? Have we come together… is what we agreed previously still on? Any circumstances have changed? 

I think this is extremely, extremely important and from the whole NOC saga, you can tell that they have not done this for a very long time. From just being an innocent duo partner and then starting a business together and then the business grow very fast and then some people have to take on super big leadership role compared to where it was… all these are changing circumstances which is why entrepreneurs change and change so fast which is why you got to be amazed with a founder-led company that can go listed. 

Because from an “innocent” entrepreneur in a startup space to grow all the way to become a CEO of a listed company, that is so much change ongoing again and again but you don’t need to do that. Even in your day-to-day life, things are changing, right? When you and your partner, when you first got together, you two were still in school, innocent. We just want companionship and I think you are cute, we have a good time together. After that, maybe the guys, they graduate later, the girls go out first… in Singapore, the guys are slower in terms of graduation. The ladies go out first and then ladies have a job. Now they are exposed to a whole different facet of life, a whole different facet of people out there. 

Parameters change, they are no longer uni kids anymore. So things are changing and you got to realign, right? You got to come back and ask what’s going on, how are things happening and all that. It’s a consistent effort that you got to keep realigning. Some of my friends, they do it once a year. They have those kind of like… once a year, we sit down and as a partner, whether in life, in work, in business, we review and we talk about what happened this whole year, blah, blah, blah. Are we still aligned on certain things? What are our goals next few years? 

I think this is something that a lot of people don’t recognize. All the other things about how to set goals together, mutually understand, blah, blah, blah… all those things, people talk about it all the time, but this basis is something that I think a lot of people don’t see. People will harbour… “oh last time you tell me like that what?” 

Yes, yes, yes. It’s true. In the past, it was like this but we are not in the past any more. Things have changed. Although we agreed before, you can use the past to corner me to say that “oh, I didn’t keep up to my side of the agreement” and blah, blah. Yes, you can do that. It’s socially acceptable. “Last time you say this, now things have changed”… but is that what you’re trying to achieve? Are you trying to push me out of the situation or are we trying to come together again and keep chugging along on our mutual part of growth and progress? 

If we are trying to align, then you have to recognize that what’s in the past is in the past. Parameters are different now, okay? I think this is the part that is fundamentally impeding NOC and also a lot of other businesses where you see a lot of founder dispute, you see a lot of business people, they break up and all those kinds of things both in life and at work. 

This is a big, big problem, parameters changing and I think this is the part where it makes work and life a bit hard to separate. All that jazz, we can talk about next time, but I hope that you will learn to recognize this thing. Don’t keep harping on last time you say, last time you say… last time, last time lah. Times have changed. Parameters have shifted. What is important is we realign, okay? That is communication lesson number one. 

Communication lesson number two from this whole NOC saga is always de-escalate first. Logic don’t make sense when the defensive wall is high. I will talk to you a little bit more after a word from our sponsor.

We’re going to talk a little bit about de-escalation. What is de-escalation? Essentially, it’s when people are emotionally heightened, they want to protect themselves. You can tell both sides are emotionally hyped. Maybe Sylvia, a little bit more emotionally heightened and I don’t blame her. Everybody is attacking her, right? You don’t even know her. You don’t even know exactly what’s going on. It’s a “he say, she say” kind of situation. Of course, it does seem like the allegations has tilted against her but she’s being attacked on all corners. You can say that “oh, because last time she attacked the other people” blah, blah, blah… I’m not here to chase the cause of it. I’m just looking at the situation and what we can learn. 

The reality is it takes two hands to clap. This is something that we cannot lie to ourselves. It takes two hands to clap and you are always complicit in whatever situation as long as you are part of the situation. Some people say I’m in an abusive relationship. Let’s say you’re in an abusive relationship. Abusive does not mean it needs to be like really abuse. It can be emotional abuse, it can be all those things. 

Firstly, I want to let you know that I know it’s very hard to get out of an abusive relationship. I feel you. I’ve been there, but at the core, you cannot deny that you’re complicit in this situation also. You’ve allowed the other party to essentially abuse you at some level. I know it does not sound great. It doesn’t sound great, but this is the reality. That’s not saying that you have power to come out. No, it’s a lot more complicated. 

