Poles Apart

Poles Apart

Why People Turn Against Each Other, and How to Bring Them Together


Brought to you by Penguin.

Humans may violently disagree with one another, but there are ways to bring them together.

Poles Apart is based on interviews with leaders on both sides of the Atlantic and the latest academic research. It explains why we are so tribal, the advantages and disadvantages of being so, its often-unknown effects on our politics, businesses and social groups, and what we can do to halt excessive polarisation. It's a brilliantly insightful - and very practical - book on a timeless subject that also happens to be very topical. It acts as the ideal primer for those who have ever had to negotiate or resolve a conflict - in other words, all of us.

Alison (Ali) Goldsworthy, the first of the book's trio of authors, hit on the idea while a Sloan Fellow at Stanford University. In a panel discussion with Trump supporters on the largely Democrat leaning campus a student asked: "when did you last change your mind and why?" The panel took a deep breath as they reached for an answer. But their candid responses unlocked a new willingness to engage with an opposite viewpoint.

This became the question behind the Changed my Mind podcast, with Ali's former colleagues Laura Osborne and Alexandra (Alex) Chesterfield coming onboard. Dubbed by Rory Sutherland, founder of Ogilvy's Behavioural Science Practice, 'the best question he has ever heard', it has been gaining plaudits and listeners from its inception. Guests to date have included Peter Gabriel, Professor Tali Shalot and Jonathan Haidt. Distributed with openDemocracy, a second series is set to appear this summer.

As our identities increasingly align under political labels of convenience, now this is the perfect time for a reflective book that shines light on the world around us and how we can correct course from excessive political polarisation.

© Alex Chesterfield, Ali Goldsworthy, Laura Osborne 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021


  • Poles Apart is an extraordinary achievement: fresh, deeply authoritative, and entertaining on every page. Everyone talks about polarisation, but no one does it like Goldsworthy, Osborne, and Chesterfield. You'll finish this book wiser, kinder, and more hopeful than when you started it.
    Jamie Susskind, author of Future Politics

About the authors

Alison Goldsworthy

Alison Goldsworthy has been a political adviser and campaigner for more than twenty years. A former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats, she led the team that built the fastest-growing campaigning organisation in the UK. In 2017 she was a Sloan Fellow at Stanford, co-creating its first depolarisation course. A board member of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Alison has won numerous awards for her work. She has written for the Telegraph, Independent, New Statesman, The Times and Financial Times.
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Laura Osborne

Laura Osborne is a professional communicator, spokesperson and podcaster, with a background in public affairs and government communications. Currently Corporate Affairs Director at London First, the voice of the city's largest employers, she was previously Communications Director at Which?, the UK's consumer association. Laura has led large teams, working with some of the UK's biggest corporations to apply lessons from communications, consumer insight and behavioural science to making business a force for good.
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Alexandra Chesterfield

Alexandra Chesterfield is a behavioural scientist with a master's degree in Cognitive and Decision Science. Forever curious about why we do what we do, she currently works in financial services, leading a team of behavioural scientists to help get better outcomes for employees and customers. For four years, she was an elected Councillor in Guildford for the Conservative Party. She has personally experienced the effects of affective polarisation, both in and out of the workplace.
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