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Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

Change Begins With Me: Reflections on the 2016 Election

This has been the most disturbing and divisive election cycle either of us can remember. We began writing this piece by assembling a list of sound bites that ought to be consigned to a political “Hall of Shame.” But as we did so, we began to realize we’ve made our own contributions to that hall as well.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We haven’t engaged in hate speech or called for the imprisonment of a candidate. But as we started throwing rocks at others’ behavior, we realized some of ours was not beyond reproach either. As we all reflect on the past year, there’s a hierarchy of culprits we can look to:

1. The candidates. Need we say more? And beyond Trump and Clinton, many of the primary and presidential contenders have lowered the bar on political discourse and election strategy.
2. The media. The media has brought in paid partisans who do little more than recite their campaign’s talking points. News outlets claim to give us “balance” when what we really want is objective analysis by unbiased reporters, producers, and news anchors. After all, the media is often touted as the fourth estate with the responsibility to hold the government to account, and from our perspective, the media has not acted any more responsibly than the before-mentioned politicians.
3. The alternative media. The Internet is festooned with fiction dressed up as fact. And most of its users have become witless distribution tools rather than cautious examiners of what it offers—causing us to “feel” informed rather than “be” informed.
4. Friends (or former friends) and colleagues. We published a study a few months ago that revealed how terrified many of us have felt to venture into political discussions – and rightly so. Over thirty-three percent of us have had a political discussion blow up in our face—causing us to lose a relationship—or worse. We can all point to others who have behaved badly as they’ve attempted to assert their views or influence the views of others.
5. Me. Our emotions turned from righteous indignation to humble reflection as we asked, “How have we contributed to the decline?” If our motive in reviewing the past is to assign blame, we could certainly start with number one on this list and move down in that order. But if we really want to influence change, we should probably reverse the order and start with ME.
With this sobering insight in mind, here are our top six political regrets from 2016 and resolutions for the future.

• Regret 1: We have allowed profound disagreement to turn into personal judgments.
• Regret 2: We have cowered from opportunities to share our honest views on issues of deep moral importance to us for fear of being punished by an angry virtual mob—or worse.
• Regret 3: We have spent enormous time commiserating with those who shared our views and precious little exercising genuine curiosity to learn from those who don’t share our views.
• Regret 4: We have been passively vulnerable to the tyranny of search engines—investing time in information that is manipulated by algorithms designed to reinforce our biases. Search engines today are a powerful force for reinforcing ideological divisions as they sense what you prefer to read and serve up more of the same.
• Regret 5: We have contributed to contention by chuckling and—gulp—“liking” postings that were insulting but clever, if they advanced our agenda.
• Regret 6: We complained about the final candidates but did precious little early enough in the process to produce a better slate of choices.
These are hard pills to swallow. But if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we let ourselves down. Thankfully, we woke up this morning knowing we can do better. We don’t have to experience this type of divisive and toxic election again, and we won’t—at the very least, we won’t be participants in one. In the future we promise:

1. To not turn vehement disagreement into personal attack.
2. To periodically seek out reasonable advocates of opposing views—and listen deeply to them.
3. To never outsource our political opinions to search engines.
4. To get involved in the political process earlier rather than complain later about weak candidate options.
5. To never again forward or “like” hatefully clever but intellectually vapid material even about candidates or positions we oppose.
6. To continue to engage in the political discussion—and do so in the way we hope others do with us—even if we are unhappy with the results of yesterday’s election.

How about you? Got any regrets? How have you behaved in ways that you are not proud of? What resolutions are you willing to make to help prevent the disgrace of this last election? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

We believe in the goodness of our readers and would like to rally around what can be possible, rather than what just happened. Let’s vow to make it different the next time around.

Best Wishes,
Joseph & David

You can learn more insights and skills like this in Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

206 thoughts on “Change Begins With Me: Reflections on the 2016 Election”

  1. Molly McGee Hewitt

    Very well said. I could not agree more!

  2. Susan West

    Dear Joseph ad David,
    I am a certfied CC trainer and follow your readings avidly. I truly believe you have the good of the world at heart and have created ways to help people communicate and bridge gaps in understanding. I appreciate your post from that perspective – we do need to find ways to move forward. It’s quite possible I have been manipulated by the press and the search engines, but I despair that this election result is going to lead to incalculable suffering in our country and in the world. I hope your ideas will contribute to the coming dialogue which will eventually lead to healing, but we have an uphill battle to face right now with this terribly fractious individual at the helm. Self-examination will be important as well as our best listening skills. I just don’t see how those can come into play with such casual disregard, disrespect and contempt at the top.
    Sue West

    1. Wayne

      This post is awesome… I love how you have admitted you may have been manipulated by the press and search engines and in the next breath turn use terms like “terribly fractious individual” and “casual disregard, disrespect and contempt at the top.” You say we need to find ways to move forward. Is this how you create a safe environment to open the dialog; with divisive attacks? I hope that you can realize and take some personal responsibility in creating the “uphill battle”.

      1. Betsy Cutler


      2. Julie Cook Quirk

        I think you confuse negative but accurate descriptive words for fightin’ words. ANY negativity seems to be taken as mudslinging today and sends people immediately into responding with a personal attack, as if the individual has attacked his mother. Trump HAS disrespected many groups, making generalizations that can be described as racist contempt. Whether you share this perspective of contempt or not defines whether that description of the attitude makes you bristle. You can euphemise the words by calling them “making America great again,” but that’s just whitewashing to make the reality into something that sounds more acceptable in general. The nice way of saying it is a slogan that voters bought, but the application is dangerous to many citizens. Those who recognize the danger can’t call it anything else and those who agree probably believe the danger doesn’t apply to themselves, anyone they care about or anyone they consider to be “legitimate” Americans.

    2. CJ Gruber

      I’m feeling the same, Sue. It does take 2 to tango, and my biggest concern is how to influence a true dialogue where all parties are listening. I also rather strongly disagree with the notion of an unbiased media. I prefer openly honest and well reasoned discourse where different perspectives and opinions are not cleverly presented as ‘unbiased’. Part of what I saw happening this election was a decisive unwillingness of mainstream media outlets to ‘call a spade a spade’. Without truth, there can be no peace.
      CJ Gruber

  3. (a different) Donald

    This is probably the best post-election, authentic commentary I have read. Thank you for being the adult in the room. I am guilty of many of the transgressions you have listed, so I own them too. In particularly, I am guilty for not getting know people not like me who clearly had “issues” (about a lot of things) and, so instead of working them to find common ground and the way forward – as Americans – I find myself shell-shocked that there are so many people who feel so strongly about “something(s)” that they are willing to elect a person like “we” just did. My fear is that what this really is is this: a century and a half reaction to the Civil War and all that came afterwards. As someone commented: “The Empire Strikes Back”. We are two countries. People must now choose which one they want.

    1. Delilah

      We can only hope the the Empire striking back leads to The Return of the Jedi.

  4. Sanjay Tiwari

    Very well written.

  5. Andrew Jicha

    You way overestimate the value of your comments.

    1. Miriam Eaton

      Andrew…I totally agree with your statement…the commentary certainly does not offer an “uplifting and positive” way to support the majority decision since it is imbued with negativism.

    2. Joseph Grenny

      Not sure what you mean, Andrew – can you elaborate?

    3. Angela Huffman

      You’ve way overestimated the impact of this opinion:)

  6. tom benzoni

    I am an older physician.
    And father and husband and teacher of med students.
    I am blessed with children who give me different views.
    One teaches in a high school that is 90% minority. (Work with me here; I know the math doesn’t add up.)
    While she stood up for one candidate, she participated in discussions with supporters of the other. She brought me their views.
    She talked of their angst of having been promised that, if they stopped their education right after high school, they would always have a good job, nice home, 2 chickens in every pot, etc.
    That didn’t happen and they feel lied to.
    This point of view resonated with me because, several decades ago, i spent 4 years with the Public Health Service deep in the Appalachian Mountains.
    There I met some of the most beautiful people. They still hold a special place in my heart and mind.
    So much so that I take groups of students back their on their spring breaks.
    I think it’s much like I learned many years ago from a very wise person: If you think you know all the answers, perhaps you don’t understand the question.

    1. Ann Boutelle

      Your daughter’s students were lied to! If they lived in coal mining country, teachers were on the front line to teach modern subjects that would help students face their quickly changing world. They need to learn about current world economies, politics, the overuse of the world’s resources, the poisoning of our environments , the quickly changing technologies and abilities of computers. Most of the real training for these areas of study are in college. If a high school graduate doesn’t have a real grasp of the basics: how to read and write well in English; computer skills; science: earth science/biology, physics, environmental science; higher math, and current world events and a deep understanding of world history and politics, then that student is behind. He or she must catch up or specialize or face the future with few opportunities. There is no longer a promise of chickens in pots.

  7. Barbara Lucks

    Thank you for taking ownership of our circumstances. This election has been like looking in a mirror. We all have to take ownership before we can prevent this from happening again. We must take immediate ownership to mitigate the possible near-term repercussions.

    We have treated our precious democracy as reality entertainment. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

  8. Betsy Cutler

    I woke up deeply disturbed at the results of this election. I’m fearful of the repercussions of such a decision and pray that it’s not destructive to our society, our freedom and our environment all of which are very fragile right now.

