You and Me, We Just Disagree

I think you should think what I think because what I think is right.

Case closed. You’re persuaded, right?

What if I hit you over the head harder, repeating my message more and more forcefully? Will that make you see things my way?

Of course not, but if I spend any time on Facebook, I see many people using this harmful approach. Intransigence on either side makes things worse, increasing the divide and entrenching people in their polarities. The likelihood of changing the opinion of an entrenched person is zip…almost as unlikely as them changing yours. Think about it.

I’ve been thinking about it. Powerful forces benefit from keeping us in an emotional frenzy that negates rationality and keeps us divided, and divided we fall. We need a way to communicate that brings us together, even in our differences. When you want to engage in creating connections that can close the divide, try these 3 proven strategies:

First, seek to understand. Stephen Covey taught us this. The person in front of you sees the world different from you—not because they are stupid, or evil, or duped—but because of their experience and values. They are not wrong! They are viewing the situation through their lens, just as you are. Work to understand where they’re coming from. Notice: you are working to educate yourself, not to change them.

Check your emotions…and the facts. Emotions and rationality cannot coexist in your brain, so focus on facts. Dig deep into resources you quote. Check multiple, even opposing, resources. This process alone may let some steam off your emotions. Also, respectfully question their resources–in an effort to understand–and then check them.

Be respectful. Agree to disagree. Saying or thinking “they should believe what I believe” is a certain kind of crazy! Pushing harder for them to understand and adopt your view won’t work. People reflexively push back. By listening to understand and build connection, you may plant seeds that bear fruit long after you’ve moved on. Go further and leverage the similarities: maybe you both long for the safety of your families; maybe you both feel pride for your country; maybe you both desire to be treated with respect; maybe you both like chocolate ice cream.

Think of it this way:

When you insist on them adopting your point of view: When you seek to understand their point of view:
· You’re entrenching them in their opinion.

· You’re whipping up more emotion, which interferes with the brain’s ability to think rationally.

· Their encounter with you makes them LESS likely to change.

· You both move further into polar positions, erasing the shades of gray in-between where a solution can be found.

· You’ve caused harm—the situation is worse than when you entered it.

· You’re creating trust which allows emotions to subside so the brain can consider facts rationally.

· Although it is unlikely you will sway them (though it could happen!), you’re giving them facts that may be considered later.

· You’re creating connection that allows you both to find solutions.

· You’ve contributed to healing—you cracked open the door for possibilities.

I ain’t sayin’ it’s easy. If you know me, you know I have strong opinions and beloved causes. The recent course of world events has given me a reality check. I don’t exactly know what the answer is, but I know what it isn’t. Insisting that everyone see things the way I do just. doesn’t. work. Doing what we’ve always done gives us more of what we’ve always got. The answer is in moving toward our planetary brothers and sisters, not away. This happens in the little interactions, not the bullhorn on the mountain top. Little by little we got where we are. Little by little we must reverse it. Every interaction contributes either to the problem or the solution; let’s be part of the solution.

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