Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Importance of Increasing Communication

Increasing communication occurs at two levels. Not only is it important to communicate with clarity, it is critical to understand the impact we have on the world as well. How are we seen, how did the message affect the other, what emotional chord did we strike in the other. This includes empathy but is beyond it; psychology for the most part neglects this second aspect of communication. Part of Dr. Phil's appeal to me is that he does cover this in his teachings.

Fortunately for us, Lakoff has put a lot of work into conceptualizing this deeper aspect of increasing communication in politics. Metaphors, he calls them. Collectively, as progressives, we don't understand how others see us. As Podesta more recently and many many others have pointed out, the other side has put a lot of work into increasing communication at this level, literally co-opting our words and our values into theirs.

The fact is, we understand our messages and concerns very well. Lakoff calls for reframing our messages. We must learn to become more sophisticated, to put a concerted effort into understanding how our messages impact others, and then to reframe those messages, so that we can persuade others to come aboard again. We need to get the 'Islanders', Allen Brill's revision to Lakoff's theory, on board.

Podesta is on to this task in this article(Apologies: It's the NYT Magazine so it requires registration and then disappears in about a week). So are Lakoff and others at the Commonweal Institute, including Dave Johnson.

Thus, the world does not understand us and treats us accordingly. The results so far have been heartbreaking: California's new governor is the latest. Dreier provides a cogent analysis of what happened.

It's time to put some thought into how to present our message collectively, our progressive message. Understanding our collective echo, the message we get back from the environment, is never an easy task. At the very least, I'm hoping Podesta, Lakoff, and their colleagues will gain more funding to continue their work. It's about 'filling the well'.