What If There Was A Shutdown & Nobody Cared?

Photo by Rebecca Wilson via Flickr

It's an unfortunate fact of life: "Man plans and G-d laughs."

From a communication perspective it was clear as Windex: The shutdown was a bargaining chip. The equivalent of: "You see? You see? We're gonna shut down the government, and then everyone will be mad at you."

Reminds me of those years when I tried, really tried to make a homemade dinner. What a good wife and mother I am, I told myself. How much appreciation I am entitled to.

Unfortunately I was allergic to that thing they call a "recipe."

So my kids ate anything but those dinners. Regularly they Tupperware-rotted in the fridge.

They didn't care.

Much like nobody seems to care about the government shutdown, other than those directly impacted in a negative way (note: I work for the government myself; all opinions my own).

For example, take these status updates, from a random Twitter search of "nobody cares" and "shutdown" done today, October 3, 2013:

Back to those dinners, and the psychology of threats and guilt, and how they backfire.

"One day you'll see how much you miss a homemade meal," I used to say. It was a power play of course. I was the mother, it was my kitchen, I decided what to make and how to make it, and they should simply "appreciate" me, i.e. let me mow them down.

What an arrogant attitude I had. But in fact it sounds a lot like traditional government. With its remoteness to what people actually want and need. Its insistence on crafting programs that are bloated, bureaucratic, and not financially workable in the long term.

In fact, the parallel is exact. Just like ordinary people want the government to get out of the business of pretend-business that runs nothing like a business, so too did my family want me out of the kitchen if I stubbornly refused to learn how to cook.

"I love you," my husband would say. "But please stop cooking. Please!"

It's tempting when you have power to make your wish into a threat. The famous red line. "Don't you dare!" "I'm warning you!"

But threats only work under certain circumstances:

  • You see your target as a person not a thing.
  • You clearly understand what motivates them.
  • You are ready, willing, and able to act.
  • The action you take is likely to work.
  • You are prepared to handle the consequences.

In short, you have to know what you're doing.

Here's what happens when you don't:

What will the government say after the shutdown, if the citizens write in with a petition, and calling for all "non-essential" agencies and/or offices to stay shuttered until the economy gets better?

Before you act, see things from the other person's perspective. Because you never, ever know what they are going to do.

And it isn't always nice.

* All opinions my own.