I don’t believe anyone can say the late Fred Rogers was not a likable person. We know from his successful TV program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, he loved children and made them feel special. In 1969, the young, handsome Rogers appeared before a subcommittee of the US Senate. His goal was to preserve the 20-million-dollar federal funding given to PBS, but Senator John Pastore had a different goal: to cut it in half. After his testimony, the committee did not reduce the budget but did the opposite. They increased it by two million! How did Fred Rogers accomplish this feat?
Throughout his speech, Fred Rogers stayed calm, confident and rational. But there is more to it than that. Rogers employed successful techniques, all in harmony, to win over Senator Pastore. There was no manipulation involved. The attributes he used to win over the senator were part of who he was, a natural persona of respect and congeniality toward others.
Rogers used commonality. He stated how he was concerned by some things viewed by children on television, and he assumed the senator was too. He proclaimed the intent of his program was to give an expression of care to each child, making them feel special and valued. He used humor and gratitude in one statement when the senator joked he was supposed to be a pretty tough guy, but hearing Rogers’ words gave him goosebumps. Rogers responded, “I am grateful not only for your goosebumps but also your interest in our kind of communication.” Rogers backed up the importance of his programing with illustrations and proof. He connected with the senator’s emotional side by reciting the lyrics of one of his songs: What Do You Do with The Mad That You Feel.
What can we learn from Mr. Rogers about discussing opposing viewpoints with others? Connect with them emotionally. Find common ground. Make concessions. Show respect and gratitude. Express your views without attacking them. And finally, be a good listener. With the country becoming more divisive, I believe this is important. Do you agree? I would love to know what you think. Submit a comment in the box below,
Note: You can watch Fred Rogers’ brief testimony (about 7 minutes) and his delightful children’s song. Click on embedded links above. I think you will find both entertaining and informative.