I come to you bleary-eyed and caffeine-fuelled. I’ve been half awake all night, and fully awake since 04:42, when the unexpected WhatsApp message came: announcing that we were leaving the EU.
And as each member of my friendship group woke up to see the news, shocked message after shocked message kept on coming.
I’m devastated about the result, for two reasons. One, this is not the result I wanted. But that’s another long and complicated blog post.
Two, I am devastated because this is not the result I expected.
I am a Planner. And the role of the Planner is to represent the voice of the consumer inside an agency. But this result shows that I haven’t done my job – I did not understand that voice.
Everywhere I looked, the Remain voice dominated. My Facebook feed all added ‘In’ stickers to their profile pictures, messages from and chats with my friends were all strongly pro-EU, even walking through the streets of London on the way to work I only ever seemed to bump into Remain campaigners.
So yes, there was strong anti-EU sentiment across the nation, yes the vote was neck and neck, but when it came down to it we wouldn’t actually Brexit would we?
And so I failed to properly hear the voices of the opposition – voices which represent 52% of the population.
As Planners, we need not just to hear, but to actively seek out, the voices of people who are different to us. That means reading opinion pieces from media outlets we disagree with. It means scrolling down and – gasp – reading the comments below the line, no matter how inflammatory they may be, on either side of the debate. It means reading the polls which predict the results we don’t want to hear.
Above all, it means talking to people. Not declaring someone a ‘bigot’ if they hold a different opinion, but instead asking them why they hold that opinion? Engaging with their stories and listening to their hopes and fears, no matter our personal feelings on a topic.
We have to do this if we’re going to be effective Planners. And we have to do this if we’re going to be understanding, tolerant citizens. Because in the coming weeks and months, understanding and tolerance is exactly what we are going to need.
So go on, leave your comments below the line. I’m ready.