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Greenville Business Magazine

Business leaders: Challenge your confirmation biases and make your voice be heard

Oct 04, 2018 03:44PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Jason Zacher
Senior Vice President of Business Advocacy, Greenville Chamber

Fifty Upstate business leaders went to Washington in early September to advocate for the issues important to the Upstate business community — but we also learned lessons that we brought back to the Upstate.

The Upstate Chamber Coalition National Issues Forum heard from 17 speakers in 48 hours, including seven policy experts, six current or former Congressmen, Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, a major media personality, and the White House press secretary. Different groups of us met with staff, toured the White House and the Capitol, and, of course, took in the sights.

Here are four things we learned and challenges we identified. The good news is that business leaders such as yourself are uniquely positioned to make an impact.

Takeaway 1. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.): “Politics reflects. It does not lead.”

We always think of our politicians as leaders. They certainly are, but the politics that they practice reflects society at large. Democratic societies elect the governments they deserve. The partisanship and venom that you see the second you open your Facebook or Twitter feeds only fuels the partisanship in Washington. Until we change our behaviors, nothing will change in the public dialogue.

One Congressman I spoke to privately told me that, on most days, it wasn’t fun any longer. He said he ran for Congress to get things done, but it’s nearly impossible to get anything done. That brings us to another comment by Gowdy.

Takeaway 2. “Everything in life is a compromise.”

How long would your marriage last if your spouse wanted to go out for pizza and you replied, “I’d never go out for pizza. I can’t believe you’d suggest such a thing. Do you hate this family?” You probably wouldn’t stay married for long if you said that more than once.

But that’s frequently how we react when we hear political opinions that don’t match our own. We no longer have the ability to stomach opinions that challenge us or what we believe to be true. How do we change that? That leads us to Takeaway 3.

Takeaway 3. CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett: “If, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, you find your news gratifying, pleasing, and consistent with your worldview, you’re doing it wrong.”

What’s the antidote to partisanship? Making sure you read — and take the time to understand — other viewpoints. We get trapped in an echo chamber where we only hear voices that agree with us. So, if you’re a conservative, you watch Fox News. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC. If you think the world is out to get you, you read the wild conspiracies of Alex Jones. If you’re only reading media that feeds your confirmation bias, you’re doing it wrong.

Challenge yourself. Pick up The Atlantic, The Weekly Standard, The Economist, or whatever next time you’re in an airport. Read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post. (And remember, you have to pay for good journalism.) Challenge your confirmation bias, leave the echo chamber, and delve beyond the headlines and tweets.

Takeaway 4. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.): “Apathy is a real issue all over the country. We ought to have 50 percent turnout. … Politics matters.”

Slightly more than 20 percent of voters turned out in the June primaries. By any measure, that was a terrible voter turnout. If democratic societies get the government they elect, that government is elected by the people who show up. If you’re angry about the choices on the left or the right being too radical, then vote in the primaries. We’d argue that 50 percent turnout is still too low, but it’s a major improvement on what we have now.

Beyond the ballot box, if you don’t speak up, your elected officials don’t know what you want (and I’m talking about a contact other than a slacktivism tweetstorm).

Even if you couldn’t go to Washington with us, you can take an important step in making your voice heard this month.

If you’re a member or employee of one of our 12 Upstate Chamber Coalition local chambers, take our 2019 legislative survey at When we meet with our elected officials, this tells us what to advocate for on your behalf.

As business leaders, we have the ability to change the dialogue. Now, we must practice what we preach.