Our Society Has Become More Polarized. Here's How To Survive This New Normal.


Here’s how I explain it to my clients: You could cure cancer and 85% of the world will name hospitals after you, give you a Nobel prize, throw ticker tape parades and name you TIME magazine’s, ‘Person of the Year.’

But watch out for the other 15%—they’ll come after you. You’re the bad guy who put pharmaceutical companies out of business, emptied hospital beds, took away business from respected oncologists and put compassionate cancer nurses on the unemployment line.

In other words, 85% is the new 100%.

It’s hardly surprising—truth has been sidelined and what people believe has become much more important than what really is.

As a people we have become more polarized that at any time in recent history. Much of it due to exploitative political campaigning where divide and conquer has gone from a strategy to a way of life.

Some of us have become empowered as ‘contrarians,’ people who are defined by going against conventional wisdom.   Sometimes they’re soothsayers and truth tellers who see the possibilities in a way most can’t; sometimes they’re ‘nattering nabobs of negativism.’  

We not only have trouble finding common ground, we have trouble agreeing with what common ground is.

Social media has fueled our differences. Before, if you disagreed with someone you told your best friend or your spouse. Now we tell the world, or at least our world on Facebook, Twitter and numerous other public squares.

Compromise has become a dirty word—it now means unprincipled.   Except of course when we need to be. Then we’re flexible.

So why does it matter?

Because as a PR guy, I have two key responsibilities: 1) To present my clients to the world and 2) To tell them what kind of world they’re walking into.

This is one of the times I see such a societal shift that I would be remiss if I didn’t speak up and acknowledge that is going on. Polarization, a celebration of the contrarians, a time where homespun wisdom is put front and center and a good education is viewed as elitist are upon us and it is imperative that we know how to navigate this unusual new terrain.

If you want to survive this ‘new normal,’ I have some advice:

First, agree to disagree with certain people. It’s just not worth it.   My brother and I don’t discuss politics. It wouldn’t achieve anything positive in our relationship.

Question yourself. Look at other sides of the issue; be informed. Learn why the opposition feels the way it does and absorb it.   It might reinforce your position or it might force you to reevaluate yours.

Who are your role models? Where do you get your information? Fame does not equal intelligence or respect. Legendary thinker Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” It still is.

As Mark Twain said, “Never argue with a fool.” Call your shots when you want to stand up and shout. Remember, it’s ok to be quiet.

If you’re a public figure and something is posted about you, don’t read the comments. They’re toxic and counterproductive.

Take a beat. Sometimes your initial reaction to a situation may not be where you eventually land. Sometimes we don’t have enough information to make an informed statement.   Time can be our ally in these situations.

Understand something important—we don’t all think alike. We have different upbringings, histories and values, and all these can affect the way we evaluate a situation. Don’t make the mistake of thinking we’re all of one mind or everyone thinks like you do. It’s not that simple.

And if you want to really benefit from this world and thrive—rule one is make yourself happy. Get rid of the noise—both the outside noise and the little voices in your head. Listen deep within and be honest with yourself.

If you do educate yourself and make a change, own it. Explain how you got there and move on.

Recognize the difference between fads and trends. In other words, what’s fashion and what’s real?

Be the person who says, ‘The Emperor has no clothes.’ The pack can be fun; independence is a better foundation.

Empathy is underrated. Practice listening; imagine yourself in someone else’s life; recognize ‘your way or the highway’ isn’t always the most productive option.

Most important of all—be grateful.   Be especially grateful during challenging times. These are called lessons. This is where life is truly lived and you have a chance to show your truest character and make the biggest difference.

More like this