Neighbors and family members are challenged talking to one another now that they realize they are likely to be seeing the world very differently. During the election season, many have spoken negatively about the “other side”. People are concerned and dismayed by the division that is now apparent.
It is interesting that we are each seeing the same data from different perspectives. It is difficult to see and understand the other’s point of view. It is particularly hard when we demonize the other and use terms like racist, liberal, bad, and evil. When we do so, we no longer see the other as human and it is easier to mistreat, harm and fight.
Research by John Gottman on relationships shows that when a married person exhibits disgust or contempt for their partner, it is more likely that the marriage will end in divorce. Marriages can overcome and grow from anger but disgust and contempt are more challenging.
When we try to understand each other, we can become frustrated. Because we are emotional and we are each paying attention to different data, we are not easily swayed by data and arguments from different perspectives.
What can we do? We can do some homework. Listen to the news from a different venue—one that is catering to a different view. Notice your reactions and practice shifting to being curious and open-minded. Then, I suggest we begin to have conversations one on one or in small groups with people of differing perspectives. We can set some ground rules that we will listen and give empathy and work to be open-minded. We don’t have to agree or find a solution. As you listen to individuals, you will begin to see that the “other” is a real person who is doing their best and sees the world differently based on their experience. You will notice their humanity and you are likely to see common ground. I assure you it will be interesting.
When we make a commitment to listen to one another we can hear all the perspectives. Hopefully, we will find new more creative solutions. We have a better chance of doing so than when we resort to name calling, polarization and closing our minds and hearts.
I encourage you to openly listen to someone with a different view today. Notice what you learn.