Here’s an explanation from Part I, that ran last week:

This column may seem political, it is not. This is about how we make our decisions. It’s about how we represent our views. It’s about how we persuade and how we try to manipulate. It’s about the common mistakes we make that need to be recognized and disregarded. Though many of the examples are political, the core of this piece speaks to the core of our decision making, and if we want to solve wages, climate, social justice, transportation, housing, childcare or a myriad of other issues that affect our businesses and society as a whole, then we need to start doing these things, now.

Last week we looked at three ways we can change how we represent our views to make them better for compromise: stop painting the entire opposition with the views of the extreme (called the Birds of a Feather Fallacy), stop trusting polls taken in a vacuum and stop talking in the third person (our state is so small, it needs to be “we” not “they”). Here are a few more pieces of advice, to consider or ignore, that I think are valuable if we’re going to find meaningful solutions to our biggest problems.

Make Lasting Change: Policymaking After Marches
This but should not be taken as a hit against marches. Demonstration is such a fundamental right that it’s enshrined in the Constitution, but if you’re hoping to make lasting change, your involvement can not only be marches. Marches demonstrate that a large group of people are standing up and making their voices heard on an issue, but after we put the signs in recycling bins, put the t-shirt in the bottom drawer, and go back to posting cat pictures on social media, what are we doing then? Are you contacting legislators? Are you organizing with others to get a policy changed or a bill written? Are you speaking to town council members? Are you donating time or money to a candidate? Are you talking to your boss about changing the corporate culture?

What’s the next step after the march? Demonstrations begin conversations of change; but wonky policy fights are the tedious things that make change everlasting.

Don’t Wait on Legislators, Help Legislators
To that same point of engagement, though our legislators are in charge of making the societal changes we need, there is a vital role, we as constituents must play- especially on the culture-defining issues. We need to help our legislators with what they don’t know. This is easier to explain with an example, so let’s take a large issue like public transportation.

We need to remember a few facts. First, legislators are not experts on every issue- because they are just like you and me- normal people trying to do their best. They likely have a half-dozen areas of interest/expertise but in other areas they need information and facts to help them decide policy.

Secondly, we wonder why they haven’t solved the big issues, and it’s because the system isn’t designed for them to do so. It’s exceedingly rare for any of the 2,000 bills a legislature deals with in a two-year session, to comprehensively tackle the big issues. Sometimes a task force will be created to examine an issue, but far more often, a bill gets proposed that deals with a small piece of a major issue.

To use our example, the legislature may consider a bus rate fee cap, or a new funding mechanism for airports during a session. That’s great, but that doesn’t address all of the deficiencies in public transportation. It’s like remodeling a house, you can do it one piece at a time, but it’s much easier if you have an overall plan to work from. Tackling the issues one bill at a time is very inefficient, but legislators don’t have extra time for work groups. That’s where we can come in.

Local community groups can convene experts to build some of these plans, and then present those solutions to legislators. Show them how you came to these conclusions- with the pros and cons, and what you anticipate the costs may be. Let’s help our legislators solve the big issues- again it’s “us” not “them.”

Cancel Culture vs. Consequences
We need to turn down the noise, meaning lessen the use of trigger words and phrases designed to divide (this will be the focus next week as we look at wording around the minimum wage and the tipped wage for servers and bartenders). However, as a bit of a preview, let’s look at the common example of Cancel Culture vs. Consequences.

Picture this, Francis goes into a lamp store, and gets in an argument and smashes a lamp on the sales floor. The next day, Francis goes back in, gets in another fight and smashes another lamp. On the third day, the owner says, ‘get out Francis, you’re not allowed in here.’ Did Francis get canceled? No, Francis is a victim of a circumstance they created by smashing lamps and is being kicked out of the store as a consequence of their own actions. Now if every store in town didn’t let Francis come in, even when Francis hadn’t smashed anything in the other businesses, that would be canceling.

When you hear people complaining about Cancel Culture, think of Francis and the lamp store to determine if the aggrieved person was unjustly disallowed, or if the person was paying for the consequences of their actions. A business has a right to say “you can do what you want, I’m just saying you can’t do it here.” Businesses don’t want to be liable for that customer’s actions and therefore they have policies all customers must obey. If you break the policy, you can be banned.

Next week, we’ll discuss more examples of powerful phrases that are intentionally undermining our chances to have good faith discussions about issues in a meaningful and effective way.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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