Humans may violently disagree with one another, but there are ways to bring them together.
Poles Apart is based on interviews with leaders on both sides of the Atlantic and the latest academic research. It explains why we are so tribal, the advantages and disadvantages of being so, its often-unknown effects on our politics, businesses and social groups, and what we can do to halt excessive polarisation. It’s a brilliantly insightful – and very practical – book on a timeless subject that also happens to be very topical. It acts as the ideal primer for those who have ever had to negotiate or resolve a conflict – in other words, all of us.
Alison (Ali) Goldsworthy, the first of the book’s trio of authors, hit on the idea while a Sloan Fellow at Stanford University. In a panel discussion with Trump supporters on the largely Democrat leaning campus a student asked: “when did you last change your mind and why?” The panel took a deep breath as they reached for an answer. But their candid responses unlocked a new willingness to engage with an opposite viewpoint.
This became the question behind the Changed my Mind podcast, with Ali’s former colleagues Laura Osborne and Alexandra (Alex) Chesterfield coming onboard. Dubbed by Rory Sutherland, founder of Ogilvy’s Behavioural Science Practice, ‘the best question he has ever heard’, it has been gaining plaudits and listeners from its inception. Guests to date have included Peter Gabriel, Professor Tali Shalot and Jonathan Haidt. Distributed with openDemocracy, a second series is set to appear this summer.
As our identities increasingly align under political labels of convenience, now this is the perfect time for a reflective book that shines light on the world around us and how we can correct course from excessive political polarisation.