The situation is as such. You’re always complicit as long as you are part of the situation, you are part of the relationship. With that in mind, you cannot just blame Sylvia alone, neither you can blame Ryan alone. They all have some sort of interaction, they are all part of this thing so both sides are not doing great in terms of de-escalation of emotions. What do I mean by de-escalation? When people are emotional, they build out their defensive wall. Whatever you tell them, they’re not going to listen. 

Some of the clear signs when people build up their defensive wall is when they fold their arms, they’re looking away, they pick up their phones, they’re looking down, they’re not really interacting with you. You know that presence is not really with you and they’re clinging on to something else for their lives. When kids, especially when you scold them and then they hold onto their phone, they text. They don’t even want to look at you. That is them building up their defensive wall to protect themselves. 

In such a scenario, what a lot of people do… they use more force. They shout louder, blame more, attack more, throw more examples. All those things do not work. It further heightens the emotions, it further heightens the situation and you’re not going to get the communication across at all. It’s not going to happen at all. You may push the situation to a point of no return, which seems like what is currently happening at NOC and based on some of the videos and all, you can tell… emotions were very heightened. Nobody really managed this whole thing and it’s very hard when it’s between two parties, they’re all leaders and there’s no other people that can do the management or the de-escalation of the emotions. 

What do I mean by de-escalating emotions? Some of the classic ways of de-escalating emotion… if you are aware, you can say “hey, I am feeling uncomfortable. I need a break from this. I need to tap out of this” or if you are emotionally aware, that means you’re more attuned with your emotions… you can feel your body tightening. You can feel that kind of anxiety building up. That is amazing. That means you’re in a different league altogether and if you can feel, one of your best bet is to let the other party know that “hey, this is getting extremely uncomfortable. I don’t really want to pursue this for now. Can we take a break and we can come back again?” 

This is drawing boundaries. A lot of people talk about drawing boundaries. If you are the party that is emotionally more aware and the other party is becoming more emotionally heightened. In order to de-escalate, you can point out to the other party to say that “hey, I feel like you are emotionally heightened. I feel like you are feeling attacked and I want to reassure you that I’m not attacking you personally. I’m just very irritated with the situation and I’m sure you are too. Can we take a breather and work on this thing together? We are on the same team, right? I want to make this work.” 

Of course, if you’re already in a situation that you don’t want to make this work, then it becomes both sides attacking each other, which is currently what is happening. If you’re already in that situation, then you can stop the podcast. You don’t need to be in any communication lessons. At the core, you want to make it work. You want to salvage the situation or you want to go past the situation. You need to bring this down. There are many techniques and I’ve just shared with you a few. 

Letting the other party know is always the best bet to start and once you de-escalate the emotions, everybody kind of bring it down, be a little bit more chill about it then you can talk a little bit more. Sometimes, this takes a few days. “You know, guys, I’m overwhelmed. I cannot handle anymore. I will reconvene with you in two days” and then during that two days, you as an individual should go out and do your thing and heal and not drown in work and all that jazz. You should take a break and go out and breathe and think about whatever the other party has said to you. I think this is important. If you double down where people are heightened, it’s going to break, it’s going to hurt the other party and we’re going to reach a situation of no return. 

Any time someone is escalated… let’s say in your relationship with your partner, when you want to discuss about having a family. Let’s say you want to have a family and it gets very emotional because one side does not want to have a family at all which is quite common out there today. You cannot just force and say “oh, you don’t want family, then you’re not good… are you robbing me of my rights?” Although those are what you’re really feeling, yes, I get it. You are feeling that way, you’re feeling like your partner is impeding your progress and all that, but all the attacking on the other side, it’s not going to crack anything. It’s not going to get you anywhere. 

Instead, you should focus on de-escalating either yourself or the other party. Give everybody some sort of breather and come back and reconvene on why is it like that? Which brings me to point number three: what is governing my thoughts? What is governing my thoughts or my beliefs, my ideas? 

