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  • elainesbelson

CNN Redemption and Resurrection

Updated: Mar 31

Thanks to cable TV, what was once a Sunday morning ritual for political junkies has turned into a steady stream of insider information, cloakroom intrigue, political analysis, electoral predictions, and polls.

Former President Donald Trump was the perfect foible for this platform. According to The New York Times, the three major cable news networks – CNN, MSNBC and Fox News – saw huge gains in viewership during the 2016 election. After the election, Americans kept tuning in to assuage their fear and anger. But as political discourse descended into chaos and division, mainstream news outlets did not adapt. In fact, some say they enabled it.

The press seems to operate on the assumption that democratic norms (data, debate, policy, and elections) are the only way to resolve political differences. Given these parameters, it’s not surprising one of the two major political parties is bending the rules.

There is a third option.

When two countries are engaged in conflict, they turn to diplomacy – the art of negotiating while maintaining good will. As a psychotherapist, I rely on communication skills to build trust, avoid power struggles, resolve conflicts, and problem-solve.

There’s a misconception about communication. The purpose is not to win an argument or convince someone to agree. It’s to increase understanding to solve problems. Furthermore, communication is not just a set of verbal and nonverbal skills. It requires introspection and observation.

Unfortunately, political discourse has few role models. CNN can change that by including facilitators in panel discussions. Specifically, facilitators can:

  1. Establish trust by finding common ground, recognizing positive contributions and asking open-ended questions,

  2. Solve problems by identifying needs before discussing solutions, brainstorming, anticipating consequences, and factoring in multiple needs at once,

  3. Listen by verifying assumptions, soliciting information, understanding perception and intent.

  4. Avoid derailments by being transparent, recognizing communication roadblocks, and taking breaks,

  5. Reduce emotional reactivity by taking deep breaths, talking calmly, grounding, verbalizing the emotion.

Compare these interventions to the current dynamic. Conflict may attract an audience, but to what end? Connection can be equally energizing. Consider the popularity of helping people after a natural disaster or sudden hardship. As a clinician, I can assure you, nothing is more compelling than taking away people’s pain. This includes the country.

I have an expression: Same scene, different script. Regardless of tactic, white nationalism and Christian nationalism are nothing new in America. If we continue using reactive measures, like protesting, changing laws and winning elections, to eradicate them, we are condemning future generations to the same struggle.

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