It hurts and can be shocking when your (extended) community isn’t thinking the way you do. We surround ourselves with like-minded friends, including on social media, and so we develop what is called the ‘False Consensus Effect‘. It means that we wrongly assume that most people agree with what we think.
Additionally, once we realise the others think differently than we do it is tempting to try and convince them to see the situation from our perspective, preferably with evidence or good arguments. But we should not try to just impose views, no matter how evidence based, as the other would simply reject it due to confirmation bias, which is when we prefer, seek out, interpret and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. In other words, your evidence based proof will fall onto deaf ears. The key here is to find out why the ears are deaf.
It is now very confusing what is “British” as it seems the country is 50/50 in terms of their values. BUT effective conflict management, albeit hard work, can be possible by looking at what is really the matter, not by condescending viewpoints. First, a government must try to separate the espoused values from what people really need and how this can be supplied. For example, is it a sense of security? Or a need for freedom? Furthermore, try to find out what the nation needs in terms of skills and which government leadership team has the abilities to deliver an effective, happy workforce. For example, what does a region require in terms of industry innovation and how can this be supplied and what kind of training needs to be put in place? In management research this is called Person-Environment Fit, made up of a match between values, demands-abilities and needs-supplies, which has a strong correlation with wellbeing.
Much of such leadership requires the skill (and guts) to find out the ‘hidden issue’ – people say it’s about immigration. Is it? Or is it about companies not adhering to fair living wages, by underpaying Europeans in the construction and hospitality industry? Or they don’t like how British culture is changing. Well, in Brighton the Migrant English Project offers free English lessons and a lunch to immigrants in a welcoming way. Perhaps the kind side of integration policies needs to be reviewed, in order to address the multicultural tensions (See Scheffer on the situation in The Netherlands).
The issue of Euro bureaucrats – is it that? Or a sense of unequal regional investment and neglect – with the City being bailed out but also a focus of an unsustainable system of economic growth in an era where consumerism is having a lasting impact on our environment (see also Luyendijk’s Swimming with Sharks). The investment in the NHS: a stalemate situation between Hunt and doctors has been awful and what better way to blame Brussels to free funds. Yet, dare I say it, perhaps we need to look at Europe how it’s done elsewhere – with medical cards to pay a nominal fee to see a GP. There is too much distance between what someone pays for National Insurance and how that person can use it – a card can show a tally from which expensive surgery can be deducted. The alternatives are endless but this requires enormous innovative, creative and (culturally) intelligent thinking. The question is, who is up for the job?
Because in the meantime it seems that we are dealing with a “Schrödinger’s Brexit” – we’re neither in nor out of the EU. There is a call for a 2nd referendum and a call to have the result annulled. But before Remain supporters celebrate – such an imposed approach could cause further civil unrest within a split nation. Similarly, the Leave campaign claim they ‘won’ and everyone now needs to get on board. But that ‘win’ wasn’t a majority and people won’t be able to just change their views. They may have to accept that Britain will leave the EU but they won’t (want to) understand it. At this stage, it’s raw. Eventually, all that people can probably muster is to see the issue from the other’s perspective (provided it isn’t blatant hate, racism and ignorance or arrogance and elitism) but they won’t embrace it as their own viewpoint. In conflict management research, the ‘compromise’ solution isn’t ideal; Schrödingers Brexit will not make anyone happy. It’s up to the leadership to engage in integrative governance, which will be hard work.