Every action and every deed as a politician is etched into people’s minds. Realism tells us that people will only recall the wrong and immoral bits in every situation, even if you are still in the process of facing mistakes. Is there such a conventional way to conveniently handle and own up to the mistake? In this episode, Bill Stierle and Tom discuss the path politicians might have taken to turn the table around in their tightest situations. A wrong response in those situations could have led to poor impressions and notions. Join in the conversation to learn possible scenarios where an erratic and unintentional action leads to branching plots, and identify which response when facing a mistake can also be applied in our current situations.
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Facing Mistakes the Right Way
Bill, we said last time we were going to talk about how people could deal with their mistakes, move through them and survive better by walking through the fire. We could start with Andrew Cuomo who’s at the top of the list of people that have their feet to the fire right now. That’d be a useful and practical discussion.
Every day, Tom, I am facing somebody with either an internal or an external conflict that they’re trying to work through. A lot of times, human beings forget that our primary way of being inside this human experience is to communicate. We use communication for a lot of different things. One of which being the discharge of emotional pain. That’s one of the reasons we use it. Even if you go to a party, the person’s there to connect, but they’re also there to distribute their pain to us. Many times, people that they tell the same painful story to at that party. As you’re smiling gently and some of the people are going like, “Distribution of pain at a party?” I’ve been to parties like that. There have been parties that are so devoid of doing pain that the alcohol and everything else is moving. They’re discharging pain through the substance.
I’ve been to events where people discharge pain through spiritual practice, “Everybody let’s think about gratitude.” I don’t want to think about gratitude because the crap hit the fan over there and I don’t want to polish it. I’m not interested in “polishing” the turd. That is what our society tends to do. Andrew Cuomo, for his part, if he were to step through, he’s got to face the things that have taken place to him. Whatever he does, do not minimize anything, any accusation. As soon as you try to minimize it, it’s not that big of a deal, then that’s problematic. Al Franken could have learned this lesson too. He would say, “I am not interested in minimizing us. I am going to not only meet with that woman and do an apology and a restorative moment between, but I’m also going to do anyone else in that same venue that has those issues that they felt a little uncomfortable about the way I was joking and/or how I was in my former profession.”
He would have been able to move the former profession separate from his current profession as senator. Those two things were blended together. Andrew Cuomo’s got similar problems. This is hearsay because I don’t know any of these messages. He has had other rough spots in his decision-making, other rough spots of telling people how to handle things. It wasn’t the best way to handle them. People felt uncomfortable about it. As we mentioned in our last profile, we do have troubles with our morals and our ethics and how to see who’s going to be the person that’s going to be in charge of that. Let’s see if we can get there with the person that’s doing the damage. Probably a thought or two has come up in your noggin right now because as I did that model logged a little bit, I put a lot of cat soup in there for you to pick something out of it. What’s your thinking?
You did a good job with Al Franken, that was clear, and saying what he could have said to separate his past profession from his current profession. Andrew Cuomo has a little bit different dynamic here because some of the accusations are alleged to have occurred within his current position as Governor, sometimes an extra professional event, meaning like a wedding that was not within the Governor’s Mansion or the State House in Albany. Some that might have been in a hotel on a business trip where he’s accused of either saying something that made a woman feel uncomfortable that was being alleged as sexual harassment or at least a sexual advance potentially to someone else.
At worst, where he physically had his hand on someone’s back maybe inappropriately and maybe forcibly kissed someone who didn’t want to be kissed. That’s a little more troubling than Al Franken situation. It occurred while Andrew Cuomo was Governor, at least it’s alleged to be that way. Bill, what would you say if you were Andrew Cuomo? What would you recommend that he do to try to improve the situation other than his defense is, “Let the independent investigation play out? I’m not resigning?”
Step one, call a gifted communicator, whether it’s a well-established person that has a range or ability to facilitate this type of discussion. I could do it but there are also other people who can do it. If you want to go to a celebrity, then you would say, “Give it to an Oprah-like person or a newscaster-like person.” I’d probably pick a newscaster because there’s a little bit of pursuit of that. If you wanted to have a little bit of courage, pick somebody off of Fox. That’d be tough because they would ask questions to try to score points, but if I was coaching him and they add that person there, he would know what to say back to those sentences.Our primary way of being inside this human experience is to communicate. Click To Tweet
What about maybe a Chris Wallace? He could have picked a Chris Wallace, who is a respected journalist on Fox.
