Robb Willer, Political Polarization, and the Essence of Persuasion

We have written recently about the political divide in our country and how ineffective so many of us are in our communication on political topics. No one listens, everyone judges, and everyone believes that they are morally right in their beliefs. We are all living in our own echo chambers, where we distance ourselves from people who disagree, and in fact are willing to end friendships because of differing political beliefs. I have heard many friends, dear friends, well-educated, well-informed, otherwise-kind people, recently say something like “I could never be friends with anyone who voted for _____.”

This change is dangerous and troubling on so many levels. It is bad for our country, it is bad for our politics, it is bad for our communities and friendships, and I believe it is bad for our kids. A good parent would never ever teach their child to act this way. Our schools all teach concepts of inclusion and acceptance. But then these concepts stop at the political water’s edge.

I recently stumbled across the following TedTalk, by a guy named Robb Willer. He talks about the way we speak to each other regarding politics. And rather than attempt to paraphrase him, I strongly recommend the attached link to you. He talks about persuasion in a wonderful way, and the importance of trying to connect ideas to people’s underlying moral beliefs, rather than just argue with them about the specific policy. He talks about “knowing your audience” in a really interesting way.

My point here today is two-fold:

  1. We need to start trying to understand each other, rather than just yell louder and try to overpower each other. Our country needs to learn how to connect, discuss, debate. When we do that, our country will be great again. Our country needs to re-calibrate the way we communicate, in a major way.
  2. And from a business perspective, we need to understand how to persuade in a truly effective way. Persuasion is not about yelling louder, pandering to the crowd, and dropping the microphone. Persuasion is about understanding how to connect to people, and what they think, believe, want, etc. When we can truly understand why a person feels the way they do, then and only then do we have a chance to persuade them to another way of thinking.

Have a great day.

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.