What is governing… is extremely important and not so much the idea itself. Too many people are talking about things on the idea itself, where it’s like… “why you don’t have kids?” “Oh, too expensive lor” and then that’s the end of the story. “Do you want to hire more people?” “Don’t want lah, too risky” and then that’s the end of the story. “Do you want to invest?” “No lah, too much risk.” 

I think this is the part where a lot of people can improve a little bit more to recognize that all those thoughts make no sense. They’re quite nonsense, right? “Too risky”, “I don’t feel like doing it”. What is “don’t feel like doing it”? The reality is behind all the “don’t feel like doing it”, or “too risky”, those kind of tagline statements exist all sorts of principles that are governing it. 

Some of these things will be like experiences, personal experiences or certain narratives that people have internalized, or even some sort of data, some studies out there that people internalize to say “oh yeah, this is what it is”. You see it in the spat between the two of them in NOC. You feel like “what the hell?” Both sides like talking about the same thing but in total different way, or like totally different things altogether even. 

That is exactly what is going on with a lot of people on a day-to-day discussion or on discussions of trying to align. Because you say, I say, he say, she say… what do you actually mean? When someone tells you some of these kind of statements, you have to dig further to try to find out what is the underlying experience and narrative that is governing that thought. Usually, it will come to a personal experience. Usually, you will come to some sort of personal story. 

I would think one of the reasons why people don’t really want to set up a family really hinges on this idea of them being abused or they don’t come from a great family. They don’t come from a great family, that’s why they don’t really want to set up a family. That is one way… I believe it’s a strong reason. I’ve talked to enough people. Anecdotally, I believe that is one of the reasons out there and so there’s no point in flaming them for wanting or not, but try to understand where they are and what governs this to then crack the code. 

So if your goal is to convince the other party, you have to help them relive the experience. It is very hard, okay? You have to help them relive the experience. In other words, they go through this whole thing, they go through this whole family issue and blah, blah, blah. You can take it as okay, this is what it is, I’m not going to touch it. But if you want to change the heart to become okay, maybe we can really set up a family, you got to work through with them the whole experience… what do your parents do to you, what was the abuse like and all that. 

You got to walk through this whole process with them and reframe the way they look at it. Ultimately, your goal… there’s a lot of techniques but ultimately, your goal is instead of them saying “I don’t want to have a family at all”, it will be like “okay, maybe I could have a family in the view that I believe is a great family.” That does not mean that definitely, you will create a great family. 

It tends to be a lot harder than it is but that is the part that I think a lot of people need to recognize when people say a certain statement or people share with you a certain thought. That is not the important part. The important part, if you already agree, I would still push you further to try to understand what is underneath, but if you don’t agree, that’s not the important part. The important part is why is it like that? Dig dig dig… but the digging is sophisticated. It is hard. 

We can talk a little bit more about this if you guys actually enjoy this communication lesson but I feel like this is the part where a lot of people don’t recognize. It’s not about the thoughts itself, but it’s really about the underlying experiences and I also want to throw in something… is that if there are no shared experiences, it will be very hard for you to develop anything. If you look at what is happening currently in the situation between the whole bunch of them, it is that absence of discussion of the thought of what is underlying all these things. Nobody’s talking about it, right?

So it ends up become a “you say, I say, he say, she say” and you get nowhere because nobody’s breaking into the deepest stuff and I respect if they don’t want to do it, but I can tell you that if they’re not going to go down deeper to really crack it and solve it, the problems will repeat even with another situation that they are personally in and there will be no way out for this whole saga. 

I thank you for listening all the way until here. I know it’s a little bit different from what we usually do. I hope you found it beneficial. I’m leveraging or what is happening out there who share some of these communication lessons and techniques that I’ve picked up over the years that really helped me to carve a better life, a better relationship with my friends, better relationship with my partner, better relationship with my business partner, better relationship with my team. I think all that jazz is important, right? 

