Balancing Logic and Emotion in Trust and Politics

Readers of this blog know that a common theme is the over-valuation of the rational in business. Deductive logic, process definition, behavioral psychology and rational persuasion are often over-emphasized in sales and in the professions, while the power of emotions and intuition are under-appreciated.

But lately in politics, we’ve got the opposite problem.

The trust equation (see the book  The Trusted Advisor) defines trustworthiness as:

Trust Equation


In that equation, credibility and reliability are the largely “rational” elements, while intimacy and self-orientation are more emotional or intuitive. 

US Presidential politics are now characterized not by a diminution of discussion about credibility and reliability, but by their near absence.

Maybe it began with Clinton blowing the sax on the Arsenio Hall show. But was that as much of a stretch as McCain on the Rachael Ray show?

The idea behind representative government, as opposed to a pure democracy, is that in a complicated world, you need to entrust decisions to others as a full time job. Issues like qualifications and experience, one would think, are relevant.

Yet in this election, the very concept of “experience” is either not defined, badly defined, or defined only to be reversed a day later.

Only four years ago, “flip-flopping” was an epithet. Now it’s barely worth yawning over. The concept of logic has been demoted to a mere nice-to-have, subordinated to the need to match the demographic-du jour.

The idea of someone you could have a beer with is an important aspect of trust. Necessary? I suppose arguably so.  But sufficient?  No way.

Does mankind advance through history? Read the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and then think of Obama on SNL, and McCain on The View. There’s your case for societal regression.

Fear and smear work because they appeal to the more primal, base level needs to the exclusion of higher-order issues. Hunger crowds out freedom of expression. And fear trumps hunger. Focus on fear limits the upside of political dialogue.

As in business, a reduction of all things to the lowest common denominator certainly works. It also dehumanizes, borrows against the future, and limits what people can become.
Can we talk? When it comes to politics, not very well, it seems.

4 replies
  1. Michael Holt
    Michael Holt says:

    Can we talk?  About politics?

    Charles… please… no. We’re not all Americans in your world of Trusted Relationships, and further, we all have politics also.  Here, we also have elections looming, and they are similarly divisive.


    Politics is an area too personal… and too public, to be meaningfully and properly addressed in your otherwise, thoroughly engaging column. Perhaps you just want to vent?  But your venting over politics is not why I am interested in what you have to say and how I think your writing adds value.

    So… for what one person’s opinion is worth… lets talk about anything but politics (oh, and religion).

    Best wishes,

  2. Evan Zall
    Evan Zall says:

    I’ll be interested to see how this plays out, as I’m on the fence regarding whether candidates’ creative appearances will end up being defined by sensationalism or by their ability to use the right channels to deliver ideas they prioritize. 

    Obviously a good deal of their visibility is circling the sensationalist drain, however as the shine from the conventions wears off and the debates draw near, we may see a change. 

    The idealistic hope for me is that politicians in this race and others take advantage of new vehicles to build trust and credibility among audiences – a tactic that took shape during the primaries.

    Funny you mention the saxophone performance; that signaled a new  strategies to which businesses began to adapt…same with social media.  Would be nice to see US leaders adapt favorably to the era of conversant communications, and thereby establish a precedent for the corporate world.  

    Ironically, there’s a post on this from early last year that is still relevant today:

  3. Charles H. Green
    Charles H. Green says:


    Thanks for your very kindly phrased comment.  Politics and religion are not the main thrust of this blog, and on the few occasions I’ve tried to make it a valid subject matter within which to explore trust, I’ve gotten several comments like yours. 

    You are certainly right that to limit myself to US politics excludes the broader, bigger world, and turns off people like you.

    More, I think I have to admit you’re right.  There is just too much energy, let’s call it, around politics for me to successfully avoid getting pulled into the political orbit when I get close to it.

    So, I’m hereby swearing off politics.  At least that’s my intent.  You can all help me hold to it.

    And thanks again for your graciousness in commenting.  It’s an attribute we don’t see often enough in public dialogue. 



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