You pick Chris Wallace, stick him in there and you’d be ready for the Fox-style questions because some of the questions are looking for a certain bias to be talked about. Be ready for them. The way I prep people for these types of situations, these types of mediations, I ask both sides, “Write down the worst thing that someone could say or do in this session. What are you most terrified about?” “If they ask this question.” I want to see what the worst question is going to be. If you grab ahold of the worst questions and you have and develop an empathetic response to that message, then the thing will immediately deescalate from an 8 or a 9 to a 4 within one sentence. “Did you do this to this woman?” You’d like some information about the accuracy or what my point of view was. “Yes.” Notice I empathize with the question instead of answering yes or no. You answer yes. It’s like, “Yes, I did. It was on tape. That was a locker room talk. I was grabbing a woman by a pussy. I don’t do that. That’s not the type of person I am.” Meanwhile, it’s the type of person you are. This is your thing. I’m not going to judge your thing.
If you’re facing it that way, then those events could be put in a proportion. It’s the same thing with Joe Biden leaning in and giving people hugs and being affectionate and sniffing people’s hair and whispering things to them and saying nice comments that are a little off and a little unsettling, those grandpa statements that he makes and you’re shaking your head going like, “I remember my grandparents saying stuff like that.” Back then, those were go-to sentences. We want to be able to put them in proportion and also set them in the field of time, as well as fill out that he’s vulnerable enough to do this meeting. I’m willing to meet with that person either in private or in front of the cameras and media. At the end, after the meeting, we will both make statements about the experience. Either everybody can see it, or everybody can experience it all together. Even then we can talk about it after.
Having the right words and the intention is not to cover up the thing, it’s to free the bind that it’s in, the he-said-she-said bind. It gets us off the gerbil wheel of blame, the gerbil wheel of criticism, the gerbil wheel of shame, the gerbil wheel of defensiveness. We’re exhausted because the media goes defensive, criticism, contempt, withdraw, content, defensiveness, blame, shame, judgment. If I watched it too close, I would drive myself nuts because it’s such tragic language that doesn’t get us anywhere. It most certainly keeps us away from, what are the new morals that we are to stand behind in the workplace and in our personal life and from a public life, which is what a politician is? “I now have a public life.”
Could you imagine how he could have turned the news of these accusations? At first, it was 1 and 2. It wasn’t like now it’s five or something, people are piling on. Can you imagine what would have happened if he approached it with empathy and compassion, turned it into a teaching moment for America, acknowledging that in the past, men behaved differently? We all know that we’ve all learned from the #MeToo Movement that there are behaviors that are not acceptable anymore, “I bear my responsibility for perhaps making some women feel uncomfortable in the past. I didn’t intend to make them feel that way.” He could have been a champion.
He could have been a champion of how to address these issues as an adult male person that was respectful and noticing himself that his behaviors and his tactics were wiggly. If he would have done that with the first two, the rest of them may not have shown up because they would have gotten the empathy that they needed from that experience and go like, “It was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t as bad as that person. I can tell he meant it when he was interviewed the other time.” It wasn’t a big deal because it allows us to put it back into proportionality, to put it back into perspective or having a perception.
As somebody that deals with conflict a lot, I have an opinion about that, but that’s not what’s most important. It’s important how much care and protection that we start to demonstrate to each other and also how we gain awareness regarding sensitivities, as well as cleanups, “Did I say or do something that bugs you? I’m willing to clean it up.” If it was catastrophic on my side, then I’m going to fall on the sword and say, “It was so catastrophic for me. It’s hard for me to connect because there are so much animosity and stickiness between the two of us. I can’t move forward in our relationship and you’re not going to be able to treat me the same either because of that moment of unconsciousness, of not having the level of awareness to get things going.” That’s tough.
It’s interesting that we talked about what Andrew Cuomo could have done he would have had to do early on. If he did, it might have stopped the calls for an independent investigation which now there are calls not only for an investigation, but there are calls for his resignation that is more involved in that because it’s not just these women, there’s also this scandal about the COVID deaths at nursing homes in New York. There are a couple of things going on there. It strikes me that if we go back to the campaign for president in 2020, Joe Biden faced a similar attack.
There were some allegations that were sent his way about maybe some inappropriate touching as he was Vice-President or even after that, touching women on their shoulders and things that made them feel uncomfortable. Nothing quite of an accusation level in terms of the same types of things as what Andrew Cuomo is accused of. It occurs to me as we’re talking about this that Joe Biden faced it. He did say, “This is a different time. I’ve learned.” I don’t know if he specifically referenced #MeToo or not, I don’t remember that moment, but he went out there and said, “I understand. I hear the women. Things are different now. It is not appropriate.” He did own it, didn’t he?
He did own it. For him, it stuck 2/3 of the way. It wasn’t a clean sweep. The reason why it didn’t is because admitting to it and knowing it is different than empathizing with it. If I was Joe Biden back then, this sentence would have been a key thing to move the impact from the 60 or 65 percentile up to the 80, 95 percentile. It would have sounded like this sentence, “Women have felt uncomfortable in the past because their need for choice and physical safety, or their choice and consideration wasn’t met. All human beings have the choice on whether they want to be touched or not. I am interested in meeting a woman’s need for choice and consideration and respect. It was a different time back then. Now we need to be more respectful for women, and consider it and provide them the choice to decide on how much interaction they would like with the people around them.”
