Talking Brexit - Making Sense and Moving On

In the UK, I’m getting the sense that everyone is very much preoccupied with the Brexit outcome that has been collectively created – one month on, and so many questions….all the how’s, why’s, what happened and very importantly, so what and where next? There’s a lot of thinking and talking being done (thankfully) about the perspectives and feelings people are noticing they have, creating a national wondering in a conscious effort to work it all out and move on.

The working out of ‘what’s going on here’ is a large component of what T-Space helps it’s clients to stand back, notice and get in touch with. Once we have made our own sense of actually what’s happening, then we can ask, ‘so if that’s the case, then what would help us move on?’. Quite often co-created metaphors will emerge, bringing a clarifying perspective, and crystallising next step options and solutions.

In my own wonderings, listenings and talkings with others, both friends and professional connections, the metaphor emerging is one of a person in a job where they are paid what they view as ‘enough’, but in which they’re really not at all happy – they want the money, but hate the situation. They have so much upset and dissonance going on in their head that they’re really not sure of the facts. In the end, some last straw pushes them over the edge, a binary choice is offered, and an emotional decision is made to just leave – walk away. Then everything changes. Because they’ve not attended to the facts (or were not told them!) they don’t realise that the organisation didn’t want them to leave, or that it’s really quite a tough job market out there in their area, or considered how to start up a business on their own as another option. In short, plans weren’t made, and now they’re standing there, out of a job, with the employer now very unhappy, both embittered, legalities of contracts and what they can/can’t do being waved around, doing not a lot, and finding it hard to even get out of bed in the morning.

If we consider every one of the UK population as a cell in this person’s brain, then the vote and resultant decision is a collective outcome. Given the more or less 50/50 nature of the result, the unplanned middle ground of this binary decision has been selected, and now our task is to work out what to do next.

So, if that’s the metaphor, what’s really going on? Clearly there was some deep unhappiness for this person in their work situation. Did they think through what the real source of this – manager, tasks, clients, environment? Are they fully aware of how the unhappiness is being played out – shouting, lying, scaring, put downs, holding back etc? Did they consider some solutions – changing boss, role, dept, tasks etc? Did they talk about it enough with people who could help to alter it – HR, EAS, Manager, Colleagues? Or did they just turn a blind eye and hope all would be fine, go home and forget about it until the next day, and crave the weekend? Again lots of questions, with ‘no’ answers.

This then makes me think about what the deep unhappiness must be in the UK to create the ‘walk away’ outcome – a kind of, ‘if I’m unhappy, then you’re coming down with me’, as an anti-establishment taunt given the question was asked.

Could the real unhappiness be around divides – the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots and the unevenness in how the wealth of the great UK financial engine is allocated. And the UK/non UK divide, where those of non-UK origin are blamed for taking their share of the economic spoils, which is further inflated as the shares so uneven anyway, thereby fuelling the racism reaction.

So voice was given to all in the vote, and it collectively said ‘NO’, with the middle ground indicating that there’s much more to this than just ‘no’. So what can we do next?

It sounds like it’s time to do the talking that perhaps wasn’t done before the vote. In the metaphor, for example, facilitating employer and employee to talk to see what’s going on, and what can be done to make it work better for both parties, yet still keeping the connection strong where it’s adding value.

We can see that Jeremy Corbyn is urging this voicing of the real issues by bringing citizen letters into parliamentary question time – but it’s all too individualised and too much, too quickly. Surely it must be possible for the government to facilitate a Societal talking process in a more structured and measured way. If representative groups of society were convened over 8 weeks in all corners of the country within a ‘what happened’ and a ‘what next’ structured discussion process, we could look forward to some illuminating and productive outcomes. In this way we could spend time listening to, fully hearing and understanding what’s really happening in our Society, so that together we can work out ways to make it more acceptable to all.

As Theresa May said this week to her cabinet ‘It’s not a game!’- we need to get real and practical. Now that she’s in charge, if she could encourage a productive and engaging talking solution in this useful hiatus between the vote and triggering Article 50, this would provide a hugely important feed for the now certain EU negotiations.