Friday, February 16, 2024

Heads up, folks. We’re all engaged in a shared hallucination and today’s message will equip you with insight that will lower your blood pressure, allow you to defuse tense situations, successfully navigate the contentious ’24 election cycle and perhaps even hold on to a few of your remaining friends from “across the aisle.” In brief, this is a critical reality check about how we humans are wired and we’re going to pop the hallucinatory bubble. Ready? Let’s go.

A 2020 study found that “Democrats and Republicans equally dislike and dehumanize each other but think that the levels of prejudice and dehumanization held by the outgroup party are approximately twice as strong as actually reported.” (Click here for the full research paper).

This finding is so important that I’ll rephrase it: Essentially, the more entrenched your political views, the more you artificially inflate how much you believe the “other” side hates “your” side. This is what psychologists call a false polarization bias and it’s an absolutely astounding finding which offers tremendous insight into why we behave the way we do.

Our understanding about human psychology is increasing at a rapid rate. This understanding opens up new possibilities for how we relate to – and work with – each other on individual, organizational and societal levels. The only question that is whether each of us possesses the gumption to pull our head out of our shared fever dream, objectively look at what the new knowledge means and reexamine what is actually happening instead of leaning in to the artificial world our overclocked imaginations are concocting.

The level of political polarization which we think exists is a fiction. So, when you’re next confronted with a polarizing political situation, remind yourself that the enmity you perceive is mostly imagined on both sides. Acknowledging this de-legitimizes the hallucination allowing it to fade away like a bad dream.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be strong. Lead well.