Labour in 2017 - The way to beat people who seem authentic is to actually be authentic.
Western politics has again swung from left to right, but this time with a twist. Politics and politicians are viewed with a near universal distrust. Soundbites, expenses, party lines, refusing to answer questions directly have combined with serious economic and cultural challenges. As a result the belief has grown that politics and politicians are completely removed from the needs of ordinary people
Into that vacuum have stepped the New Authentics. Mostly on the right, they offer simple solutions to complex problems, and, crucially, they appear authentic. Against a backdrop of distrust these people seem – to some - to be the honest, straight talking antidote to self-serving, disinterested, distant and disingenuous politicians. Their votes are on the rise.
What is to be done?
Clearly there isn’t a simple short term answer. Sorry about that. The political cycle will continue and the pendulum will swing. In the meantime, we must start to look at ourselves.
The response of the left to these challenges has often been to condemn the personalities of these New Authentics for being extreme, unhinged and unelectable. Unfortunately being called anti-establishment by an unpopular establishment only strengthens them.
But we’ve gone way beyond that.
Because we can’t believe that anyone would vote for these people we have too often fallen into the trap of condemning the voters who do. Blaming voters for how they vote is no more sensible than a supermarket blaming shoppers for going elsewhere. How dare you buy their bread? Are you anti-wholemeal?
How many people are likely to say: “I was going to vote UKIP because I was worried about immigration, but then a Labour representative called me a racist fool. That showed me, I only ever vote Labour now.”
In this political Groundhog Day we shout, point the finger and blame other people and wake up the following morning to defeat. Defeats about which we shout, point the finger and blame other people.
Event + Reaction = Outcome.
In our courses at www.realclear.co.uk we often discuss a simple equation about how we can change things we don’t like: Event + Reaction = Outcome.
Something happens, we respond, and they combine to create the outcome. We might wish that the angry client/voter who rings every Monday would stop ringing and shouting (the event), which leads us to feel stress as we waste 30 valuable minutes getting frustrated at their rant (the reaction) but wishing they would be different is unlikely to change their personality. Instead of focusing on them we need to think about us; how can we change our reaction, and, as a result, get a different outcome?
In the political world it currently goes like this: we see the rise of the leave vote, or the UKIP vote, we react angrily, condemning those who feel that way, and watch as those votes pile up against us. We see a house with a Flag of St George and react by assuming that we aren’t welcome with the result that the occupants feel that we don’t care about them. We hear fears about immigration and react by assuming racism. The outcome, unsurprisingly, is that those with concerns don’t feel listened to.
It is time to change the reaction.
The New Authentics have shown that the old style of doing politics has gone. Most voters don’t want soundbites or vague answers. They want people to talk straight and to listen. We need to ensure we do that. We need to learn to change our reaction to one that helps people feel understood. We cannot hope to force our beliefs onto people dogmatically. To change future events we need to change our reactions to current ones.
We need to develop our representatives, our candidates, our leaders and our spokespeople so that more of us have the skills to connect with people again. The political landscape has changed. So must we. Our politics needs to develop an Emotional Intelligence.
Connecting with People – Developing our Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the skill of recognising emotions in ourselves and others and, as a result, the skills to control our behaviour and manage our relationships. In short it is about being a grown up.
For film fans the Matrix/Keanu Reeves character Neo captures it well. He learns the skills of calmly controlling his responses to his environment, to master time so that he can slowly lean away from bullets and overcome challenges, he can think about how to respond whilst others rush and panic.
In politics EI is knowing the difference between pressing ‘post’ or ‘delete’ and using that knowledge wisely. It is the skill of connecting with others. It is the self-confidence to acknowledge that others disagree and, steady now, that they might be right.
EI is also about being honest with oneself. There is self-deception in condemning polling that says we are doing badly as inaccurate. Polling can be inaccurate, but very rarely has it underestimated the left vote. One of the founders of www.realclear.co.uk predicted the Tories wining 2015, Brexit and Trump precisely because polling has been out recently, but not in our favour. EI helps us see all weaknesses, including our own.
The good news is that EI is a set of skills that can be learned – well not the bullet dodging bit - that was a metaphor. Self-awareness, empathy, active listening, managing emotions, channelling emotions in the service of a goal, delayed gratification, self-efficacy, laughing at oneself and self-confidence can all be taught. And these are the skills upon which others can be laid. Training people to deal with the press is far less useful if we don’t have the empathic skills to calmly listen to opposing views and take them on board. If we aren’t sincere, we unsurprisingly sound insincere, we come out with bland soundbites and
our media training is wasted.
Think for a minute.
At Real Clear we think that there are 2 things we can do immediately to make a difference.
Firstly we can stop and think. If what we did last time didn’t help, let’s stop and think about what we could do differently this time. Otherwise we will get the same result.
Secondly we can develop the emotional intelligence of our people, so that they are equipped to tackle the landscape now inhabited by the New Authentics.
The best way to beat people who appear authentic is to actually be authentic. The best way to beat people who seem to care about the average man and woman’s problems is to actually care about those problems.
Developing our individual and collective emotional intelligence will free us up to do just that.