I was in the BBC studio last week with Fred McAuley. He had been in London for the Sony Radio Academy Awards as part of the News Quiz team so it was nice to have him in the studio for a change rather than me sitting alone with just a pair of headphones for company. The topic was Why can’t we just get along? with politicians as the starting point. Our fate hadn’t been decided at that point. Here are the notes I had sent to Fred before the show.
Personality -some peoples’ personalities are much more influential than others. That means they can see another person’s point of view as well as their own – and are likely to have more sophisticated techniques for negotiating and influencing others to come round to their ideas. Really good sales people can do this. Other people have a more rigid personality – black and white are always diametrically opposed. They may never be able to see the shades in between and so can’t compromise because they always know the right way. If people know their own style, they can modify these aspects (through focused coaching with us of course) but the tendency will always be there. Politicians have to start out with pretty strong convictions which are honed in an adversarial manner so it is their life’s work NOT to get along with the other side. . . .at least not in public. Beliefs Linked to personality to a degree, we have all also grown up with different beliefs about how things should be done and can be roused to violence when anyone does it differently – take any example of doing things the right way that crops up between men and women – women always know the right way to do things whereas men are often not bothered if it happens at all and can’t understand female rage when they eventually do something but the ‘wrong’ way! Women often take it as a personal affront. People often feel their most sacred beliefs are in dire peril when they are challenged and need to see off any attackers by becoming more firmly entrenched in those beliefs. As a result they just can’t hear anything to the contrary. Politically – this gets even more complicated when you have a party leader who is also responsible for followers’ assorted beliefs – which might be more left wing/right wing than his (or her’s . . . one day?) How does a leader juggle all this? Especially after a campaign when you have spent much of your time analysing and explaining why the other side is wrong. It is very difficult then to suddenly see any merit in their arguments. Emotions In all situations, people can usually be reasonable until their emotions are invoked. At that point rationality flees and logic is often inaccessible. Trying to argue with or expecting compromise when someone is highly aroused is often pointless. If both parties are in a highly emotionally charged state then things can get pretty volatile. If you add a clock ticking and any element of threat (the economy will break down, the markets will fold) then the pressure could freeze/ lock people in their thinking. Add in personal ambition, time in the spotlight, exhaustion and it is amazing if anything gets decided. These things are the same for colleagues, families and politicians – though the consequences may vary in magnitude. We work to develop modern, Balanced Leaders to develop the influencing and negotiating skills they need in order to achieve productive workable solutions that people can trust. Now, a week later, the first phase of the coalition has raised some tentative hopes that we may be witnessing a new style of politics where consultative leadership might rule the day. Let’s hope our new leaders have the qualities, the skilled communication and the behaviours that can make this succeed. If you want to hear my chat with Fred, here is the link: BBC Radio Scotland