Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Be Careful In A World of Competing Narratives -- a response to Scott Adams

We don't usually touch on politics here but felt compelled to respond to a blog written by cartoonist-turned-pundit Scott Adams. You can read his post, "Be Careful What You Wish For (especially if it is Hitler)."

I'm a fan of Scott Adams the cartoonist but grow increasingly exasperated with Scott Adams the pundit – based on articles like this one. I agree with part of it but disagree with more of the post. It touches on several issues that are relevant to those who, as Adams is, a "trained persuader,"

Adams is right when he says, “we’re all seeing what we expect to see,” underscoring the importance of people’s narrative when interpreting events. And he’s right that when presented with a reality that undermines the foundation of their narrative, people tend to “double down” (a term widely used on both sides) and support their narrative even more strongly. After all no one wants “live their lives as confirmed morons.”  

Unfortunately, Adams ignores the real problem. 

Exasperated by social media (this post included, no doubt), there not only is not much middle ground anymore – there is also a lack of willingness to try to seek middle ground. And that is affecting businesses, too.

We can’t agree on facts anymore. We can't agree on which media is credible, either. That's a real problem for marketers.

As a "trained persuader," Adams could have addressed -- and should have addressed -- how to communicate to (and with) people who hold opposing narratives. This is critically important for the future of our country because, as Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Instead, Adams’ post says, “ordinary people doing ordinary things (could)… turn Trump into an actual Hitler” and that he “can think of dozens of ways the protesters could cause the thing they are trying to prevent.” So while Adams doesn’t think Trump is the next Hitler, he’s already blaming those afraid of that scenario to be the ones who cause it. That kind of blaming he victims is dangerous.

Meanwhile, when some corporate leaders have issued statements in favor or against one thing or another, the immediate response is to boycott them and their companies. What we need are political leaders to help bridge the chasm of the two competing narratives, to work together in the best interests of our great country. 

It's hard to reunite the country when labeling the opposing side as "the enemy.” 

As persuaders, we need to consider what we can do to help our clients to communicate with all their key constituents. Increasingly we may have to address the reality of the political divide without taking stances that will alienate either side. And we will have to find a way to do so while being true to the clients and ourselves.