  9. Kathleen Astorga

    Waking up to the results of our election was hard. But reading your post helped to put it in perspective. Moving forward Will take Grace perseverance and open-mindedness. The American people have spoken.

  10. Hope McCall

    So very well said!
    What an opportunity for us to re-examine ourselves — self-awareness as a human endowment has been lost by so many. Many have taken a righteous attitude/stance on what everyone else is doing without looking first within. I am saddened at what has just happened. I feel it is a reflection of where we as a people are. Shallow in thought, lacking reflection and awareness of ones attitudes and beliefs, wanting change so badly we rebel against democracy and what is right and worst of all, not wanting to step up to be the change and do the work. I did a BIG reexamination of my own belief system, yes, a personal lesson indeed. Thanks for sharing Joseph and David! Blessings

    1. Denise Walker

      Well said

  11. Ferne Elsass

    I too regret not getting more involved in the election sooner. I resolve to never let that happen again. I hope to be a better listener to those that have different views. I hope that we can work together and rise above to become a better country and community overall. I was able to keep most of my relationships intact throughout the election, but it has truly change my view and judgement of them as individuals. Those relationships may not recover. I am frightened for the future of my children and what the results say to them. I plan to continue to raise them to be strong and sound individuals in the hopes that as citizens they will make good choices for our country. Thank you for this post.

  12. Alan Smith

    Dear Friends,

    I awoke this morning knowing that what I feared had come to pass. Yes, Micheal Moore was right.

    Yet, today we know clearly that disunity leads to disintegration. We also known that disintegration opens new opportunities for different things to take root.

    We must address the issue of unity. We must be about uniting humanity around a set of principles that treat all as members one human family without regard to race, religion, national origin or gender.

    May I humbly suggest that we start a process premised on the oneness of humanity. Let us expand the family to include all our brothers and sister around the world.

    Finally, there is a body of writing on this subject that has its origins in mid 19th century Persia. The writer is known as Baha’u’llah. One of His teachings is,

    “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security are unattainable unless and its unity is firmly established.”

    You can learn more about His teachings by visiting

    “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”


    1. Jo Spellman

      you forgot to add ‘age’ to your list of the differences we should all accept while still treating each other as one human family. I think this was probably unintentional, but I believe very telling about why the election went the way it did. If we really, really mean it when we say we want to heal going forward, it must truly mean going forward with what we started with, one nation, under God. Every blessed one of us has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Honestly, while I have never in my life been faced with such really bad presidential choices, I knew I could only vote for the candidate who committed to standing for life from the moment of conception to natural death, and who committed to truly protecting our religious liberty. He is indeed a very flawed individual (as we all are), but as I look back through recorded history, God has often called very, very flawed individuals to do His work. I found myself guilty many times of much that was noted. But can say honestly that I did try very hard to speak truth with charity. I too lost some friends in this ugly election, and it makes me weep, but there are some things in this life we must stand firm on that are worth losing friends over. I clung close to the one friend I cannot live without. Jesus Christ. We must first and foremost continue to pray for His Mercy and guidance. We desperately need it. I pray that we heal, but not by conceding to or tolerating the culture of death that has overcome us. Real love of humanity frequently requires we speak truth to power, and be willing to stand against evil. That’s what I did yesterday with my vote. And I’m not all that thrilled with who that meant I had to vote for, but I am at peace.

  13. Neil

    Brilliant. Gentlemen thank you. I keep having to try and explain to disappointed people why I think the thing they just showed me on social media about the election isn’t actually funny. I dislike that let down look you get when you’re clearly supposed to be giggling but aren’t.

    Now if you could just express all of this in a couple of sentences with a funny picture we could take back social media. But that’s impossible isn’t it? Which i guess is the real problem. A soundbite is always going to be easier to digest than a three course meal prepared with skill, attention to detail and careful selection of ingredients. Which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to eat well.

    My compliments to the chef.

    1. Linda C.

      “Like” your comments – thank you.

    2. David Maxfield

      Yes, dialogue takes time, and the challenges we face are complex. Social media hasn’t always deepened the dialogue. It makes it easy to live in an echo chamber, where we only hear people who agree with us. I’m optimistic that social media and our use of it will improve with time and experience.

  14. David Satterfield

    I appreciate your thoughts though I have a different perspective. The nastiness of the campaign could represent the manner that the American’s won the Revolutionary War. They did not fight according to “convention”. They did not fight like “gentlemen” or in the conventional manner. They were a bare knuckle, down and dirty fighting force. I think citizens were tired of hearing that we can’t because that would cause a trade war or millions would loose their newly found health insurance or deficits would increase. What really changed was the exposure that manual labor was not valuable and should be put out of business in favor of intellectual business. The crudeness became both a distraction and a symbol of the candidate that he was going to do everything it took to win. Now, having won, he faces carnage caused by that strategy that he must rebuild to make America great again.

    1. David Maxfield

      Thanks for your perspective. I agree that many people’s concerns have gone unheard or have been ignored. But we all need to be aware that we might be the ones who aren’t listening or attending well to others’ concerns as well.

  15. Diana

    Well said. Thank you for your sobering and thoughtful comments.

  16. Jay

    The only thing that matters is that God is in control; regardless of the outcome of this election. As a country, we need to keep God first in our lives and family, and if we do this, rest assured, this county will become more united and prosperous than ever.

    Ephesians 1:21-23

    “21) Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22) God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23) And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself.”

    1. Jo Spellman

      Just ‘liking’ your perspective. 🙂

  17. simon

    A well written summary. What has happened has happened and no amount of bitterness, lobbying and moaning will change that. Today America will wake up with levels of uncertainly, insecurity, optimism and opportunity. The important thing has to be to show the rest of the world America is truly United States and that “Out of many, one”.

  18. Terry Hancock

    Let’s allow this 20/20 hindsight today and then move forward. Just as there is always a difference of view, let us take this opportunity to realize, we have a new and different opportunity starting today. I love this country dearly and I want all of us to recognize that we ARE America and prove it!
    There are no more what ifs, there are just what nows.

  19. Debbie Palumbo-Sanders

    Probably the best article…….

  20. Jim

    Your title speaks volumes….Dear America—Our Regrets and Resolutions from the 2016 Presidential Election. Instead of practicing what you preach “….temper your emotions so you can get to dialogue.” And the myriad other comments you make regarding personal accountability as it relates to discourse? Your title screams just the opposite and is shameful. My desire is to hone my dialogic skills and it is clear I made a mistake connecting my company with Vital Smarts. Further I can no longer use your books in my workshops. Shocked by your response, Jim

    ital Smarts/Crucial conversations

    1. Joseph Grenny

      Jim – Sorry to see you disconnect from our work. I am not sure from your comment what you got from our posting – could you please help me understand how the title “screams the opposite and is shameful?”

    2. Aunt Kay

      I totally agree, Jim. I have touted the good work being done by this organization for years, but I must respectfully step away from yet another company that chooses to weigh in politically and blatantly take on political views. I grow weary of organizations who have no political motives mentioned in their mission or vision statements; yet, they feel they must use that organization as a political voice. I can no longer recommend your books, workshops, or training to any of the folks I work with.

      1. M Hart

        I am confused by the position that this is a political statement. I re-read twice to see where the piece directed the reader to any particular political position. I tried to read from multiple perspectives (i.e. Clinton supporter, Trump supporter, neither supporter, etc.). I still could not find a message other than reflection on personal role in the election process. Can Jim or Aunt Kay elaborate so that I can understand the frustration? I too, am afraid that we are losing our ability to talk to each other and explore other viewpoints to the point that our future seems unstable. I want to do better, and this seems to be a great place to start.

  21. Dan Mowery

    Well said!

  22. Judy Holcomb

    That was an admiral piece and apology. I agree that this election has been one like no other I have ever seen in my 62 years here on this earth. I pray there will never be another one like it. I believe a lot of elections are won on the people trying to elect the “lesser of the two evils” but never to the extent that the 2016 election has been. I also apologize to anyone I may of offended with my opinions of what the election should bring and who is right or wrong in the debates. I am sure someone along the line listened to me but disagreed vehemently.
    We can and should all do better than this and I vow to try my best in the future to get more real information and withhold judgment until the end.

    1. Linda C.

      Well said. Thank you.

  23. Girtha

    Thank you gentlemen. Your article actually made me feel better and yes I can do and will do better going forward. I did not engage in hate speech or spread dishonest posts, but I did take personally a lot of what I heard from my opposition candidate and it made me angry, but not angry enough to get out and engage in truth telling or the political process. I stayed in my own lane with like minded folks and remain woefully disappointed in our leaders. I can do better. I must do better.

  24. sally Anlin

    As always, the two of you and your thought leadership say so much. Your post is a reminder to continue to strive forward with compassion and grace during these difficult times.

    Thank you , thank you, thank you.


  25. Keller Wilson

    Thanks for a well-written post. I have shared it on my FB page and have committed myself to the six resolutions.

  26. Philip L.Haberstro

    Believe a great deal of impact on the current “Health” of American civil society is due to our diminished stock of our social capital (see research of Robert Putnam and others) . Any efforts to move our nation forward must be comprehensive and include strategies and on-going actions to restore (at the local level) and sustain our communities’ stock of social capital .

