friendship question draws anger

AP Photo/John Minchillo

The last question of the night at the CNN Democratic Debate was about Ellen DeGeneres and former President George W. Bush’s friendship. Sponsored by CNN and the New York Times, Anderson Cooper asked the candidates to share a “friendship that you’ve had that would surprise us” and the impact that friendship had on them.

I hoped to find it both a present and lasting moment for candidates and supporters to further recognize the value and importance of tolerance and civility in our society. More importantly, to recognize whether the issues are healthcare, immigration, or global warming, any meaningful change will only come from a genuine change in the tone, quality, and behavior around differences of opinion.

I reference some eye-opening statistics on civility and voters.

  • Nearly all Americans, 95% say incivility is a problem – 70% put it at crisis levels
  • 79% of voters say incivility in government is preventing action on important issues
  • 76% of voters say incivility makes it difficult to discuss controversial issues
  • 9 in 10 voters who were prior supporters of Hillary Clinton named politicians as the group most responsible for the decline in civility.

You would think that no matter WHAT the issue at hand, that the quality of communication and relationships would play a significant role. What we are seeing instead, especially from our leaders and many online/media leaders is rampant emotionalism through shaming, blaming, name-calling, judging, and inspiring the ostracizing of those with motivated, yet different views.

After the debate, here were some of the comments:

I won’t argue that there aren’t serious issues needing to be changed and fixed. So many that many would argue which should be placed over others as most important. But we’re missing a very big piece of the picture here.

Ranting, yelling, tweeting, arguing, and stomping your feet is not going to get to change any faster…especially lasting change. We can, of course, have opinions and views and not have to agree – but without an environment where people are TRULY willing to be tolerant and civil through differences, then what hope do we have to bring out the best in humans and the best in our society.

What hope do we have for our future generations? Civility and tolerance are not instilled in us automatically…they must be learned and practiced through owning real skills and techniques.

It’s time to recognize that, as Dale Carnegie put it, ‘humans are creatures of emotion.’ This means that while we can strive with passion and purpose, we must recognize that emotions can often fail us in communication, actions, and unprofessional behavior. Leaders have absolutely fallen into the category of the latter, blended with what some could call personal agendas of power to boot.

It’s time to look further out for change..and clean up our own swamps of polarizing others who don’t fall into our camps of opinion and top-needs for change. Instead, let’s seek to come to answers through first bringing down the very real barriers that provide a more fertile ground for change to happen.