November 10, 2012
An Open Letter to a Television Producer
You want a change the world? I can help you do just that.
Ask people who know me best and they will tell you that I certainly have a large-enough ego, but not so big that I am inclined to walk around saying that I can change the world. I’m pretty sure I thought I could change the world when I was 25, but I’m closing in on 60 now, fully aware that there is more wisdom in admitting what I don’t know than shouting out what I think I do know. Think about it: aren’t the wisest people you know the ones who are comfortable with at little 3-word sentence, “I don’t know.” ?
I offer that background as preface to telling you that I actually do believe I have an idea for a reality television show that could change the way the business of our government is done, thereby changing the world. And just so you know that my ego is still in the vicinity of sanity, I will admit that the changing the world part is a long shot. But, making a dent in the way the citizens of our nation think about government and politics is well within the range of my proposal.
It begins simply with this: our politicians and legislative representatives need help. I’m not talking the help that comes from political strategists, I’m talking about therapy. If people in our families communicated and “problem solved” the way our politicians do, we would not stand for it. When marriages devolve into the kind of communication we are watching daily on network and cable television they either self-destruct or they show up in an office like mine. I am a therapist and I am suggesting to you, Mr. or Ms. Producer, that you and I take on the challenge of getting some of this kind of help to our politicians.
The working title I have in mind is the same as this blog, Same Page, and what follows is a very brief nutshell description. I will describe it as a television show, with the disclaimer that this could be, or at least begin as, a radio show.
Two (2) politicians -- one democrat, one republican -- are the guests --- really more like “the clients.”
Same Page is all about communication and the problem solving PROCESS, not content. This is basically the work I do with couples in marital therapy --- beginning with an explanation that battles can be won, but problems are not solved from adversarial positions. The entire focus of the show is to help the 2 politicians communicate in ways that are respectful, compassionate, honest, and most likely to contribute to actually solving problems. Like in marital therapy, I am not going to become involved in the content --- this kind of therapy is not about the “what,” it is all about the “how.” I am going to help these 2 people discover their “points of agreement,” I am going to help them break free from their all/none characterizations of each other, I am going to help them learn how to translate addressing issues from adversarial positions into the mutual creation of problem definitions that both can agree with, and I am going to help them make a commitment to each other to take what they are learning “in the session” out into the world with them --- so they can practice this new way of addressing one another, and so that they might become part of a positive ripple effect into the status quo dysfunctional communication of our political system. Even if just pebbles in a vast sea, there still will be a ripple effect.
Of course, I don’t believe we can accomplish all of this with everyone, but we can do some of it. The guests who come on the show will have to agree to certain terms that we will establish – basically translating that they agree to let the therapist run the process and that they contract with us to have a positive outcome. (I can say more about this later --- it is something I use in therapy a lot.)
My biggest dream for Same Page is that it could be interesting, entertaining and popular enough that politicians would actually want to come on the show to demonstrate that they can communicate in healthy, productive ways. Ideally we would be creating a sort of peer pressure to show off communication skills. And to the degree some of them demonstrate a lack of willingness to do this, our show sort of “outs” them. Politicians want to look good to their constituents and the way to look good on our show is to be a good communicator --- respectful, good listening skills, empathic, flexible, etc.
Okay, if/when we get into creative development of this, I have more thoughts and ideas about how to do this therapeutically than you will ever want to hear. But for now, that’s the gist of it.
Thanks for listening. Let me know what you think. I would suggest that you have your people call my people but I don’t have any people.
P.S. I really do believe we can make a difference.