As a mediator and leadership coach, I have to say this: While generally I don’t disagree with most of what Meryl Streep said during her acceptance speech for the Hollywood Foreign Press’s Lifetime Achievement Award at tonight’s Golden Globe awards, she did miss an incredible opportunity.
First, she used her audience, her station, and her status the same way she accuses President-Elect Trump of using his. Then, by attacking him, all she did was up the ante and unify his supporters (half of our country), while ensuring that Newton’s third law of physics persists: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As long as any of us advocate for one “side” over another, or argue over who/what is right/wrong, and frame it as “us and them”, we simply continue volleying in the same game. The only way to unify us as a people, and appeal to the vast middle of the bell curve, is instead to catch the ball, stop the game, walk to the middle of the court and have real dialogue, with listening, understanding, and acknowledgement.
If you were cheering her speech, you may be caught up in the game, too. We call it confirmation bias, where you seek out what you agree with because it feels good. If you are booing it, maybe you should listen again and hear her words. The fact that she delivered them in advocacy doesn’t mean that they are wrong; it only means she said them in a way that some couldn’t hear them. And perhaps with a little too much judgment.
As a mediator, I know that telling people they are wrong doesn’t change their minds. And as one who regularly mediates with the biggest celebrities in “Hollywood”, I know that even the ballroom before her was divided. I also know that her talk made it unsafe for any who disagreed to speak up. That’s why the election polls were so inaccurate.
We should be seeking to make people stop and scratch their heads and think in a new way about things they hadn’t before considered, rather than seeking to make the majority cheer and raise a fist. As long as both sides persist in the latter, we are trapped in this volley for the unforeseeable future.
I call upon my mediator and leadership colleagues, and on all of you reading this, to help change the game and create dialogue, modeling more inquiry and active listening than advocacy. It is up to all of us.