  27. Mike

    This morning I feel both relieved and somber. Some things important to me were protected, while concerns over what may be are front and center. Your article struck a chord with me and will be shared with others as a reminder of how we need to treat one another as Americans with different visions but similar desires for a better America. Thank ypu!

    1. Angela Huffman

      Love this

  28. Kate Hayward

    I resolve to stop talking about groups as if they were homogeneous and think about people as individual human beings. And I resolve to encourage that behavior in others.

  29. Kim

    Thank you so much for sharing this post!

  30. Aisha Moore

    Very well written. This election season has been rife with regret and shame. I advised my children this morning to remain silent throughout the school day today – to disengage in an effort to protect themselves. This is what it has come to.

  31. John Wallace

    I enjoyed the deep and personal observations that you made. It is interesting to me that as you stated, the media claims to be the “unbiased source” giving us the news, but in fact are part of the Juggernaut that lead us instead of informing us. We need to search out answers and not rely on the quick engine search that may or may not support our line of thought. The Internet is fabulous, however we must be aware that it can give us false perceptions based on the search data. As citizens, we must be informed and truly search out the answers and be part of the solution.

    1. Sharon Campbell

      Beware of “fact check” sites. Few are even pretending to be objective and can be readily seen to be carefully parsing the claim and their “fact checking.” has careful methodology that is trustworthy.

      1. Jo Spellman

        thanks for this tip! I checked it out, and do find it is very good. though I think it is a .com, rather than a .org . . .

        1. Sharon Campbell

          Thanks for the correction! It is indeed dot com.

  32. Linda C.

    Thank you so much for putting these thoughts into words. This was definitely an election to be remembered as the opportunity to offer us all the chance to start thinking and acting sooner in the election process.
    My personal thought process during this election was ‘Who would I want to work for?” After 25 years of supporting executive leadership, I’ve work with personalities at both ends of the spectrum. When I said this to people who wanted to talk politics, it really made them think… look at the basic character of the individual. Do they appear publically outspoken and brash, but basically fight for the things you believe in? Would they ‘throw you under the bus’ at the first opportunity to defend themselves? Could you work side by side with that personality 8-10 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week? Not everyone will answer these questions in the same way, but it did seem to open communication and expand the discussion from what was in the media and on the internet, to a more basic, human approach to making a choice.
    No matter who would have won, our nation has much work ahead of it – as we always have had. Let’s find a way to get the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, the farmers, the urbanites, and the soccer families (not just Moms) to work together and make the best of what this country – and the world around us – has to offer.
    God bless us – every one.

  33. D Campbell

    Thank you for the insightful post-election musings. I have thought about this so much and agree that most of us had moments of behaving badly. As a fiscal conservative, but social liberal, I don’t really feel I have a political party home. The condescending language and attitudes I have experienced from some of my friends, family and colleagues actually effected my decision regarding for whom to vote. With you, I am hoping for a more productive, less divisive political atmosphere going forward.

  34. Joe Magid

    I fear that democracy has died, killed by “news” organizations without a moral compass aided and abetted by a traditional media where profits rule over the awesome responsibilities of the 4th estate.
    Whether I empathize with the situation of others or not, the lack of ability to agree on basic facts, whether it be the state of the economy, the drivers of ups and downs, the state of education and the causes of success and failure, the relationship of carbon and climate, has led us to this precipice. I do not share the President’s optimism or faith in the American people. We have truly lost our way.

  35. Kris

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. You are both correct on several points. I tend to go to silence. I will work to to educate myself more on the issues so that I can have healthy dialogue with others.

    Here’s to working together!

  36. Diane Cone

    Thank you for your reasonable comments. I remain afraid for women and for all of the moderate voters in our country. This definitely stepping off the cliff into the unknown. Who are the occupants of this new administration? I hope people I know who have said he will hire knowledgeable people to advise and listen to them are right. Sadly,there is no guarantee

  37. MJC

    I’m a strong liberal, and work among many right-wing voters. It seems they feel absolutely free to state whatever opinion they have, but if I counter it I’m the one “making things political”. I get so tired.

  38. Marie Bjork

    Today, I just need to mourn and feel the sadness and loss. Sadness for the world, our children, our most vulnerable. I, and many others, grossly underestimated the level of fear of change and fear of ‘the other’ in our country. How does anyone not get that there is no “other”? It’s just us.

    1. MJC

      I agree. I resolve to stay strong, loving, inclusive, and to speak from my heart. I refuse to let this election divide people. As a white woman I don’t have much to fear, but I will be closely watching my non-white and gay brothers and sisters. I do fear for their safety

  39. Oksana

    Such a profound and inspiring article. I will do my best to be a respectful, informed, and engaged citizen. That is my resolution. As I have told my three boys (10 and 8-year-old twins), we live in a democracy where opinions can be expressed openly, shared enthusiastically, and opposing views can (and should) be debated vigorously with the expectation is that no harm will come to you as an outspoken citizen, from other citizens or the government, based on your political views..

  40. Delilah

    I truly appreciate your article and the immediacy with which you posted it. I agree that we must go forward with a more positive tack. But I’m struggling to get my past my grief. I am appalled at my fellow Americans. And not so much even about the politics as much as the psychology. I believe at least 90% of this election decision arises from misogyny. I can feel it. And now I feel fear as well.

  41. Pat

    Right on the mark. As we move forward as a notion, I believe the blurb below says it best:
    After the Election……
    If you win, Don’t Gloat
    If you lose, Don’t Despair
    This has been hard on all of us
    Treat others the way you want to be treated
    We all will need it…

  42. Peggy Hill

    Thanks so much for expressing this position. I’m sure many of us are trying to understand how we got here as we wake up to the emotional “hangover” from this year’s presidential race. It’s good to have positive direction to consider as we chart our course to the next steps.

  43. Penny Miller

    Agree wholeheartedly. Vilification of others with differing opinions does nothing good. We “know” that better solutions to work issues come out of a diversity of team members, but for some reason, in political discourse, only those who share our views are right. I try very hard not to be pulled down into the sewer of incivility, but I admit it is hard some days.

  44. Joanne Nathem

    This is the toughest election year I have ever seen in my past 44 years of voting. I have not had a lot of conversations but to myself I have said that neither is a viable candidate and both unethical. I did vote because I believe it my civic responsibility but it came down to deciding do I write in a name or vote for the person most viable as a vice-president. I did not write in a name figuring it would not even be recognized in the total numbers. I am proud of my voting history but also add that any candidate I wanted prior to the number of choices being reduced pre-election, I have never had my preferred candidate make it to the point of election.

    I do wish that we limited the amount of campaigning to two months and $1,000,000.00 each. What a waste, especially since most people make up their minds early on.

  45. Floyd Price

    I said ouch after reading this article, I should’ve had more conversations with people who didn’t think like me!

  46. Sally

    At first, as the outcome became apparent, I was truly scared. But on reflection I have redirected my thinking, to be supportive and optimistic for our future. Perhaps this outcome is for a reason. That being said, our government has been at a stalemate for 8 years. The obstructive behavior of our elected officials has made our country lose face in the world. Now with the incredible outcome of President Elect Trump, we must move forward and be positive in hopes that our country will actually improve the lives of our citizens and regain the position as the strongest and most respected country in the world. God Bless the USA

  47. Eva LK

    The attitudes in the political sphere reflected our emotions spot on – frustration, anger, disbelief and flat out annoyance of ‘not being heard’.
    In my opinion, there are a LOT of opportunity to share only your belief of the situation and allow your feelings to ruin a relationship.
    However, I know that in order to be part of change, you must believe in your ideals/values and work to make those heard.
    I don’t vow to be different, because that means I stop being who I am, although, I will continue to work towards understanding the other point of view and know that agreeing is not necessary to both be citizens of the same country.
    Group think is what allowed us to arrive at this election cycle to begin with and is the reason we had such a historically unprecedented race.

  48. Floyd Price

    I said ouch after reading this article. I should have had more conversations with people who did not think like me.

  49. Johnnie Blackburn

    Thanks guys. I needed a good way to start my day reflecting on my own behaviors over the past 12 months or so. Has it really been going on this long? Your words really hit home. It’s like hearing a sermon that steps on your toes…you don’t like to hear it but you really need it.

  50. Laura

    Easy to be reasonable when you are a wealthy white male. You aren’t on the hit list. The rest of us are scared beyond belief.

    1. Joseph Grenny

      Thank you for sharing that perspective, Laura. I care about how all this affects you, too. And I’m sure you sit in a different place than I.

    2. Denise Walker

      Yep Terrified

      1. MJC

        Agreed. I fear for others

        1. CJ Gruber

          I fear for the world and the earth and all that sustains us. Listening is truly important. But not if we ignore the truth of what the outcomes of this election may be. I pray all of us will vigilantly stand and protect the rights of all people, including those who do not believe in your god or ascribe to the political platform of your candidate. Most of my family were Germans who lived through horrible times and who reflect back on how civility influenced their silence and lack of action. I pray I will listen and act in accordance with the principles of liberty and justice for all.

