Communicating from Our Corners

It’s finally here, November, election month. The political, venom-spewing, hate mongering will end (hopefully). It’s hard to tune it out what with internet memes, pundit reports, and social media screaming at us in an endless cycle. To me, your friendly neighbor from up north, much of it is a communication problem. Truly, as a nation, the United States has stopped talking and even worse, stopped listening.

Let’s take a look back over the last few months and how we got to now.

First the Republicans – and only because their convention was first.

Ted Cruz refused to endorse Donald Trump. Whether you liked or supported him doesn’t matter for this discussion. What matters is that a crowd of people disagreed with his message so much that they booed him, exhibiting bad behavior of their own. It was then followed by an on-the-convention floor lashing from delegates calling him a traitor and worse.

A week later, the Bernie or Bust Democrats did the same thing. They refused to listen and spewed hateful rhetoric, even after their candidate had given his endorsement to the other candidate.

And then on to the debates. I watched a stuttering Donald Trump talk about, well, I’m not sure what. As a leadership trainer, I could give him a few pointers on how to relate to a crowd. Given concerns around her ability to connect, Hillary tried her best to really relate to the crowd. The past three weeks of Saturday Night Live skits have captured her focus-group, message-vetted style.

Then on to a cycle of one-liners from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, including the  “Nasty Woman” and â€œBasket of Deplorables” comments.

Throw in there the accusations of sexual misconduct, Wikileaks, comments about other country involvement and others. It’s a mad ferris wheel going around and around and we are desperately waiting to get off.

The right to protest and question is one that makes the United States a country full of ideas and opportunities. Yet somewhere along the way, people have forgotten how to listen, to compromise, to empathize, and to respond based on reasoning rather than emotions. They’ve moved deeper into their corners.

Are you in a corner looking out? Have you said or thought any of the following?
– “I’m going to vote for candidate A because I hate candidate B!”
– “I’m not going to vote at all!”
– “I believe everything that my candidate says, without question!”
– “Everything the other candidate says is wrong, without question!”
– “Never Trump!”
– “Never Hillary!”

If you said yes to any of these, you’re likely in a political corner.

What would happen if you said “never” about working with someone at your office or on your team? What would happen if you were asked to bring reasoning and facts about a project to help solve a problem but you refused, saying that the other side was wrong? How would you respond if an employee came to you with the “never” stance? Chances are someone would be making a call to HR.

This lack of leadership comes from no one listening, compromising, or empathizing.  It’s easy to boo someone. It’s harder to shake hands and find a way to work together.

We all live in our own corners but we must recognize when we become the “Never”, the one whom people stop listening to because all they do is boo.  And we must recognize the impact we have on others when we become the “Never”.

As a leader, what are you seeing from your vantage point?  Are you seeing only your own perspective?  Or are you able to walk across the room and see it from others’?  Are you expecting everyone on your team as well as others in the organization to flex to your point of view?  Or are you able to recognize that being part of something bigger than yourself sometimes means that you have to decrease your own self and desires so that the larger vision is achieved.  In my book, How Not to Act like a BLEEP at Work, I show how critical empathy and perspective are in helping teams come together.  Not always an easy thing to do but vital to the success of an organization as it meets the mission and bottom line.

I challenge you, as an individual leader and member of both your work and personal communities, to visit another corner and see things from that perspective. You don’t have to change your views. But maybe, just maybe, you can find a way to meet in the middle.  Your team will notice and your organization will be the better for your efforts to try and meet people where they are.

And please, exercise your right to vote!


Wise Words Newsletter – read the rest of the November newsletter here!