This is not a political piece! I want to make this clear from the beginning that this article is not taking a stand on the healthcare debate, but rather what can we all learn from the discourse?
I have not been to a town hall meeting, but like you, I’ve seen the news coverage and at first was surprised by what I saw. As I thought about what I was watching it occurred to me that there is a lesson to be learned and this is the objective of this article.
First, why are people so outraged and why is it leading to such a lack of civility? The answer is that there is a lack of trust in the leader present at the town hall meeting. Whether this trust is warranted or not is of course in the eyes of the beholder, but all those present must realize that belief in one another is missing and in order for there to be a successful outcome faith in one another must be created.
To create a level of confidence in the process the leader of the meeting must demonstrate tremendous humility and ask those present for what their core concerns are! The leader cannot stop with just listening to the first concern that an audience member states, but rather must ask 4 or 5 additional questions to uncover what the person’s real apprehension is and of course this is their understanding. Notice, I wrote understanding not misunderstanding because of course in the end the leader and the audience member may not agree, but at least they will both be heard and understood.
What we are experiencing today is a lack of trust in our leadership and our leadership isn’t making it better for themselves by attempting to hold town hall meetings that are feature and benefit dumps of what healthcare reform will bring. Senators and Congressman must open each meeting as a salesperson would with their client; what is your pain? They must begin by truly understanding their audience’s point of view and the core of that view! They may find that the concern their audience is stating is not in fact the real problem! This is not to suggest that better communication will lead to the audience accepting all that is said, but rather that improved communication leads to trust and this creates the building blocks to compromise that benefit all those present.
Of course, if this were an article about improving your sales and communication skills I would end by stating that you won’t always make the sale, but it isn’t the end of your relationship with the prospect. Experience has taught me that those who don’t buy today may at some later date. Their needs and point of views are continuously changing, and as a result it is imperative to leave an open door for both of you to walk through!