Can you imagine? Everybody’s jaws would drop. That would have been brilliant.
He also has the level of confidence to advocate for women’s rights from that point, because all of a sudden, he’s in the leadership position. His owning the word choice and respect for women right off the bat and go like, “You want to see how I’ve done it? Look at my vice-president. Choice and respect because she’s skilled and she’s done things.”
What I also like about that statement you made as an example is using the word choice be something different than just choice regarding abortion. That was interestingly done. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it takes one of these issues where voters can be a single-issue voter and it’s choice. To a lot of people, that means abortion or not. You turned it into something a little bit more relatable and universal for people.
The hard part about it is that the mental disconnect, the mental bias conflict that shows up in the Republican mindset is that, “I don’t want government to be in my business. I want freedom and choice from the Federal Government.” Except for women’s reproductive rights. I want the government to choose what they get to do and not get to do with their body. If you think about that split narrative, “If you want freedom and choice, you want it from everyone. How about a woman that finds herself in this predicament where she’s pregnant because?” “In that case, the government shouldn’t allow the woman to have choice.” I’m not even advocating for one point of view or the other, that need for choice, “Life is why we’re here. Do you think that might be the sacred thing to stay with?” The answer is yes. At the same time, how do you put life and choice next to each other and it does not get messy? It is because those two different needs for financial consideration is difficult.
We’ve talked about Andrew Cuomo and maybe some things he could have done. Your point about him being interviewed maybe by somebody from Fox News, that is only a last resort after the investigations have begun. You’re trying to diffuse this.
He could still do it now. He can call the attorneys and say, “We’re going to fast track this to put it all behind us. I’m going to provide myself a little bit of exposure here so that everybody can see how vulnerable this is. I’m going to take a look at it because I don’t want the shadow or the accumulation of it.” The speed in which information is moving in our society is allowing things to get stale and even mistakes to get stale and minimalize through the field of time, which is not a great feature in our society because of how much we get in front of and start consuming so many partial truths. All of a sudden, we’re creating a belief that’s so not true and out of proportion. People will believe just about anything if there’s enough messaging in that direction. It’s difficult.Be more respectful of women, provide them the choice to decide on how much interaction they would like with the people around them. Click To Tweet
Bill, in the past, you and I talked about the Access Hollywood tape moment, in particular, Donald Trump debating Hillary Clinton, and what have Hillary Clinton could have said when Donald Trump said it was locker room talk. Let’s flip it. Let’s look at that one from a little different perspective. If you’re Donald Trump and the Access Hollywood tape comes out, what do you think he could have said other than that it was locker room talk and try to sweep it under the rug? What do you think he could have said to improve his situation?
President Donald Trump could have improved his situation by gently falling on the sword early, “The conversation was made in jest. It was in poor taste. It was in a community of men. I did not know that it was going to be recorded. I feel embarrassed and disheartened about that experience and it being broadcasted where it was more of a fifteen-year-old locker room talk, rather than the adult version of a President that I am now.” It’s not left dangling like an open scab on the stage that Hillary Clinton doesn’t do anything with. It’s locker room talk like a fifteen-year-old. She would have won the election with three sentences at that point. It was locker room talk like a fifteen-year-old, so you’re going to be a fifteen-year-old? He never claimed the high ground of being an adult.
It was much easier for Hillary Clinton to have taken that and knocked it out of the park than for Donald Trump to try to catch it.
Also, be ready for his response. His response would have been, “Just like your husband.” “My husband did the fifteen-year-old thing, and now he’s more of an adult man than you are.” All of a sudden, he’s lost 300,000 votes per state.
He walked himself out on the plank.
He left it there, but she didn’t know how to do it. She didn’t know how to stand there and empathize, and then point out where the need for integrity wasn’t met or the need for maturity wasn’t met, “Is that the way you’re going to continue to talk to women, or is that the way you’re going run your things?” She had so many different angles that would have made her a president for four years.
She didn’t get some skill. She didn’t consult anybody to learn how to do it. That’s unfortunate. There’s some tragic language going on amongst our politicians in Washington now in similar regards. It seems that Mitch McConnell is concerned that Democrats are going to vote away the filibuster. He’s made a bit of an interesting statement, even a threat about that. That’s making the news, but not the response from the Democrats. Let’s share that one, Bill. Share with us what Mitch McConnell said, and then the opportunity the Democrats had to do something with that.
