Election Season 2020 is now over! Finally, no more political signs or commercials! Now what?
Over the last few years, we have begun to see an increasingly significant divide in our country. A social and cultural divide that, even amidst a global pandemic, continues to persist. According to the Pew Research Group, the 2020 election season has revealed just how divided a country we are relative to other countries. (Dimock, M. & Wike, R. November 2020).[i]
Issues related to racial injustice, climate change, law enforcement reform, infringement upon religious freedoms, and Second Amendment rights. Even what should be a common concern, fighting a global pandemic, has become a divisive issue. While the majority of citizens are in agreement that there is a growing societal divide, we still fail to agree on how it should be addressed. We would like to offer some suggestions.
The first step in healing any disagreement is to seek understanding. This is done by listening to others and trying to understand their perspective. Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, aptly states most people don’t listen to understand, they listen to reply. We need to make an effort to listen with compassion and empathy with the goal of understanding the other person if we are to make any progress at healing a divide.
Second, we need to be aware of our triggers as it pertains to various topics. Seeking understanding is not just about understating other people, but also ourselves. If there is a topic that makes you particularly uncomfortable or one you are passionate about, that is fine. However, we need to know how that may come out in a difficult discussion. If our goal is understanding, we should also know how to be comfortable with this discomfort in order to move towards a higher level of understanding of the other person and ourselves.
Third, we should be looking for common ground. In most all arguments there are “universal truths.” Regarding issues like gun violence, we can all agree that we want fewer deaths as a result of gun violence. This is a universal truth that can begin a respectful dialogue about the care and concern that we have for our society and then the method of doing so can be considered. This approach allows us all to have a collective starting point in any difficult conversation.
Finally, we need to be able to agree to disagree without judging someone else’s perspective as better or worse. When we are having difficult conversations, it is common to take an us versus them mentality. If we can agree that there may be validity to another person’s perspective, we have a chance of healing a divide, regardless of our agreement with the other person. This does not mean that we must let go of our own beliefs, but it does require a willingness to let things drop without having someone agree with you. Too often, we leave discussions feeling hurt or disappointed by the outcome rather than just understanding that there is more than one answer to any given problem.
Remember that although we continue to be a diverse melting pot of people with differing ideas and perspectives, we still share many core values and common interests with one another. Let this unite us instead of dividing us. Regardless of our ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations, we all deserve to be treated fairly, equally, and with dignity and respect.