          1. Jo Spellman

            This is profoundly true. I am confident you need not fear my God, who is indeed the loving father of all of His creatures, and it is He who sustains His entire creation, and wants what is good for each and everyone of us, including those who do not believe He exists. I especially like that you note the platforms of the candidates, rather than the candidates themselves, and invite all people of goodwill to study them both. I voted for a platform, not a person in this election, because one of the two major platforms, remarkably, truly does seek liberty and justice for all of us, from the moment of conception through natural death. The other one does not.

    3. Sherry

      Exactly my reaction.

  51. Denise Walker

    I am afraid. I am embarrassed. I am deeply disappointed by the confirmation that American values are far less thoughtful, far less noble and much uglier than I previously thought.

    1. Wendi

      Well said.

  52. CJ

    First, I commend you and your team on being truthfully transparent and authentic to your theory of change. You are being accountable to your audience; influencing others by practicing the principles that define your work; and presenting a thoughtful reflective view of what worked, what didn’t work and what can be done differently. If I understand what you’ve shared in context, you are expressing what you want for yourself, what you want for your readers, and how we can make it happen for the masses. Is my understanding a fair overview of your post?

    Thanks for living your values; practicing what you teach and being humble influencers!

  53. Dennis Knight

    Dear VitalSmarts Friends,
    You analysis and comments on the day and the months leading up to this election are spot on. Civil discourse by an informed society has become near impossible. I too am committing to participating early and being as informed on the issues facing our country more in the future. They are numerous and complex and finding sources of unbiased information and the time to do independent, personal research is difficult for the average American – busy making ends meet. Hopefully you will share some of your sources and thought processes with us moving forward.
    Dennis Knight

  54. Janeese

    I am working on improving my awareness of when fear is influencing my thoughts, my words and/or my actions. This is challenging given the amount of fear that creeps into our space from all directions. I don’t necessarily try to convince myself that the fear is misplaced but, rather, turn away from fear using a) gratitude of goodness and love in my life; b) encouragement and support of those around me and c) personal monitoring of myself for where I have opportunity to learn.

  55. Genie Mulhern

    Your article caused me to pause, consider and realize this behavior (at least some of it) in myself and others. I will pass this on to my teens & young adult children to consider this perspective as this behavior is truly unacceptable! Thank you.

  56. Clive Fiedor

    Brilliant piece. It encapsulates most, if not all, of what the majority of the American people are thinking. I am relieved that we still have people who can write so eloquently and succinctly about troubling political relationships. We must move forward with a sense of balance and respect for the views and beliefs of other. Thank you for sharing.

  57. Michelle Thimmesch

    Your bias is showing…unfortunate

    1. Joseph Grenny

      Really, Michelle? What do you suspect the bias is? David and I vote differently in many – if not most — elections.

  58. An American voter.

    Now let us make America great again.

  59. Kathy Weeks

    Change requires respect for all people of our nation and our world. God gives us frequent chances to stand up and do the right thing. America was built on sound principles and I for one will use this election as an opportunity to express my thoughts with respect to others but yet stand up for my beliefs. The people have spoken but we must lead with our hearts. KW

  60. Jennifer May

    I’m absolutely flummoxed why so many democrats are beside themselves. We have a lifelong democrat – who has given MILLIONS to democrats, their party and their “foundations”. A celebrity, a tax cheat. A pro-abortion, gun grabbing agnostic celebrity New Yorker. What’s a democrat to dislike? oh that’s right – he’s all of a sudden a “bigot” – so for the previous 30 or more years when democrats were lavishing Trump’s largess, he was a perfectly “stand up guy:” but now all of a sudden he’s a “bigot”???

    Trump and Clinton are cut from the same cloth and indeed, will govern almost exactly the same. America had a great choice – two incredibly successful men who proved that “working together” can happen. Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld presented the best opportunity for America to get beyond the rampant hatred and intolerance the last 15-20 years has brought. But the frogs stayed in the frying pan.

  61. Joyce Thompson

    I am saddened by your commentary. You obviously look down on the candidates and our election process. Our government was designed to allow for a bloodless transition of power by democratically elected officials. Our government was designed to allow the voice of the people – as an obligation and a privilege – to determine the composition of our leadership. Yes, this was an election full of division and drama. It was not America’s finest moment. But our system worked as designed, the American people’s voice was heard. We need to encourage ongoing citizen engagement in our political processes and be proud that, as Americans, we can continue to build on the principles which have served to make our country great. Our first Presidents were farmers & business men – not career politicians. It was their commitment to serve our country that has made us a great and compassionate nation.

    1. Joseph Grenny

      A great and valid point, Joyce. Thank you for sharing it.

  62. Jogesh Raja

    I agree 100 percent but I believe we need to abolish the Electoral College and elect the president just like all other election where majority elects the candidate. We have seen the outcome of using this old system in the past which may have served its purpose in the past but is failing us today.

    “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – Winston Churchill

    1. Jogesh Raja

      I apologize for typo. “100%” and not “1 oo percwnt” and “I believe” not “I believeIn”

  63. Craig Mieczkowski

    Very good read! Well done

  64. Mark Oelze

    Joseph, I have been following you for the last couple of years reading your blogs after having read Crucial Conversations and Change Anything. I am so appreciative of all you and your colleagues have done in your writings. And once again today I find myself humbled and actually quite amazed at finding two men who are willing to look at themselves in an honest manner and see how they have contributed to the place in which we find ourselves today in politics. I was also convicted about what you shared and committing to follow along with your second promise: To periodically seek out reasonable advocates of opposing views—and listen deeply to them. Thank you again.

  65. JEF

    So very well stated! I’m guilty of it all! The increasing negativity & obvious pandering over the last 10-20 years really disgusts me. Never mind all the campaign & PAC money expended which could solve so many problems! I purposefully tear up all postcards, flyers, etc since they tend to be so one-sided & negative & delete any automated voicemails left by parties &/or candidates. I try to refrain from most political recourse, partially because I know I haven’t taken the time to do any real analytical research on my own to feel I can voice an opinion. I vote because I feel it is my responsibility but I’m so tired of the rhetoric by the time elections arrive that I make my choices based on the “Blue Book” to get it over with as quickly as possible & don’t pursue any other avenues to make a more educated choice. The whole election process saddens me but I’m not sure what I can do or what I would be willing to do to influence any changes.

  66. Maaike Ezinga

    Gentlemen, thank you both for this well balanced response to the Election Process. I have posted it on my LinkedIn profile. The USA will face the next election in about 3 years from now. So why not prepare for that and give this some thought.. Jospeh Grenny for President !

  67. Sheri

    Well done! Agreed!

  68. Rebecca Yost

    Fear, complacency, withdrawal, embarrassment, despair at how low we have gone – all this just took the life out of me. Just sheer disbelief that this is who we are as a country.
    I feel like an alien. I feel like I don’t belong. At least the problems are exposed. We are in trouble and as my father always used to say “things sometimes have to get worse before they get better” and “Always err on the side of hope” – something good will hopefully come from all this even though we don’t know how or what it will be.

  69. Rebecca Yost

    Just to add. thanks for your article. It is very good and I shared with my children and my boss and I am sure I will send it on to my friends. Thanks for your honesty and courage.

  70. Angela Page

    Thank you for your insights. I am guilty of some of those points and will resolve to be better. We have much to do together.

  71. Kevin

    Thank you for a well-written, authentic, and thought-provoking post (as if we would expect anything less!).

    Here’s a suggestion that may be helpful (at least that’s my intent): Why not try and use the power of social media as Source 3 and 4 strategies to help people improve their dialog skills in ways that might enable some of the vital behaviors that would get EVERYONE to elevate their political discourse? What I’m really saying is that you/we probably already know what the vital behaviors are, and you definitely know how to use influence strategies to enable and motivate those behaviors on a large scale, so why not dream really big about the potential impact on humanity that is possible, given these realities? You might even co-opt the VitalSmarts community to assist you in achieving this kind of a dream. 🙂

    There’s a higher purpose behind your work, and we all know it. If it were me, I wouldn’t worry about making money off of something like this. Instead, make change possible because it’s the noble thing to do with the knowledge and wisdom that you have.

  72. Rowland

    Thanks for finally giving me a good reason to unsubscribe to your website. But I do give you a lot of credit explaining why people behave badly, it’s your solutions that are at fault.

    1. Joseph Grenny

      Rowland – sorry to see you go. Any parting advice on better solutions?

  73. Polly Chandler

    This is a good reminder. As a woman, I am still trying to sift through this loss of the first woman president. I look for words to hold me and while yours are helpful, I do believe Martin Luther King is the wisdom we need

    Our goal is to create a beloved community and
    this will require a qualitative change in our souls
    as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
    ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  74. Becky

    My sincere thanks to you both for posting a message to subscribers that sincerely points the one thing we do have control of in the aftermath of a very contentious election: Ourselves…our thoughts and our actions. Thank you for setting the course for action where it truly belongs.

  75. Sandy Moss

    I would simply like to thank you for your insightful and honest article this morning.
    A concerned Canadian

  76. Lynna

    Thank you for your honest reflection! I second your motion to rally around what can be possible. The sun still came out today, we can make this work.

  77. Rob Keiter

    Thanks for giving all of us some great food for thought. There’s such a need right now in our country for true dialogue between people courageous enough to merge personal honesty with mutual respect. I know that isn’t easy, but it is possible. And it’s the best path forward!

