Sally Kohn explains that emotional correctness is the tone, the feeling, how we say what we say, the respect and compassion we show one another. She says that political persuasion doesn’t begin with ideas or facts or data. Political persuasion begins with being emotionally correct.
0:12 So when I do my job, people hate me. In fact, the better I do my job, the more people hate me. And no, I’m not a meter maid, and I’m not an undertaker. I am a progressive lesbian talking head on Fox News. (Applause) So y’all heard that, right? Just to make sure, right? 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.
0:39 So I go on television. I debate people who literally want to obliterate everything I believe in, in some cases, who don’t want me and people like me to even exist. It’s sort of like Thanksgiving with your conservative uncle on steroids, with a live television audience of millions. It’s totally almost just like that.
1:00 And that’s just on air. The hate mail I get is unbelievable. Last week alone, I got 238 pieces of nasty emailand more hate tweets than I can even count. I was called an idiot, a traitor, a scourge, a cunt, and an ugly man, and that was just in one email. (Laughter)
1:23 So what have I realized, being on the receiving end of all this ugliness? Well, my biggest takeaway is that for decades, we’ve been focused on political correctness, but what matters more is emotional correctness.
1:38 Let me give you a small example. I don’t care if you call me a dyke. I really don’t. I care about two things.One, I care that you spell it right. (Laughter) (Applause) Just quick refresher, it’s D-Y-K-E. You’d totally be surprised. And second, I don’t care about the word, I care about how you use it. Are you being friendly? Are you just being naive? Or do you really want to hurt me personally? 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.
2:29 So when I first went to go work at Fox News, true confession, I expected there to be marks in the carpetfrom all the knuckle-dragging. That, by the way, in case you’re paying attention, is not emotionally correct. But liberals on my side, we can be self-righteous, we can be condescending, we can be dismissive of anyone who doesn’t agree with us. In other words, we can be politically right but emotionally wrong. And incidentally, that means that people don’t like us. Right?
3:03 Now here’s the kicker. Conservatives are really nice. I mean, not all of them, and not the ones who send me hate mail, but you would be surprised. Sean Hannity is one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. He spends his free time trying to fix up his staff on blind dates, and I know that if I ever had a problem, he would do anything he could to help. Now, I think Sean Hannity is 99 percent politically wrong, but his emotional correctness is strikingly impressive, and that’s why people listen to him. Because you can’t get anyone to agree with you if they don’t even listen to you first.
3:42 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.
4:04 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.
4:32 I’m not saying it’s easy. An average of, like, 5.6 times per day I have to stop myself from responding to all of my hate mail with a flurry of vile profanities. This whole finding compassion and common ground with your enemies thing is kind of like a political-spiritual practice for me, and I ain’t the Dalai Lama. I’m not perfect, but what I am is optimistic, because I don’t just get hate mail. I get a lot of really nice letters, lots of them. And one of my all-time favorites begins, “I am not a big fan of your political leanings or your sometimes tortured logic, but I’m a big fan of you as a person.” Now this guy doesn’t agree with me, yet.(Laughter) But he’s listening, not because of what I said, but because of how I said it, and somehow, even though we’ve never met, we’ve managed to form a connection. That’s emotional correctness, and that’s how we start the conversations that really lead to change.
5:44 Thank you.