It’s the Little Things… The High Art of (State Leader’s) Communication in Times of Crisis

“It’s the little things that matter the most.” Oh, how I hate these worldly wisdoms. It is such a mom thing to say. Of course, there are little, if any, people out there who care more about you than your mom. And still, the subtle, yet unequivocal sound of impotence that comes with such slogans always comes across as some sort of definite despair. Nothing I would ever be able, let alone willing, to accept.

But it is not just me. It is the very nature of human beings that fights against impotence. If anybody truly enjoys the feeling of heteronomy, please give me a call and explain it to me.

It is one of plenty aspects that explains why we feel so uncomfortable in the current situation of the corona pandemic. We cannot but obey. It must be for that reason, too, that it recently became a hotly debated topic whether wet dreams of dictatorial rulers come true these days. And with time under lockdown passing by, proponents of this thesis abound.

Though it might not feel like, we are in fact still living in democracies in many countries around the world. And democracy, believe it or not, is about the people that are governed, not about the people governing. To put it in corona terms: If you are living in an authoritarian country, you might be under lockdown because the government, once more, wants to show off with its power. It acts the way it does for the simple reason that it can. (You might as well not be under lockdown in an authoritarian state, with the reason being unchanged – think of the almighty Alexander.) If, however, you are living in an actual democracy, you most probably are under lockdown because the government regards this as best for the people.

Now, democracy and dictatorship of all stripes are not black and white but rather moving poles on a continuum, as contemporaries like the vigorous Viktor and our dear Donald prove impressively.

State leaders who wish to rule both a pre- and post-corona democracy, for their turn, walk a tightrope. And as most of them are no part-time virologists it becomes obvious that often they do not know themselves what their actions mean. As anybody, they do not seem to fully know what to do. Impressive how much you and me suddenly have in common with the authorities, isn’t it?

What they do know, though, is how to sell what they are doing. And this is exactly what they should not forget about in current times of crisis.

More than ever do people pay attention to governmental decisions. More than ever does everybody follow press conferences and speeches of state leaders. It therefore matters, perhaps more than ever, not only what the politicians in office say, but how.

Explain to the people the reasons for your decisions. Tell us you do not fully know what comes next. Show empathy if you expect the same from ‘your’ people. And ultimately, do not spare with spreading some hope. Hope is never at odds with any situation, no matter how bad it seems.

I hesitate to admit it, but after all, it’s the little things that matter the most…

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