Just Listen

The secret to getting through to anyone, anywhere, anytime

Help Wanted: A Politician We Can Trust

It's about how they decide vs. what they decide that counts

The gap between “In God We Trust” and "In politician we trust" is wide enough to drive (and lose) our future through.

I recently attended the William O. Douglas Awards presented at the Public Counsel Dinner in Los Angeles. The marquee honoree was Hillary Clinton. She deftly dodged the question of being a Presidential candidate for 2016, but gave a terrific presentation sharing a number of memorable stories.

One of the most striking parts of her remarks was when she recounted the raid on Osama Bin Lader and explained why she held her hand up to her face while watching it. It occurred when she observed one of the helicopters on that raid, crashing its tail section, which meant that back up plans would be needed to execute the mission successful. Those included blowing up that helicopter and also having the Navy Seals who made the raid escorting women and children from the compound safely out range from that explosion.

What struck me in her telling that story was not the final outcome or the final decision, but the process that everyone went through to those decisions and those plans.

America is plagued by too many people just wanting to know “the bottom line” and whether you’re with them or against them. Having a process, planning, thinking of contingencies seems largely un-American or perhaps we just don’t have the patience for it.

I have heard that after the Bay of Pigs failed, JFK spoke with President Eisenhower and asked him what went wrong. Eisenhower apparently told JFK, “You didn’t have a process.” And supposedly JFK heeded his words and had more of a process in making critical decisions that he made use of during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Perhaps in order to trust our current politicians, it is not enough to know what stands and positions they take on the critical issues facing us. If instead they were to tell us how they came to those stands and positions – and if they did it before we asked them (so as to be proactive vs. defensive) – that might give us a better view into their values and their minds.

If their process not to mention their values seems flawed, discontinuous and too clearly guided by political aims, that will help us eliminate those that we shouldn’t believe, trust, have confidence in or elect.

If on the other hand, their process in fulfilling their responsibilities to their constituents (who BTW will consist of all of the people they represent vs. just those in their party) makes sense, feels right and seems doable it might be easier to trust them and have confidence in them.

Mark Goulston, MD, is the author of the new bestselling book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

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