The First Step in Returning Public Trust is Creating Dialogue


The following is an excerpt from I’m Right and You’re an Idiot.

It comes from the chapter “Like Ships in the Night” with Daniel Yankelovich. Yankelovich is a pioneer in public opinion research and a social scientist. Surveying public attitudes since the 1950s, Yankelovich has been called the “founding father of public opinion research.”

When dealing with conditions of inattention the objective is obvious: Get people to listen. If they are mistrustful at the start, they won’t listen even to fair and balanced points of view by distinguished and credible scientists. So a key place to begin is for policy makers and scientists to recognize that communication is not going on when they think it is. “We have an almost extreme situation where the very intelligent elites are sort of mumbling, and bumbling, and proceeding as if they were communicating — when they’re not.” Yankelovich noted the advertising profession has developed ways to communicate under conditions of mistrust and inattention, and others should too.

When we understand these elements — of polarization, inattention and mistrust — it’s clear why the truth about global warming has become so distorted and this is also where authentic conversation comes in. Yankelovich believes dialogue is not an arcane and esoteric intellectual exercise. It is a practical, everyday tool that is accessible to all, and when we use dialogue rather than debate we gain completely different insights into the ways people see the world.

Read the full excerpt here: The Tyee: Fixing Our Broken Conversation

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