  78. Tammy

    Thank you for your thought provoking article. Your words eloquently express the feelings of many today. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  79. Krista Penner

    As a Canadian looking south I appreciate your comments. Indeed, somewhere in this process we have made it very undesirable for men and women with deep moral and ethical convictions to put their hats in a ring that is viewed as a toxic wasteland of political rhetoric.
    I have strong ties to the United States as my own son has chosen to serve as a US Marine.
    It is our prayer that indeed going forward the values of truth, integrity, courage and freedom with become stronger and will impact your truly great nation in ways that have not been seen for many years.
    I am thankful for the United States and am blessed to be your neighbour.

  80. Nancy

    Wow, very well said. I agree that some of us did not talk politics to a few of our friends because we did not want to anger or lose them. such a shame.

  81. Mary Riggins

    Loved all that you have said. I must admit I did not get involved in the rhetoric that went on both on TV and the media. I also did not get caught up in the views of others because we all have the right to view the candidates as we see fit. I must admit I am a little surprised at the outcome of the election. This does not mean I won’t support our nations decision but will pray for the nation and the congress to make decisions that will benefit all and not just a few. I only hope that we can change that which is needed for the wellbeing of this truly great country. I also pray that all keeps there wits about them and give these newly elected officials the time to make the decisions that will benefit all.

  82. Anne

    I profoundly regret that I failed to engage enough with those holding opposing opinions due to fear of those beliefs. As a person whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by holding civilized discourse with neighbors who felt disenfranchised and angry with the status quo. Perhaps if more of us had simply listened more to each other, we might not have descended to this level of fear and hatred. I deeply apologize to the following generations for allowing this to happen without much effort to prevent it on my part.

  83. Paula

    Thank you that was thoughtfully written and honest. I (we) have to take responsibility for what we do to contribute to the process. However hard it is to listen to a different point of view, we need to make the effort and not be afraid to express our own.

  84. Ronald Sampson

    This is the most insightful review of the election process I have seen. Social media does not replace socializing. It just seems that we have forsaken the art of listening for the art of texting from afar. Feeling passionate about something should not be a deterrent from learning about it from a different perspective. It has been a shame that everyone takes advantage of the opportunities of America except its poorest indigent population. They have listened to someone whom articulated their fears and they voted.

  85. Lillie

    I appreciate this post. It has led me to honestly reflect on my part in this past election and my duty as an American. Thank you.

  86. Debi Grace

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It is the only ray of hope that I have today. I am worried about our country and our world and I have very little trust in government. I would love for you to help us learn how to have the political discussions that we need and to move forward to healthy honest debate.

  87. Capriole4him

    Thank you for your words of encouragement to use the principals of Crucial Conversations to bring about healing for ourselves and our country. Regardless of our political affiliation, we are all “neighbors” in one country. The diversity of differing viewpoints is what makes this country strong and we all need to embrace that fact and seek to understand one another. I hope that all fear and hostility will be put away as we strive to move forward as one nation. I’m so thankful to live in a country where leadership can change from one party to another: peaceably and without civil war.

  88. Trudy A Cooper

    The morning after.
    The hardest thing to do is to each look at our own contribution to the problem. To the extent that I have done any of the following, I have contributed:
    …when I have judged the very demographic I grew up with, minimizing their concerns and fears, and instead focused on them as “small minded.”
    • When I have backed off from pointing out to my current peers that the rural working class (where I grew up) has legitimate needs, not just prejudices. .
    • when I have indulged my disgust with Trump’s fear mongering over understanding the appeal of his “plain talk” to so many.

    One thing I did right: talk about Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. They are on the right track. I hope more and more people join them in a movement toward a future that focuses on economic justice, on everyone’s needs.

    …because this very different political moment is not JUST about Trump’s support from racists, though it IS about that. It’s not JUST about backlash against Black Lives Matter and changing demographics, though it is about that. It is also about the real needs of the working class not being met-by the political establishment Can we all look squarely at legitimate unmet needs of economic equality, without leveraging people’s tendency to blame one another? We can’t forget that BERNIE IS RIGHT NOW THE MOST POPULAR POLITICIAN IN THE US. How do we explain this apparently anomalous fact? Well, I just took a shot at an explanation.

    And at the same time, we can’t minimize the actual danger to vulnerable populations. I’m personally (and realistically) afraid that some lives will be lost as a result of this election outcome. We who are progressive white folks need more than ever to have the backs of those that the Trump campaign cynically targeted. But we also need to not lump all trump voters as one mass of Nazis.

  89. John Nash

    Amen! May we seek Clarity not Sound-bites, Understanding not Ammunition, Conciliation not Contention!

  90. Bruce Denis

    This is the most impactful and important Vital Smarts blog post ever. Fantastically accurate, yet non-partisan. The only way to disperse this toxic political environment is to spread Crucial Conversations like wildfire. America, let’s talk.

  91. dianne shaw

    We can choose to lean into our compassion! As Steve (Brene) Brown says “ is better when I assume people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” 2015

  92. Katie Delgado

    Thank you for this. We are all frustrated with the system and ultimately we all want the same things. We need to lead with the desire to understand each other’s perspective, not start with judgment.

  93. Frank Mona

    America has spoken. Whether you agree with the mostly “white America” that voted for Trump or not, he’s going to be our next President. What we have to do collectively is support him and hold him accountable to his words last night that he’s going to be a President for all of America’s citizens. For the first time in my life, I didn’t vote for a Republican candidate for President. I didn’t vote for Hillary, either, but I’ve accepted the result and recognize that the “silent majority” has spoken and has placed their faith in Trump’s ability to “blow up” the Establishment (which looks very out of touch this morning) and “Make America Great Again”. Let’s hope he and us can do just that!

    1. James Krasas

      Actually, Clinton won the majority vote. There was nothing about Trump winning that is going to “Make America Great Again” unless you have stock in for-profit prisons. American Exceptionalism is a farce. We can no longer claim the mantle of being leaders of the free World.

    2. Deborah Cleere

      Sorry, but people like you are responsible for this outcome. A vote for anyone but HRC was a vote for Trump.

      1. Deborah Cleere

        This was directed to James…not the authors of this article.

  94. Karen

    Thank you for this article! It was a source of solace in a day when I truly feel genuine despair. It was incredibly well written. Today I seem to be choosing to wallow a bit, but tomorrow I am determined to choose hope that we can work together to make the world a better place. This article is a great reminder that I need to look inward first to influence that change.

  95. Barb Fuller

    I am so sad today, and needed this to help raise me from my own funk. Thank you for the words to ponder, and self resolutions to consider. God Bless the USA.

  96. Brooke

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  97. heather

    Thank you for this to morning after this election. I take ownership of Regret#2 for certain! • Regret 2: We have cowered from opportunities to share our honest views on issues of deep moral importance to us for fear of being punished by an angry virtual mob —or worse.

  98. Ray Ellison

    Great insight and advice! Hopefully we will all use our VitalSmarts skills to be in influencer for better behavior… starting with our own.

  99. James Krasas

    There is nothing in Crucial Skills that can get though to Trump’s base. You cannot reason with people who refuse to critically think and blame their decline of ‘white privilege” on minorities. All of their excuses have been removed. They have their champion who says he will “drain the swamp” when all that occurred is that Congress has become further entrenched by the Corporatacracy that has really been the cause of the Middle Class’ decline. People have not even begun to fathom the ramifications of this election. It is going to be a Ayn Rand free for all. We have been reduced to our lowest common denominator – hate, fear & loathing.

    1. Joyce Thompson

      A guiding principle is to avoid generalizations that diminish the worth and intrinsic value of the individual. In effect – that is the core of discrimination.

      I would urge you to reconsider your comments. As a country – we cannot be successful when we foster a perspective of “us” versus “them”.

      We are Americans, and we all have a stake in the future of our country and the upcoming 4 years with our newly elected president. Don’t close your heart – reach out with an open hand and be part of the solution.

      “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

      —Martin Luther King, Jr.
      Minister, Civil Rights Activist

  100. ChefShui

    I really appreciate your sincere comments on your resolutions from this election. As a student of political science, I have constantly sought healthy dialogue with folks I know have opposing views. This is how you learn from each other. Yet, this was the first election this was impossible. It left me frustrated and more divisive and embolden of my beliefs. No matter what fact checking or evaluation of the last 25 years on my pocketbook, it was impossible to have discourse due to the sheer volume of stories dressed as fact. The predator found its way into the weak part of the soul of many. My pocketbook will survive once again. I worry more now about how we guide the next generations to make better choices.

  101. Deborah Cleere

    I am not really ready to rationalize at this point. My grief and shock are too profound.
    However, I will say that it is an illusion to believe “the media” are to blame. The media are controlled by those who have motives. Trump’s early rallies, for example, received non-stop live coverage by cable tv. Alternative media are not independent sources. Breitbart, the radical right wing “news” website is run by Trump’s campaign manager and strategist. Let’s not be naive about “responsibilities” of a free press.
    George Orwell wrote: “…the relative freedom
    which we enjoy depends on public opinion.” The public became emboldened by someone who embodied their darkest thoughts. The polls were wrong because many of those voters could not admit what they were contemplating. In the end, what happened in this election is a true reflection of the real and ugly heart of this deeply troubled land.

