How Political Polarization Affects Our Personal and Professional Lives

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Listen to “#29 – How Political Polarization Affects Our Personal and Professional Lives” on Spreaker.

In this episode of the Breaking the Fever podcast, we speak with Alison Goldsworthy, Laura Osborne, and Alexandra Chesterfield—the authors of a new book, Poles Apart—about the manifestations of political polarization in our personal and professional lives, and how we might best go about coping with it and mitigating it where possible.

We discuss:

  • Signs of increasing polarization
  • How polarization affects decision-making—who to marry, live with, and hire
  • Whether business helps to bring people together who disagree politically
  • Whether political or ideological neutrality might be tenable in business
  • Facilitating constructive political conversations on polarizing topics
  • How emphasizing similarity, identifying superordinate goals and identity, can reduce animosity
  • How puncturing the illusion of explanatory depth can help people to realize they know less than they actually do, inducing a more open mind
  • Valuing intellectual honesty in leaders, and rewarding honesty about ignorance and the willingness to find out new information
  • The importance of asking people how they arrived at the views you disagree with
  • How personal ethics might affect what political positions people are willing to try to understand, or empathize with

Alison Goldsworthy has been a political adviser and campaigner for more than 20 years. A former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats, she led the team that built the fastest-growing campaigning organization in the United Kingdom. In 2017 she was a Sloan Fellow at Stanford, co-creating its first depolarization course. A board member of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Alison has won numerous awards for her work. She has written for the TelegraphIndependentNew StatesmanThe Times, and Financial Times.

Laura Osborne is a professional communicator, spokesperson, and podcaster, with a background in public affairs and government communications. Currently Corporate Affairs Director at London First, the voice of the city’s largest employers, she was previously Communications Director at Which?, the U.K.’s consumer association. Laura has led large teams, working with some of the U.K.’s biggest corporations to apply lessons from communications, consumer insight, and behavioral science to making business a force for good.

Alexandra Chesterfield is a behavioral scientist with a master’s degree in Cognitive and Decision Science. Forever curious about why we do what we do, she currently works in financial services, leading a team of behavioral scientists to help get better outcomes for employees and customers. For four years, she was an elected Councillor in Guildford for the Conservative Party. She has personally experienced the effects of affective polarization, both in and out of the workplace.