Polarization is Killing Our Country: 7 Concrete Steps to Heal

Our country is deeply divided. What’s happened and is happening in the protests turned violent through our country can scare us. Or sicken us. Or we can act to heal.

The chasm is deep.

We no longer simply disagree.

Now, individuals on each side of a polarized divide seem unable to engage, to hear each other’s perspectives. Instead, they play the politics of attacks, hurling accusations and recruit others to believe as they do.  

Each side fears the other might destroy the nation if they gain power. Rioters defend their violence with words such as, “Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in” and “it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights.”1  Partisans see others as malevolent.

How we heal

How do we heal our country’s toxic polarization? I hope to start a conversation with you about just that. Here are my thoughts based on 42 years of experience as a mediator, team-builder and trainer skilled in teaching conflict resolution skills.

  • Refuse to let the voices of those on the far left or right dominate our discourse.

Hyper-partisanship is poisoning our politics.

We have more that unites us than divides us. It’s time we realized that.

We have the mutating COVID strains to address.

We face radical climate change.

We have common ground to stand on, let’s build on it.

  • Bring down the temperature.

In each conversation, respectfully take a stand against hateful, polarizing language and distorted untruths.

Speak out against political violence from either camp.

Be kind.

  • Use social media

Social media has amplified the loudest voices.

Those who rant use social media to stoke anger, provoke outrage and push Americans further from one another,

We can’t afford to let them drive reasonable people from the public square of respectful debate.

  • Burst our bubbles

Many live in cocoons, surrounded by those who see the world exactly as they do. Seek those with other perspectives—you’ll learn more.

  • Learn to defuse

Treat others with respect.

Listen with open minds.

Empathize with the issues that that others raise.

  • Demand actual information

We’ve let one-sided opinion and spin masquerade as news.

When you hear distortions or one-sided information, ask questions.

Avoid repeated misinformation.

    Pray

This list isn’t complete without prayer. When I wrote about the Capitol invasion,      

https://workplacecoachblog.com/2021/01/political-protests-the-capitol-building-riots-can-you-fire-those-who-took-part/, Yaniv wrote from Tel Aviv that he hoped for our nation’s recovery and return to normalcy; he gave me permission to post his thoughts. I add prayer to our list.

The stakes are high

The stakes are high. Can we fix ourselves? Yes. There is no “them” in the United States. There is only “us.

I’m hoping to start a conversation. I offer the list above as a “starter list”, knowing it will take all of our efforts and wisdom. What are your thoughts?

1“FBI riot probe uncovers advance planning,” Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu and Aaron Dale, The Washington Post, January 31, 2021

Credit for photo to collie Zeke and kitty Tully who allow me to share their world.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.  www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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12 thoughts on “Polarization is Killing Our Country: 7 Concrete Steps to Heal

  1. Yes, Lynn. Layers upon layers of issues and ulterior motives, information hidden or skewed, fear for the country and world abounding, media that capitalizes on it all. None of us have the whole picture. But all of us can contribute to healing by humbling ourselves, asking for help and wisdom from God, asking Him for the peace that passes understanding, that transcends the here and now. Asking Him to calm and stabilize us so we can hear hearts and fears beneath the vitriol and infuse our interactions with deep Love. I don’t say this as a Pollyanna cop out, but as that which is, I suspect, the only true route to reconciliation. This is way, way bigger than politics.

  2. Paulette Dale, Ph.D, Author, “ did You Say Some Thing, Susan?“ How Any Woman Can Gain Confidence with Assertive Communication – Second Edition-March 2021 says:

    Lynne,

    Thank you for starting this conversation. All your points are as vital as the next. One is not more important than the other. That said, I’d particularly like to expand on Learn to Defuse.

    Kindness has been lost. It’s tragic that we are expected to be unkind to those with whom we disagree.

    Being able to respectfully listen with an open mind to people while still disagreeing with their philosophies and politics don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

    1. Thank you, Paulette and Cheryl. You both offer exactly the kind of dialogue I was hoping to initiate. Let’s hope your vibrant comments inspire others.

    1. Thanks, Susan, am hoping and praying that those who believe in and want healing will put “it’s happening” to light extinguishes darkness:)

  3. I like the pic. That’s how I deal with heated political conversations. Look at cute puppies and kitties.

  4. Lynne, thank you for this honest and culture-bucking assessment of a very troubling and harmful social trend. I really appreciate your reasoned advice, especially the challenge to use social media in postive ways and to be prayerful as we engage instead of retreat. I am reminded that Scripture advises, “The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17). The exhortation is to listen, to learn, to study, and to reply in honesty, not divisively or in a way that displays unbridled and unflinching partisanship to human systems and perspectives. After all, Proverbs 15:1 also reminds us of another great truth in how we engage, even if we disagree, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”

    1. Pastor Ben, thank you for your wisdom and Scripture tie-ins, I love Proverbs 18:17 and the thought “to listen, to learn, to reply in honesty”.

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