  102. Julia

    I would really like to stop all the backstabbing and mean tactics employed by both the media and the candidates. People attack my church all the time after listening to people who were never members of my church, and my response is always that you should go to the source. I think if we can stop encouraging bad behavior and reward good behavior we can start making a change back to civility during elections.

  103. Camille Harris

    I am grateful for this post and for the comments so we can continue the discussion about what to do now – in a way that endorses “Skills for Change. Change for Good.”

  104. liz

    I don’t usually respond to blogs – but really appreciate your comments today. I want to be positive and find something good in all of this, but right now all I feel is numb

  105. John McCormack

    Thank you. I strongly share your regrets. I think you have perfectly captured the root causes of what happened, without being hyperbolic.
    I will call you out, however, on your initial list of, as you call them “Culprits” (a villain story?). I don’t think we have a shared pool of meaning. You point to, for example the candidates and ask “Need we say more?” My answer, “YES! You do need to say more.” I, for example, feel that Hillary Clinton is the finest presidential candidate that has ever stood for the office, bar none. I see no flaws in her behavior, her character, or her demeanor, so, yes, I am frankly bewildered and appalled by the way she was disparaged. So, while I applaud your reaching out and trying to lead us in appreciating this mess, I also think that we still need to do more to master the stories.

  106. Pamela Smith

    This wonderful article has given me pause for personal reflection. Many of the regrets listed mirror my own in this post-election period. My resolution is to be an example of better behavior and to be a bridge rather than a divide. Thank you!

  107. Lisa

    What you have said reflects my thoughts throughout.. Really, who said that? Is it true! How do you get proof when people think all games, Television/ Movies/ Millions for payment to Actors and Athletes is the norm.. The middle class pay for this.. We should be ashamed of ourselves for buying in to it. We now have another show for TV reality President, maybe we will now walk through each personal day of his life and pick it apart has we have done each other, based on your aforementioned thoughts.
    The media as well, they are paid big $$ to offer up their Philosophy, this is a job?????? And so many were wrong on so many levels..
    Looking for Truth from the New Chief/ Taxes and IQ as well. I stand by my Country/ Veterans/ many in my Family. My last thought I am curious is Melania going to keep the White House Garden going and the movement of self gardening and growing for a sustainable and healthy future. Silly as it sounds It was very uplifting to see all that came from this.

  108. Bonnie James

    Thank you very much for this article.

  109. Missy Stalp

    Thank you for posting this. Very wise. I hope people read it and try to move forward in a meaninguful way. I will repost it for that exact purpose. Again – thank you. These are the conversations that need to happen.

  110. Patricia

    Thank You for this moving & timely article. It is time for us to act like good Americans and welcome change and diversity. So what if someone doesn’t think exactly like we do, is that person or group wrong? Of course not, that’s why we live in the US – freedom of speech. Let’s start with a clean slate and do what we do best – overcome adversity and move on!

  111. Susan Hackney

    Thanks for your thoughtful blog post. I don’t generally respond to blog posts but one of my resolutions in the face of this election is to speak out more often. Today, for example, whenever anyone asked me how I was, instead of a standardized “OK,” I told them, without knowing how they voted, that I was having a tough day because of the election results. And I was ready to hear what they had to say if they voted differently than I did.

    I appreciate, as always, your work– your books and this Crucial Skills blog.

  112. Carol Kline

    I have lived long enough to see what happens when good people do nothing because they are afraid. This experience is a wake-up call for me. If I want to have a hand in what this country becomes going forward, I can’t just cast a vote (which I did). I have a responsibility to courageously stand up for what I believe. From this day forward, I will support causes and people most likely to be negatively affected. I will celebrate the contributions of people who look different from me and who worship and love in their own unique ways.

  113. LK

    Thank you, really appreciate your timely words. Your promises for the future are on-point as we all begin transition to the new administration. At breakfast this morning my kids were curious who had won. When I told them they were concerned they would be sent to where I was born in Africa (some kid in their elementary school had shared this threat). I explained to them we are lucky to be citizens of a country with strong institutions and separation of powers. On the drive to school, I let them watch the School House Rock “I am Just a Bill” video on Youtube as I explained the process to change laws of this country.

  114. Janet

    I always enjoy the articles here – they are well-written, thoughtful, and usually ring true. I too watched MSNBC and Fox. The same news but totally different worlds. And it reminds me of Putnam’s Bowling Alone. There are few places to come together anymore and talk with the ability of looking someone in the eye and spending valuable time with them to talk AND listen to each other as human beings as opposed to so many characters in a tweet or a forwarded email or, God forbid, Facebook. How can we respect each other if we don’t SEE each other. We may as well be horses with blinders on carrying our passengers along a back road. We are all on our own mission and don’t clutter up our goals and objectives with each other. My job is to feed people. And I listen to folks as they share their concerns and needs. But both sides need to listen to each other. No one way. And we have to work out our issues instead of kicking sand in each others’ faces if THEY don’t agree with US – no matter which side we’re on. And everyone has to agree, just like when their team wins or loses the game, there can only be one winner and one loser. We have to understand that some people are rejoicing wildly today and some are in deep mourning. And know that neither side will feel this way for long. Thank you.

  115. Lucinda Kratsch

    Bravo for a concise and factual piece that makes me examine my motives and behavior more closely. It is a lesson to us all to seek to understand before we respond and do so in a respectful and purposeful manner.

  116. Jane

    We made a difference this time around. It’s seems like you are trying to persuade views to your beliefs. Acceptance and recognition that Americans have freedom of choice is what you need to educated on. Your using your forum for an alterior motive and it’s ignorant of you.

    1. Joseph Grenny

      Jane – I’d love to have you elaborate on the ulterior motive you perceive in us. I hoped to be circumspect in commenting on the political process not the outcome. I apologize if it sounded otherwise – is that what you meant?

    2. Robert

      Jane, I am confused by your response. I think the article was raising awareness of our behaviors and encouraging readers to listen to each other and to think critically. What did you think the article was about?

  117. D Walsh

    Joseph and David, I appreciate your comments and the humility inferred by each of us accepting our role in history. The current political climate has put each of us smack into the middle of a crucial situation, warranting application of our very best skills in all aspects of crucial conversations to increase the shared pool of knowledge and resolve conflict. The wellbeing of each and everyone one of us depends on it, perhaps now more than ever. Thank you for beginning the conversation!

    I will attempt to share this on my Facebook page.

  118. Diana Rae

    I have avoided exposing my self to commentary today in an effort to preserve my sense of place in the world. I read your post only because of the respect I have for your work. And now have read the comments and am feeling better balanced. I myself, do not Facebook, or Tweet or any of those other social media things. I campaigned actively for my candidate (Bernie) only to be betrayed by a DNC that had its own agenda. All this is of no real consequence at this juncture. What I would like to know is how do you have a conversation and listen deeply when the other view will not discuss issues but insists their position rests on the “fact” that HC is spawn of Satan or a reptilian ET clone, Michelle Obama is really a man and the like? Nothing in my 6 decades of life prepared me for this. One in my family would not even respectfully agree to disagree. Help!

  119. Lisa

    While I commend the sentiments here — echoed in part by the president and the unsuccessful presidential candidate — a lifetime observing the political scene leads me to suspect it’s a case of your preaching to the choir: those who try to do the right thing will again be disappointed when they continue to get manipulated, bullied and obstructed by those who do not.
    Rewarding these types of purely self-interested behaviors emboldens the perpetrators to up the ante.
    However, to throw up your hands and say that dealing with these people is impossible is clearly not an option either.
    The psychology of dealing successfully with bullies calmly, firmly, constructively, is sorely what’s needed now – learning that skill set is long overdue.

  120. Sharon Hanson

    Thank you Vital Smart, these are Crucial Skills for every day living. Been following your writings for a few years now, and this by far is well-timed, well-written, and appreciated. I found this in my email box very early this morning. In addition to reading this article, there was another attached via link inside your email. It was also very good. I suggest sign-up for Vital Smart emails, some are ok, others I agree with and others were helpful reminders. The other good read for everyday living… be sure to locate Harvard Business Review “HBR: What a Real Apology Requires”.

  121. Andy Kelly

    God Bless America… You have really screwed yourself this time and every single one of you who voted and didn’t vote must share responsibility for the outcome. The rest of the world is incredulous. I just feel sad for your country and for the world.

  122. Kurt

    I find it ironic that some who have made what appear to be threats to stop using VitalSmarts products and claim to have had their companies be supporters of VitalSmarts. I am not sure those individuals read the part about silence and violence since they seem to be choosing violent behavior by saying, “I quit you.”, in more words or less. They may also want to review the information on story telling since they are making VitalSmarts the villain and assuming the worst possible motives and making themselves the victim by exaggerating their own innocence. It’s hard to look in the mirror sometimes and admit fault in something you feel you had no control over. Self-liberating happens when we see the faults of our behavior, even if it was unintended. As my good friend Andy Andrews asks, “Why is it that we judge others by their behavior while we judge ourselves by our intent?”

