(If you'd rather watch a video, follow this link. Candidate Conversation Video)
Introduction: We all want better outcomes. We know that better outcomes are possible, if we can just get the other guy to see things our way. But, when we this becomes difficult, we look for people who feel as we do. Then, as a group, we blame the other guy(s), so we can feel better about ourselves. And, while we’re pointing our fingers, the other guy(s) are doing the same right back at us. And so it goes, back and forth, back and forth and so on and so forth. We are all caught in the same vicious cycle.
In order to break this cycle we have to accept and place responsibility properly. We have to see ourselves and each other honestly. If we can do this, we can find our Common Ground. If we don’t we will continue to get the same outcomes we have gotten in the past.
We believe that our real Common Ground is the fact that we are all human. If we are to see ourselves clearly, we must start with our brains, which do not always act rationally and often fool us about what is true and what we hope is true. Think of what Paul Simon said in “The Boxer”
“I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are Promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest”
The first step to being open minded is admitting that we sometimes close our minds to ideas that contradict our own point of view.
How we think: Sheena Iyengar(1) compares our thought processes to an iceberg. “Just like an iceberg, only a tenth of which is visible above water, our consciousness makes up only a small portion of our minds. In fact, the mind is more deeply submerged than an iceberg is; it’s estimated that 95 percent of mental behavior is subconscious and automatic. Without conscious intervention external forces can influence our choices with impunity.”(p 167)
The world we live in: Deborah Tannen(2) tells us that our environment places us in “a pervasive warlike atmosphere that makes us approach public dialogue, and just about anything we need to accomplish, as if it were a fight. …. Our spirits are corroded by living in an atmosphere of unrelenting contention-an argument culture.”( )
Our common ground lies in our basic human needs: Common Ground is usually thought of as finding key points in an argument or discussion that people can agree on. We take a broader view, which is based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of (basic human) Needs.(3 )
The simplest way to understand what Maslow wrote is as he envisioned them, in a pyramid that showed certain needs that people have as they develop and mature. The pyramid might better be described as a ladder, in the sense that you have to start at the bottom and climb up one rung at a time. If one is broken or unusable, it makes it much harder to reach the next rung. Maslow called the most basic needs 'deficiency needs', because they were things that if missing in a person's development, would cause them problems. Things like food and water, physical safety, friendships and family... Once those lower level needs are met, higher level needs, called 'being needs', can come into play and enable the person to become more mature and secure emotionally.
So here we are; human beings, all of us, really not as rational as we think, mostly unaware of what goes on inside our heads and requiring the same basic needs.
We can change things and break the vicious cycle in which we all are caught. We have the ability to ‘consciously intervene’ in our thought processes. The Executive Control that makes it possible to change the context of our lives resides in the Pre-Frontal Cortex of our brains. By using it, we can control our emotions enough to remember that we are all human, that our brains function, pretty much, the same and that these characteristics make it difficult to communicate.
The world will be a better place when we use “The power of words to (our) shape perception(s).” (2, P 14)
We can use our Executive Control to speak our words in more positive ways and to avoid the negative ways. The positive ways are called Civil Discourse. We call the negative/destructive ways “Evil Speech.” (Definitions)
We have adapted material from the Old Testament writings of Rabbi Isroel Meir Kagan, and others into a set of behavioral guidelines that can help each of us to communicate more civilly. We offer “The Ten Steps to Civil Discourse” as the place to start learning to speak more civilly.
The Ten Steps can be the starting point for each of us personally, but if we are going to change our Argument Culture, into something more peaceful, we have to deal with our society’s role models: Media Personalities, Politicians, Athletes, Movie Stars, etc.
We believe increasing civility in political campaigns is important for two very important reasons:
Incivility is disenfranchising millions of people. They are simply turned off by the rancor of public discourse and turn their exclusive attention to their daily lives. The result is our society is deprived of the wisdom of its most principled, humble and wise citizens.
Politics and politicians are important. They make decisions that determine life and death, war and peace and wealth and poverty. In the current public climate, those decisions often are made in a fact-free torrent of verbal excrement.
Our power to change the political environment comes of candidates need for our votes. If we demand civility, they will provide it, if even grudgingly.
Better Outcomes’ website provides a public forum on civility and its Candidate Conversations change the context of political campaigns. We use objective, open-ended questions and trained mediators as moderators. They help the candidates focus on the audience and answer the questions asked clearly and civilly. This gives us the environment and information we need to make rational, educated decisions about candidates for public office.
This is how Better Outcomes’ Candidate Conversations do it:
1. Better Outcomes assists our Sponsors and Participants in selecting the important issues. We prepare people based direct, unambiguous questions for discussion in the Candidate Conversation.
2. Better Outcomes provides the ground rules for civil discourse. Then we help candidates demonstrate civil discourse and give our audiences clear, understandable statements of their thoughts on the issues being addressed.
3. In addition to the issues, we ask job interview type questions to give the candidates the opportunity to talk about their experience, character and skills so the audience can determine if they are the kind of people for whom they want to cast their vote.
4. Better Outcomes’ moderators are trained mediators. They assure that the candidates and the audience, via the Mediator, communicate in such a manner that both understand the questions asked and the answers given.
5. Better Outcomes provides easily accessible, inexpensive, on-demand Internet access which Voters and Candidates can trust.
6. Better Outcomes provides live internet streaming and complete and uncut videos of the Conversation.
7. Better Outcomes can provide verbatim transcripts of the questions asked and the answers given, so that there can be no arguments over what was said.
We can elect people who understand or want to learn how to find our Common Ground.
If you are interested in staging, sponsoring or simply learning more about Better Outcomes’ Candidate Conversations, call Louis Kraus at (216) 832-4358 or send an email to him at: LHK@getbetteroutcomes.org.
We can show you how to get Better Outcomes.
1. Iyengar, Sheena, 2010, "The Are of Choosing", HatchettBookGroup.com
2. Tannen, Deborah, PhD, 1998, “The Argument Culture”, Random House, New York
3. Maslow, Abharam H, 1943, "A Theory of Human Motivation", Psychology Review, 50, 370-396.