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.
- 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.
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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