    Thank you Joseph and David for facilitating a mirror for ourselves to look into while looking forward to the future! I will continue to be an avid supporter of you both and the services you offer.

  123. sibusiso

    My regret is the fact that I have done nothing about the situation and yet I still think that the candidates were not suitable.

  124. Frank

    It is interesting to watch how personal intengrity – or the absence of it – does not seem to bother anyone any longer when it comes to a presidential candiate. Does that imply that personal integrity is no longer considered a desirable value and that it is ok to primarily seek one’s personal advantage?

  125. Lis

    Thank you, from a similarly divided UK, for your humble and reflective response to recent events. I find the increasing intolerance in our world very worrying, so every voice that calls for moderation and a willingness to listen needs to be heard. The diversity of responses to your post – and the sheer number of them – reinforce the fact that it took courage to ‘put your heads above the parapet’ in publishing it. I admire that and I wish you well.

  126. Sheryl Brining

    It is good to see that this post helped so many people, but I found it deeply offensive and agree with the minority opinion. This piece is not consistent with Crucial Conversation principles. There is not one fact that I could discern, only judgments and opinions. Lumping two very different candidates together as if they were remotely the same is shocking to see, especially the rather snarky comment, “need we say more”, where is the “starting with facts” in that comment? Then, having to read your list of what we need to do, yet another set of judgments and opinions. If your thought is to respond with some facts, I suggest you check yourself because I doubt you actually know the situations behind either candidate, you only know what others have said, you weren’t there.

    I found the article insensitive to the many people who are truly grieving, you give no time or space for people to process, instead jump right to the conclusion, which again is not how a crucial conversation best proceeds.
    Another CC principle, make sure it is the right time for the conversation. What was the hurry? Could you have not waited even a day to post these pronouncements?

    Lastly, many people are comforted being told what to do by some “higher power”, which it seems you have done, but the content and approach are not true to the principles of crucial conversations as I understand the process. To me, this piece seems a good example of what not to do in a crucial conversation.

    I too am considering my association with this organization. It seems you have betrayed the principles you preach at a time you could have stepped up and really highlighted the power of the process. Unfortunately, I find the content of this post no different from the many, many pundits out there who all have the answers. I don’t need your answers, I need to find my own. If you had provided a framework in which to figure that out, it would have been a powerful article that reflected your principles, a truly lost opportunity.

    These opinions are my own and are not intended to represent the organization in my email address. Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

    1. Joseph Grenny

      You make some points that hit me pretty hard. Thank you for taking the time to express them. I am letting them work on me and believe I’ll learn from them.

      1. sally Anlin


        I originally responded to the blog with a thank you. Today, I’m returning to still make sense of things and found Sheryl’s post. It seems to ring true to me. I am someone who has such deep sadness of this election. It is not just another election. I am a social liberal and fiscal conservative who has voted on both sides. The two candidates were not equal. I would appreciate leadership from you on how to move forward in civil dialog in an era where we as a nation have a president-elect who is a proud and open racist and sexist exposing hatred of anyone who is an ‘other’. We are in a dangerous place. I want to remain calm, understand, take action in a civil, proactive manner.

        More thoughtful advise addressing the gravity of where we are is appreciated. This isn’t a matter of disagreeing on a fiscal budget or jobs program. This is a matter of basic human rights.

        Kind Regards,


        1. Linda Odum

          You have very clearly defined the most cogent issue: Human rights. I, too, am saddened over the outcome of the election, but this goes far beyond a discussion of taxes and insurance costs!!

        2. Jo Spellman

          I understand that you addressed this to Joseph, but would like to respond as well. I agree 100% with you that ultimately, this election was indeed about human rights. And that the candidates were not equal. And like you feel now, I was deeply, deeply afraid for our country. But what I saw was that the candidate who lost had a much, much worse record on the protection of our human rights than the one that won. I was chilled to the bone on the vision she painted of where she wanted to take America, particularly on the subject of the right to life, and the right to our religious freedoms, but there were other rights as well that she showed a careless disregard for. I know you are perplexed by that, and how others deeply committed to preserving our human rights as you are, could vote for your candidate’s opponent. Especially because he was carefully painted as a racist and sexist and about every other ist you can think of. And his own careless and profane rhetoric made things that must worse. He might be all the things you think he is, but I doubt it. And I think too many over-estimate what both good and evil any president can do on their own. The election is over. I hope that all of us can stop writing the villain, victim, and helpless stories we have been speaking and writing for well over a year now, and open our hearts and minds to each other. I really do want love rather than hate to conquer. I know you do too.

    2. Betsy Cutler

      I think this is the perfect place for Crucial Conversations. After the election there are certainly many crucial conversations to be had. The reaction across the country demonstrates that to protect and unify the USA we need to not be afraid to talk about it. I agree that harsh verbage and insults are not helpful. It takes effort from everyone and there are unfortunately many who are narrow minded and refuse to listen to other points of view. I pray for unity and peace, most of all peace. War is my greatest. I pray that the new administration can contain himself enough and think before he insults anyone’s race, gender or religious belief. We are all Gods children.

      1. David Satterfield

        Perhaps one of the greatest strategies in bringing people together is to provide the safe environment for them to discuss their differences and look for common goals. this election has pointed to a lack of this space on a national level. Many of the divisive issues like abortion or LGBT rights or climate change involvement were decided not by a national discussion through legislation but by a court. By practicing crucial skills we could avoid the decades of protests and marginalization that have occurred as a few people impose their will over the majority through court orders rather than creating understanding.

  127. N

    Well written! This important and true message will stop and make us think before we speak. We need to be less judgmental and cynical. We are very fortunate to live in a democratic country that can exercise our right to vote.

  128. Elizabeth Konrad

    You bring up some very good points. You suggest not to rely upon the search engines for your internet information what do you suggest as a alternative.

  129. Betsy Cutler

    Correction. “War is my greatest fear”

  130. Tony

    Thank you for your thoughts and for what you do to foster good communication in difficult circumstances.

    As an aside, it’s unfortunate that a few folks found what you had to say, …what, insulting? counter to their beliefs? (I’m not sure) and have decided that what you do has no value. I’m very confused about that.

    Last night, I heard a Buddhist lama say that those who are happy about the election results should rejoice and those who are unhappy should mourn. But then, we all have to work together to move forward and communicate to help address everyone’s concerns.

    With respect to those who asked God’s help, in Buddhism, the only one responsible for how you act and think and what occurs in your life is yourself. With love and compassion to everyone.

    1. Jo Spellman

      I’m not entirely sure how you meant it when you said ‘with respect’, but I wanted you to know that as a person who is placing my trust not in myself but in God, I did not feel respected. I do indeed respect Buddhism as a religious belief system, but your quote made me realize that I am very glad I’m not Buddhist, because left to our own power, we human beings haven’t had a great track record. I plan to continue to trust in God. May God bless you.

      1. Tony

        Thank you for your response and I apologize if your didn’t feel respected. I meant that I respect you and your beliefs; I feel everyone needs to follow whatever works best for them. I entirely support you placing your trust in God.
        I agree we as human beings don’t have a great track record. However, I think we as humans also have a responsibility for our own actions.

        Again, my apologies, and may God bless you also.

        1. Jo Spellman

          Very much appreciate the clarification. I completely agree that we are responsible for our own actions. Regards,

  131. Lonnie Miller

    For the first time in my life, in part because of my zealous 18 year old son and in part because of what is at stake, I participated in the caucus, the county, district and state conventions trying desperately to get first Scott Walker, then Rand Paul, then Ted Cruz as the candidate. Once Donald Trump was confirmed as the Republican candidate I felt bitterly trapped between a lying-socialist-treasonous-criminal and a lying-conman-scheister-pervert. My son immediately sought green pastures not laden with fecal matter going with Johnson of the Libertarian Party. I wrestled with the arguments that voting for a 3rd party is a vote for Hillary and feeling we absolutely had to keep her out of office AND with the sense that voting for a conman like Donald Trump is only better because we don’t know what evil may befall under him. I argued with myself and others until right before the end of my shift when the HR Manager, of all people, told me to not worry about who will win or lose, but that I need to vote my conscience. That broke through the anxiety and I had peace knowing that I would be able to look anyone in eyes and even myself in the mirror. I voted for Johnson. And thankfully Hillary didn’t win and sadly Donald did and so I watch and pray that I’ll have peace for the next four years as I love my wife, raise our 8 children, and hopefully continue to work and provide.

  132. Kimberly Lacey

    Our responsibilities regarding communication continue post election. We have a responsibility to keep our moral and ethical eyes and ears open, and if we see or hear something that does not feel right, we have an obligation to respectfully and peacably, but openly, raise our concerns. So long as we have the ability to do this without fear of repercussion or retaliation, I remain optimistic regarding the future of our democracy. I encourage each of us to be alert to influences, overt or covert, that may serve to silence our voice or dull our moral and ethical senses. I continue to believe that our ability to communicate effectively is predicated on dialogue enabled by mutual respect. My thanks to Crucial Conversations for continuing to remind me and challenge me, and to provide a forum for this discourse.