I’m going to sum up and… I’m not saying these are the only three things that you need to be like “ooh, super communicator!” No, no, no, no. There are many other things I’m sure you’ve heard out there: asking questions, being vulnerable, drawing boundaries… whatever people are saying out there, it’s out there. I’m just pointing out the things that I feel are rarer. People don’t talk about it as much and it’s very vivid in the NOC saga and also parts of the more nuanced idea of communication rather than “just do this”. 

So I’m going to sum up the three communications lessons from this whole saga. Number one is parameters are dynamic. In other words, if you look at Ryan and Sylvia, they started out as a couple. They got into this whole thing. They grew very fast and then they started recruiting a lot of people. NOC grew so fast and then everybody was jostled into leadership role while churning and growing and all that. 

It’s so difficult to keep changing and upgrading and what have you, so their parameters are changing again and again and again, and they have probably not done a lot of realignment in the process. When they don’t do that, it snowballs and problem exists which is what we see now. So recognize that parameters are dynamic and you got to check in with all the relationships that you care to keep realigning, to recognize what is the new agreement that we can come together with. Although fundamentally, you may have some sort of agreement, some sort of contract… those things, I don’t think people really want to change it, but you got to recognize all the other things that can be a little bit more fluid and you can realign so that everybody is cool again to the work to the common goals. 

Number two is to always de-escalate emotions first. It does not matter whether you’re right or wrong. That is a moral structure to begin with. The idea here is that once people are emotionally heightened, they build up their wall. They want to protect themselves and whatever you say is not going to get to them. If you’re going to hit harder, it may break them and you will reach a situation like what is happening at NOC where nothing is going to happen or whatever mitigation… nothing’s going to happen. There’s no more goodwill left in this relationship. So always learn to de-escalate emotions, whether is it your own emotions or the other party’s emotions. 

Recognizing it is the first step. After that, always ask for a pause if you’re feeling emotional and if you are more able, you can help to de-escalate the other party’s emotions by reassuring them that hey, I’m not here to attack you. It’s not personal. Most of the time is not personal, okay? Really, most of the time it’s a lot more situational, it’s a lot more internal rather than this person is an ass like that. It’s not like that. De-escalate emotions, only then you can really talk through what is going on, which brings me to point number three is to focus on what is governing the thought. 

The thought itself don’t matter. The thought, the idea, the beliefs, whatever, all those things, whatever name you put it, they don’t really matter as much. What matters is what is underneath all those things. What informed the thought? What informed the beliefs? What informed all these are experiences, the narratives that people have internalized, a lot of emotional stuff that people have gone through. 

If you can recognize these three things and practice some of the stuff that I have shared with you, trust me, your emotions will be a lot better. Your relationships will be a lot better. At least it worked very well for me and I hope it works for you too and I thank you for listening all the way to the end of something that I just try to see if it works. Let me know if it’s something that you guys enjoy and I will be happy to share with you once a while some tangent topics there is not always personal finance related. So yes, I hope you learnt something useful today. See ya!

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With that, have a great day ahead. Stay tuned next week and always remember: personal finance can be chill, clear and sustainable for all.

Okay, I hope you learnt something fun. I hope you learned something useful and once again, I’m saying I’m not here to… I am definitely here to get clicks, for sure. So if you listen until now and you think I put in the effort, share with your friends. Put some good stuff out there. It’s not always… it’s just about spat on both ends. 

But at the core, I think communication is indeed very important. A lot of experts that we talked to, whether is it financial planning or what is it doing your business and all that, always talk about communication. How do you communicate… and when I asked them, I feel a lot of them never give me very good answers but because I spent a lot of bandwidth trying to understand this, so I hope these things help you. Definitely all your boundaries and all that, they do add on but these three are what I feel at the core really will elevate your whole communication abilities. 

With that, let me know if you enjoyed it. Let me know if you like it. Come to our Telegram group, talk to us and what have you. Share with your friends, give us five star. It will really help the podcasts a lot. So with that, let’s end for today. 

Next week, we’re going to resume originally planned content which is geoarbitrage and remote working. I think that is what it is. I’m going to spend a few more weeks to talk about work, about future of the work, life and all those kinds of stuff, okay? So I hope you continue to have fun and learn some good things and we will come back with you next week. See ya!

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