I’ll bet I’m not alone in saying this: Thank god the elections are over. I’m sick to death of the negative campaign ads.
Sharon Begley penned a Newsweek feature a few weeks ago called “I’m Mad as Hell … and I’m Going to Vote! The psychology of an angry electorate.” She says that while the angry voter is nothing new, what’s surprising is that this year the angry voters are demanding angry candidates. And she speculates that this has much to do with the feeling that “no drama Obama” doesn’t show enough anger for us. The result, she says, is that we don’t much care about objective information or about being rational or logical. We just look for information that reinforces what we already believe and the anger we already feel.
That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the old “ladder of inference,” a model for explaining how we filter the observable data that surrounds us and choose to notice what fits our mental models, ignoring or minimizing anything that doesn’t. And if our current mental model is that anger motivates people to act, then anyone who isn’t sufficiently angry must be ineffective as a politician, or somehow “morally wrong.”
I see this all the time in organizations that are not managing change well. People get angry, and anyone who keeps their cool becomes part of “them,” the big bad management team that is sticking it to us in the first place.
The problem is, the anger doesn’t really accomplish anything except to lower employee morale and erode the quality of decisions. Decisions get made according to what feels good instead of what works.
I know I’m going to get beat up for saying this, but I watched Obama’s press conference yesterday and I thought, thank god we still have “no drama Obama” because he’s the only one that’s making any sense to me. He’s the only one who is still talking about finding solutions that work, regardless of party affiliation, and the only one not speaking in ridiculous hyperbole and accusing people of ridiculous things. Whether you believe his policies are working or not, his communication style remains something we should all aspire to.
If you have the courage to be the “no drama” guy on your management team when everyone expects you to get angry and irrational, good for you. Don’t give in to the pressure.