When someone makes a threat, scorched-earth strategy, I can appreciate that they want their way, and they want to choose to have things their way, and they’re not interested in choosing to change. The disheartening part about it is that there’s not awareness about what to say next because you can see there are crickets. When clients approach me to communicate through difficult times, look in to face the difficult situations and the difficult language that someone puts down as a threat. It’s a demand that has no choice in it that you immediately step into as a communicator. You got to step into it. The stepping into it would have been Chuck Schumer saying, “It sounds like Mitch McConnell was going to continue the scorched-earth policies that he has been doing for the last several years.” He’s interested in keeping America not cooperative and not collaborative with each other. I remind him that 81 million voted against that mindset. I can appreciate and I understand the 73 million that voted to keep things going the same way because they’ve been fed messages of fear and messages of disconnection between fellow Americans.
I’m not interested in that anymore. I’m interested in progress. The Democrats are going to be working to get progress. We’re interested in talking to the Republican representatives when they are able to break the spell that they’re under that “my way is the highway mindset” is going to get them anywhere. It got them elected in the past. We’re not doing that anymore. We’re doing collaboration and cooperation because that’s what the current leader has chosen for us in a democracy. It’s built more around collaboration and cooperation, what’s the best way to do things. We’re opening open up for Mitch McConnell and the Republican ideas when they choose to send up some. I’m interested in the ideas when they choose to send up some. It’s like bring your game, but if he wants to not, he’s going to burn all the ideas and scorch all the ideas or the proposals that we’re bringing because it’s not going to get him or his caucus the votes. I don’t think that’s a functional America. I hope the voters think about that the next time they vote in the booth in two years. They’re putting the seed in the ground going like, “Are you going to grow collaboration, cooperation or are you going to grow division? Which one are you going to grow?”
This is all because Mitch McConnell said, “If the Democrats eliminate the filibuster, be ready for the scorched-earth policies that are going to happen,” threatening retaliation.
They don’t have any strength. It’s like the tiger growling behind the glass cage. It’s like, “You’re over there. I’m over here. I see you growling, but I don’t think you can bite me from here.” In fact, we’re the tamer on this one. We’re the lion tamer. You’re not in the position to bite us. You could a little bit, but that’s the part of communication. Lion tamer is you got to give the message and don’t over commit. You don’t want to beat the lion with the stick too much because when you turn around, the lion will say, “Now’s my opportunity.” There is a measure to it, but if the person is behind the glass, there isn’t. You empathize and provide care and concern for that person that is in that view set of, “I’ve got to hold onto what I’ve got.”
America, over the last several years, has been feeding this message, “We got to hold onto what we got. We were number one. We had a lot of goodwill. We did a lot of good things. We did some junky things along the way, but pretty good. Our reputation, people are still going to respect us.” No, they’re going to see you as America. This is where we don’t want to be seen in the world population. A country with a big military that doesn’t contribute much. We do not want to have that identity. All of a sudden, it makes it hard to make a deal with them. It’s hard to have a commerce discussion.
The weird part about it is asking the Roman empire. You’re a big military that loses the sense of collaboration and cooperation with all of the things that you built. They don’t see you as a generous visitor that they’re exchanging with. They see you as an opportunist that is looking to take advantage of your situation. They go like, “I don’t want to play this anymore.” You lose respect, mutual consideration, mutual response. I don’t want America to go down that path, but that’s the path that’s opening up. I don’t like it as much, but it’s not in alignment with that.The next time you vote, reflect on patriotism if you want to grow collaboration, cooperation, or you're going to grow a division. Click To Tweet
That’s interesting to explore these communication situations where we see people who are in trouble trying to defend themselves, trying to survive, trying to walk through it. If they had a little more skill, they could probably walk not through the fire. They can walk on hot coals and not get burned.
That’s a part of the hot coal mindset too. You see the hot coals, you’ve got to trust that your body’s not going to fail you and you’re going to move all the way through that hot coal experience, and you’re able to walk barefoot across hot coals. Some people are too scared and terrified to do it. Some people are walking through but not at the pace that is necessary not to get burned. That’s where we can use empathy and consideration and set the intention to go, “I need to clean this up. It’s going to be a little tough, but I am going to walk through this with a pace that is going to make a difference, not to run to the other side.” In fact, if you run on the coals, your feet will get burned. You got to walk through that. You cannot run through hot coals because your feet sink too much and it’s further in. It starts burning on the side and you get off the pads. You got to walk through it. It’s like the walk to the fire.
It’ll be good time to keep watching and be able to provide little snippets of information of what to say or do to our readers because it’s all about not having my beliefs or your beliefs run the show. It’s how to communicate with somebody where the message sent is message received, that there is a working towards a mutual way to get a given need met. What does fairness look like to the people in the 1%, as well as the people in middle-class? What does fairness look like? Both of those people should be able to weigh in on fairness evenly. That’s unsettling because how do you weigh in on evenly? More to come, Tom. Thanks, everybody. We’ll look forward to seeing you next time.
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