It was spirited discussion between various opinion leaders who assumed roles and debated a fictional national fiscal crisis – except that the fiction described the exact situation our country finds itself. Strongly held beliefs and ideology, fierce passion over the causes of our troubles and proposed solutions were apparent as the participants sometimes moved from role playing to real life personas.
I noticed something else.
How the language we use prevents us from finding common ground.
Whether a political debate, or in personal relationships we all know that language matters and our choice of words can either inflame or calm.
Leaders understand their language and tone counts as much as any other skill or expertise they bring to an organization.
But given the severity of nation’s problems, shouldn’t our leaders start paying greater attention to their words?
At one point in the debate, journalist and author Farai Chideya chided the fictional CEO (played by real-life CEO Carly Fiorina) for not caring about the plight of 1,200 soon to be laid off workers. The CEO bristled, and it was obvious the charge stung – she must have heard this before. Later the CEO struck back, lobbing a criticism that the President’s stimulus plan had been a failure. The Democrats on the panel visibly hardened and their demeanor changed as they passionately defended the policy.
As the discussion wore on, familiar arguments heard countless times on political cable shows served only to stiffen the backs of each side making further communication difficult.
But our nation’s leaders are dealing with real world issues and consequences. For the sake of our country, can’t our leaders avoid inflammatory remarks and agree on some language ground rules?
Here’s a reasonable starting point for agreement:
- Both parties have contributed to the national debt.
- Both sides are acting in a political manner. (They are after all, politicians!)
- The President won re-election and we have divided government – let’s respect the result of the election that just occurred.
- Republicans are not heartless and uncaring because they want to control the costs of Medicare and Social.
- Democrats are not defenders of big government and government dependency because they want to protect Medicare and Social Security.
- Everyone equally loves our country and wants their grandchildren to have a better life.
- Compromise is a good thing.
We can all benefit from the language of good leadership.