Politicians: This is why you’re failing

Winning is actually about stories, connection, transparency, and honesty. Nobody listens to you, and nobody trusts you, if it is otherwise.

All of you, humans. Slow down a while. Stop racing along and missing everything. And stop competing with each other. There are important things going on, and we all need to just stop and breathe.

I say this because currently in South Australia, it’s election season. I listened to the most appalling exchanges on ABC 891 radio this morning, between politicians who are all selling their party line.

They are not persuading. They are not presenting information. They are selling. They are all in the game of selling. They are selling themselves, their perspectives, and their cheapest or best offers, to the world at large. Their goal is to have a prestigious seat, with a prestigious pay packet.

Politics, in 21st Century Australia, is nothing more than a glorified job hunt. Everybody pays it lip-service about being democratic, and useful, and necessary, and for the people. And they all need to shut the fuck up and just observe what is actually going on.

What IS? We don’t want your personal perspectives. What is your observation telling you?

The example I heard this morning was the most perfect example of the sell, sell, sell that permeates absolutely everything we see, read, hear, watch, and absorb. When you stop engaging in it, it becomes completely absurd.

The reason the interviews, and the exchanges, were ridiculous, is quite simple. It ran as follows:

  • Person is asked a question
  • Person does not listen to the question, and has his or her own agenda, to which he or she is listening instead
  • Person presents his or her own perspective
  • Questioner interrupts and becomes frustrated, because the questioner will not ask a clear question
  • Rinse and repeat.

Imagine instead that the questioner asks a clear and direct, and obvious question. Imagine that the person answering the question listens to the question. And, after listening, replies as best it is able, providing data (logos) to support every assertion, credibility and authority (ethos) to support that data; and appeals to the audience’s emotions (pathos) to tie the response together. The answer is clear, direct, and functional, and honest.

This is actually how political persuasion needs to function. Nobody understands the art of persuasion, or debate, any longer, because it’s been sullied by this selling all the time.

Of course, the usual argument will be that the responses can’t function like that, because everybody is holding his or her cards close to his her chest. Nobody is transparent, because they’re trying to win.

Allow me to blow this model apart. Winning, in the 21st century, is not about competition. Winning is actually about stories, connection, transparency, and honesty. Nobody listens to you, and nobody trusts you, if it is otherwise.

And so, here are my top tips for South Australia’s politicians. You will find that your “approval ratings” skyrocket – and also, probably, that you will need to do some actually serious work in order to prepare everything you put in public.

  1. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say that you don’t know and then explain why.
  2. If you are being badgered by a journalist, or an opponent, shut the fuck up and wait until they run themselves out of breath. Then answer the question and concerns calmly.
  3. Support every assertion with data, and reference that data.
  4. Be transparent about everything, from data origins to collaboration and costs.
  5. If you’re losing a financial battle, explain that and tell us why – in a way that we can verify it if we so choose.
  6. Tell stories, that demonstrate a need, illustrate a solution, verify that solution, and support your information.
  7. Learn to listen.

Nobody cares for your childish foibles. And nobody even trusts you. You’re lucky that Australians are a lazy, forgiving bunch. If we were French, our parliament would right now be in flames.



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