Forget Political Correctness: Let's Try Emotional Correctness

Political correctness is a buzzphrase thrown around a lot, especially with the recent reactions to Brexit and Trump's victory in the US Election.

The Right frequently accuses the Left of "political correctness gone mad", saying that they prioritise political correctness above the greater good, thus inhibiting free speech and making people scared to speak their mind, resulting in unexpected political outcomes, such as "Brexit".

Donald Trump famously said "I refuse to be politically correct". He sees political correctness as a conspiracy that masks the true opinions of politicians like Hillary Clinton: "They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else". Trump would probably see objections to his infamous Wall as terrible "political correctness" rather than profound concerns on a moral and humanitarian basis.

Universities's Safe Space Policies have been brandished as too "politically correct". Online backlash to controversial articles is seen by many as the product of a "politically correct" society.

I think its time we shifted the focus from political correctness to emotional correctness.

The concept of emotional correctness was introduced to me when a friend posted this Ted Talk on her Facebook feed (I highly urge you to watch it):


In her inspiring Ted Talk, Sally Kohn rightly points out that by focussing on the compassion and humanity in everyone, we can discuss political differences in a frank and open way and further understand one another in order to improve society.

 "I am a gay talking head on Fox News. I am going to tell you how I do it and the most important thing I've learned", Kohn says.

"Emotional correctness is the tone, the feeling, how we say what we say, the respect and compassion we show one another. And what I've realized is that political persuasion doesn't begin with ideas or facts or data. Political persuasion begins with being emotionally correct."

Kohn points out that both Left Wing and Right Wing supporters believe they are "correct" in their political views. She also points out that just because someone has different political views to you, it doesn't mean you should demonise them, call them uneducated or insult them. 

"We spend so much time talking past each other and not enough time talking through our disagreements,and if we can start to find compassion for one another, then we have a shot at building common ground.It actually sounds really hokey to say it standing up here, but when you try to put it in practice, it's really powerful.

So someone who says they hate immigrants, I try to imagine how scared they must be that their community is changing from what they've always known. Or someone who says they don't like teachers' unions, I bet they're really devastated to see their kid's school going into the gutter, and they're just looking for someone to blame. Our challenge is to find the compassion for others that we want them to have for us. That is emotional correctness."

This is an extremely powerful message, especially because I know many people who were devestated with the Brexit vote and decided that all the "Leave" voters were all stupid, when this was simply not the case. Its easy to be politically snobby when you believe you have the moral-ground. However, next time you disagree with someone politically, instead of shouting at them or insulting them, treat them with respect. You aren't going to persuade anyone of your views if you treat them like a moron.

This is also a useful technique in terms of feminism. When someone tells you they are anti-feminist or doesn't agree with modern feminism, instead of getting angry, ask them why. The chances are they misunderstand what feminism is, have for some reason been disillusioned with feminism as a political movement or have simple valid reasons why they don't identify as a feminist. Calling yourself feminist may be the "politically correct" thing to do, but talking to people with emotional correctness is how you get people engaged, having discussions and solving social issues.