The BREXIT divorce – a lesson in negative thinking
‘Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today… and it will be pure H-E double L for me’. Well the last week in British life really has brought Tammy Wynette’s words to life.
The majority decision to exit the European Union has led to an apparent meltdown of negativity – and negativity breeds negative belief. Negative belief breeds failure and fear. Failure breeds frustration and fear.
It does feel like divorce. The trouble is it is a double divorce – between Britain and the EU and then between Leavers and Remainers. This is no amicable conscious uncoupling a-la Gwyneth Paltrow. This is a sad and bitter parting with one partner feeling betrayed and left behind in a world they did not choose to be in. And all the classic behaviours are playing out.
The lead Leavers, having stated their desire to depart and having had their way, are like the proverbial exiting spouse – sitting relieved in the shadows, refusing to talk and thinking ‘that’s it’. Where were Gove and Johnson for the Monday sitting of Parliament – probably one of the most important sittings of the century? One was careering around London in a big-boy jeep looking smug, the other lurking by the Speaker’s chair rather than face the ones he had hurt? Or, having said their piece and demanded freedom, are they now slightly alarmed by the reality of regained singleton status?
Then there are the devastated Remainers, screaming at the offending spouse about lies, cheating, deception and the need to try again; refusing to accept that a decision has been made and using every trick in the book to make them think again. Warnings of hurting the children, being a pariah amongst the friends; splitting the family and bringing it into the depths of racist destruction abound.
Enter right, the mother-in-law (aka our national broadcaster) who, while delivering a self-righteous insistence of not taking sides, then floods the airways with indignant doom and desperate stories of regret and revenge. A never ending stream of negative consequences and any positive voice given scant time and then ignored. Why were two experts – a Morgan Stanley banker and a currency expert - who stated respectively that our banks are more than sufficiently capitalised to withstand the Brexit and that our currency will stabilise when uncertainty moves to a plan - consigned to the very early slot on the Today Programme and never mentioned again. Instead, their steadying words were replaced with Jeremy Hunt’s insistence on a second referendum after defining the divorce terms. Did he not hear Jean-Claude Junke’s statement that there would be no further concessions for Britain?
Meanwhile, Uncle Jeremy is beaten up at family dinner for not stepping in stopping this terrible mess.
So what is this doing to our collective, British psyche? Well, it’s not good.
Any psychologist will tell you that fear breeds fear. A frightened, stressed, adrenalin-powered brain does not make good decisions. Instead it moves to knee-jerk self-protection whether this results in attack, escape or freezing in the headlights. We are seeing all three. Moreover, negative thinking is self-prophesising. If we believe the German and French politicians will make us suffer for the next two decades and if we enter negotiations with such beliefs, that is exactly what we will get. If we believe that our currency will always be weak (and forget that this is very good for exports) then we will flounder in self-pity. If we see a future of recession and austerity, we will walk right into it.
So what do we do? Here in the Sassista office, we think – whether you are a disappointed Remainer or a quietly pleased Leaver (and we have both) – you have to:
1. Face reality. The road is set and we are going to part from the EU. There is no time to go into mourning and marital therapy is not an option. The cabinet has declared democracy done.
2. Focus on stability not spite. Keep working, keep trying, keep focused on a better future and the markets will calm. Hedge and Pension Fund managers are human and like the friends who ‘don’t want to get involved’, they are bound to race for the cover of bonds above stocks. When the shouting stops and the world has not imploded, they will return. Shouting abuse, using social media to vent your spleen and insulting your neighbour will keeps us in this sad place.
3. Be positive despite the pain. When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin split they kept away from the hurt and focused on a positive message. Two months later they were on holiday together. Now they are in different relationships and friends/parents/supporters. If you are thinking this is trite garbage, then read any book on effective negotiation. Focusing on needs and interests – what will make the world better for both and a solution with which both can live - will always reach a stronger, longer lasting, more positive solution. It might not be perfect, but it is better than feeling weakened. If you are sceptical read Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury.
4. Believe. There is a deal to be done. We just have to find it. Britain has over 135,000 lawyers – highly educated, highly qualified people, trained to find commercial solutions. We have over 4,500 politicians plus their staff and advisors in Parliament, paid to represent our interests. If they managed to create EU laws and treaties for over 40 years, they can do it again. Yes, it will no doubt be tough; but they are paid handsomely to face the tough.
5. Call out on cruelty. Racism, accusations of treachery, vicious calls for mass expulsion of ‘foreigners’, twitter trolling the Leavers is, in the Sassista’s opinion, an indictment on our society. Britain was born of migration – Celts, Picts, Romans, Vikings, Angles, Normans, Hugenots, Jews, Jamaicans, people from India and Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa – and the list goes on. You may not like the volume we have witnessed in the past 15 years but venom will lead us down a dark, dark road. There are some things you can’t turn back – so shut up.
6. Keep going. We have no other choice.