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.