The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this. John Stuart Mill
This year, the very special American holiday of togetherness follows a divisive election. We both feel strongly that it’s important to look at how to communicate constructively with others.
PHIL: It’s Thanksgiving again, and in this very political season, dinner table conversations may become more heated than ever. We’ve written extensively on how to resolve differences between partners without conflict, but how can that possibly be applied in this post-election season?
Politics is far more emotional than rational. We pick policy positions that support our emotional responses, and argue over those policies rather than addressing the underlying feelings. The core emotion is fear, which is a tricky one to deal with because it’s scary to look at; it is an unseen force over our shoulder, pushing and pulling us in various directions, and it takes bravery to look over our shoulder and challenge it. It is easier to see our response to it, which is anger.
So when there is an angry clash over policy positions, speak to the underlying fear, not the position itself. The way to address its manifestation of anger is to avoid responding with anger of your own, as this only escalates the situation. Any anger that arises in you is a cloak for your own fears, so go inside, find them and speak them.
This follows an important guideline that we’ve blogged about for resolving differences: speak from the “I”. When you say “You…”, the statement is an attack or a criticism, but by saying “I”, it becomes a sharing of information, an act of intimacy and an opportunity for empathy.
In our writing about problem solving, we have said that differences can only be fully resolved when the partners share core values, and in political confrontations, it seems that this is definitely not the case! The answer here is to go deeper by looking at our most basic needs of food, shelter and security; to look at what we have in common rather than what our differences are; and to emphasize that our identity as humans is more basic than our identification with political groups.
We’ve deliberately written this to be politically neutral. Share it with your friends and family before you sit down to that turkey.
We may not agree but by listening & hearing each other we can find a way to act out of love #quote Click To TweetMAUDE: This week many of us will be heading to Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends. There has been a lot of discord within many relationships in these tumultuous times. We feel therefore that it is a good moment to look again at processes of finding mutual solutions, successful means of communication and in general remembering to be thankful for all we have.
Being aware and being active is a very important part of being a contributing citizen of society, and it also behooves us, as citizens and individuals, to remember all we have to be thankful for. Let’s all remember to acknowledge and appreciate all we have; to acknowledge our relationships with each other and to be kind to each other and ourselves.
In these times of great discord, when many people seem to be focusing more on what divides us than on what our commonalities are, we feel it is an ideal moment to center in on how we can find unity within our relationships and work toward communications that foster mutual solutions.
The first step in being able to find mutuality is to remember to treat everyone as an individual. In doing that, we find our mutual humanity, and it automatically sets us on a different course of relating than when we are looking at each other as parties, or positions. Remember, we all have basic human needs and it will further us to act from the acknowledgment of our commonality in trying to find paths to communication and agreement.
It is also important to exercise good communication skills. Remember, if the goal is to reach paths forward that work for all of us and for each of us, we have to use communication skills to begin to understand each other. As in our partnership relationships, we have to learn to listen and actually hear what the other person is saying. We need to hear with an open heart. You cannot be protecting a position or working out what your response will be, and still hear the other person.
And then there is the very rewarding and often very challenging process of seeking and finding mutual solutions. This can only occur when we truly treat others as individuals with whom we wish to find a path leading to resolutions, ones that satisfy and support each individual’s needs.
This may appear impossible at times, but if we really listen with an open heart and mind, we will find these co-creative answers. We may not agree with each other, but through recognizing each others’ needs, listening to each other, really hearing what is truly being said by each other, we will find a way to act out of love for each other. This is our hope and our strength!
We’d love for you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.