    1. Betsy Cutler

      Moral and Ethical issues is a loaded subject. It is up to each human being to live morally and ethically according to their own beliefs. NO ONE person or group of people should dictate what is right for everyone. Personally I would not have an abortion and I think using it as a means of birth control is immoral BUT there are circumstances that make those decisions even more difficult to make and it needs to be left up to the woman carrying the child. There are too many orphans in this world and too many starving or abused children whose parents should never have given birth to them. There are many forms of birth control but people need to be educated and have access to them. Sex is a part of life and not just a means of procreation. Safe sex needs to be taught and talked about with open eyes and understanding.

      1. Jo Spellman

        I must respectfully disagree. There are many, many subjects upon which we can reasonably disagree on whether there is a moral or ethical absolute. You chose one for which there is a moral absolute. None of us, for any reason, have the right to take life from conception until natural death. Without life, all other rights we possess are meaningless.

        1. Joe Magid

          And I respectfully disagree and reference the 1st Amendment and freedom of religion. Your “absolute” is not mine, nor that of many, many others who do not share your religion.
          When life begins is a tenant of religions belief. The tenants of my religion hold that life begins at birth when the soul is imparted, not before. The existing legal framework stipulating that pre-viability abortion is legal fits well with this belief.
          A fetus that is not viable outside the womb cannot be imparted a soul and is therefore not, in my religion, a human life.
          You are (constitutionally and otherwise) free to believe differently and act in accordance with your belief and fully I respect your right to do so. I ask that you respect mine.

          1. Jo Spellman

            Why yes, I can and do certainly respect you. You are another human being created in the image and likeness of God. As am I. As is every human being ever conceived here on Earth. So I can respect you without conceding to your religious belief that it is ok to kill some human beings. Because it is not. If my deeply held religious belief was that only babies of European-descent should be allowed to be born, and I had the power to legislate that for others to follow, would you concede that I had the right to impose that on the rest of not non-European-descent world? I think you would find that morally repugnant. And should. There are some absolutes.

          2. Joe Magid

            Jo, what I perceive you doing is running into pretty far fetched territory to attempt to delegitimize my very, very mainstream religion, Judaism. There may or may not be absolutes. Even that is up-to-debate, yet there are also long-standing moral frameworks we have all accepted to live by born of a tradition of faith, but not dependent on it.
            They are established in the Constitution and our legal codes. And, there are other things that are not. This is one of them and I have and will continue to work to ensure that it stays this way.

          3. Jo Spellman

            Not really. My only purpose here is to speak truth with love. Your first premise is the one that is incorrect. You say this is a matter of religious belief. It is not. Science has established concretely that a baby conceived in a human woman’s body, will indeed be born a human being unless a natural or induced abortion occurs. My Church has never attempted to specify when God imbues his creation with a soul. It isn’t necessary for us to know, because what we do know is that all life is sacred, and he indeed does imbue our souls. Praise God. Never, ever, can good come from intrinsic evil. We are not God.

          4. Betsy Cutler

            Thank you. I agree that you or I are not GOD.

      2. Kimberly Lacey

        I should probably be more clear about what was running through my mind when I wrote that. I was thinking about when I was a student at Tulane Law School in New Orleans when David Duke was running for governor against Edwin Edwards. It was terrifying, not just because I knew what David Duke stood for, but because I watched his infomercials and I was struck by how rational and persuasive he was. I was chilled because I suddenly understood in a way I never had before how Hitler was able to come into power. Just like Hitler did not run on a platform that revealed the true intent of the evil he would perpetrate on the world, Duke did not come right out and express his racist ideals in his infomercials. I am not saying Trump is Hitler or Duke, but I do see similarities in the messaging that makes me uneasy. The election is over, but our responsibilities as American citizens and as moral and ethical human beings do not end with the election . Please keep an eye on public sentiment. Be aware if you start to hear of a group being targeted or blamed for our real or perceived ills. I hope that Trump turns out to be a great president and that my concerns are just a manifestation of my own neurosis. But I would never be able to forgive myself if I had these concerns and never voiced them and they turned out to be well founded.

  133. David Hoeflein

    That which was ours is ours again.

  134. Marianne Freebury

    What is embarrassing to me is not the person elected president but the “protesters” who have resorted to violence in an effort to mandate people believe as they do. It’s disturbing. It minimizes anything he has ever said. The idiots protesting have done more to taint this country than either candidate could have done. They should be directing their efforts to make true positive change. They don’t have that level of maturity.

  135. Broni

    In South Africa, we are in this build-up phase to the elections… Hopefully we will learn from these lessons!
    OR NOT…
    Will definitely forward this communication to my circle of influence, because that is ultimately where it starts!

  136. Beth

    I have two regrets:

    (1) That a family member forwarded your post to me and to untold other undisclosed recipients, and

    (2) That I took some of my valuable time to read it rather than to send it off immediately into my virtual trash can, also known as the hell to which its vapid absurdity belongs.

    What I certainly do not regret is my unequivocal vote for Donald Trump, whom I am quite confident would also find your blog post to be a waste of time and emblematic of that kind of self-righteous arrogance that has done its best to destroy this country. I am feeling quite joyous today. And that sense of joy comes from knowing I have participated in setting truth free.

    1. David Maxfield

      I’m glad you are happy with the outcome of the election, and I hope you don’t assume we are not. Joseph and I wrote this piece together–a week before the election.
      We were not “regretting” the OUTCOME of the election. Rather, we were commenting on BEHAVIORS we and others have engaged in during the campaign–behaviors that probably shut down dialogue and understanding. Joseph and I rarely agree on what the outcome of an election should be. This piece was an attempt to bridge our differences. We are very dear friends who share far more than what separates us. But politically we hold very different views.

  137. Linda Odum

    100% agree with your post. I would like to comment on the picture you used . . . all four young people are white. Any opportunity for some diversity?

    1. David Maxfield

      Thanks for the feedback. We will try to be more inclusive.

  138. Tom

    I thank you both for this article. The title does seem to indicate a bias. The rest is well written with content that if adhered to would reduce many of the hostilities I observe before and after this election. The many commits, most very good thank you all. I see hope in most of them. I’ve been involved in pre-election activities since the Ragan years and have never seen “my candidate” make it to the “final round”. I hope that the outcome of this election wakes us civilians up to get involve early in the process, now is the time.

    I have to ask would this article be written if the other candidate won? Would it be written differently and how?

    1. David Maxfield

      We wrote this piece the week before the election. I believe that Joseph and I probably voted for different candidates–as is often the case. Some readers seem to think we “regretted” the outcome of the election. What we “regretted” was the way many of us (the two of us) behaved during the election. We really don’t intend to use this forum to promote any particular candidate or policy position.

  139. Paul T-W

    This was an excellent blog. I appreciate your comments as I reflect on what happened during this election this year. Your promises were excellent and well thought out. Interestingly I found your responses to those who disagreed with your post to be the most helpful. Your rolemodeling of helpful responses to disagreements was great!

  140. Salley Trefethen

    I found myself shrinking from a conversation about candidates. I was afraid of getting into a fight and I didn’t feel prepared to handle that. I know I can do it if I prepare myself for it. Prepare to listen, be open, AND share my views. Since it’s clear we’ve elected a demagogue (I am not using that term lightly) I have struggled with how to respond effectively to the dangers it presents. So far, I’ve found some comfort in this article and I thought I’d share it in case anyone else was struggling with that as well.

  141. Marianne Freebury

    What is embarrassing to me is not the person elected president but the “protesters” who have resorted to violence in an effort to mandate people believe as they do. It’s disturbing. It minimizes anything he gas ever said. The idiots protesting have done more to taint this country that either candidate could have done. They should be directing their efforts to make true positive change. They don’t have that level of maturity.

  142. 8 Things You Can Do NOW If You Didn’t Like the Outcome of the Election – Site Title

    […] the lines of communication open. Don’t unfriend people on Facebook; open a discussion with them. Vital Smarts provides some great tips on how to initiate a […]

  143. Clifford Spoonemore

    This election has been painful and I do hope it is not repeated in 4 years. 8 years ago a man said to me “he is not my president”. Yes, the election did not go the way I was leaning. However, I voted and took part in the election process. Our system is how it is and we need to stand behind it. Mr. Trump will become President Trump and he is my president because I live in the USA and we followed our process. The process never said the best or the worst will be the winner, just that there will be a winner.

    We may disagree with his plans, but we have to see if they work. Hold Pres Elect Trump accountable and the Congress. If they fall shot of serving the USA in 2 years we can vote again. And in 4 years hopefully better candidates are presented for consideration. That is our system of renewal and hope. The USA has gone through tough times in the 60’s and early 70’s. Not all Presidents have been great. We learn and shape a new future every 4 years. Let’s see what is going to happen and then move in the new directions that we need to at that point.

    Mr. Trump has done things differently and is on his feet. Let’s see if President Trump does things differently and the USA lands on its feet.

  144. Cynthia Roper Cook

    Great Article,
    We are all sinners.Change starts with me.

  145. George Hoard

    I am ashamed to be an American and dismayed that I was willing to die defending this country.
    This election proves to me that the politicians of this country have effectively stolen this country from the citizens. I had a political science instructor in college tell me that we need the best and most highly educated people to lead the country.
    And here we are. Two parties determined to keep the country split, divided for their own purposed. If that were not bad enough, we are supposed to believe that one party has all the answers and the other is…
    I am ashamed.

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