“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one.” John Lennon’s lyrics to his classic song Imagine paint a vision that may seem far-fetched as America is roiling in the aftermath of the election. But we Americans have endured troubled times before, times that have ripped at the very fabric of our nation – think McCarthy hearings, Viet Nam war protests at Kent State, recent killings of minorities and authorities as well – and we will do it again. This too shall pass, the saying goes. The question is not will we survive, but in what state.
It matters because we with vastly different viewpoints live together! We live next door to each other. We are in the same extended families, and workplaces. It matters because two years ago we were friends with normal differences that we chose to overlook because we had so much more in common: the same employer, sports team we cheered for, church we attended, community groups we were active in. It matters because so much of our lives will shut down if we succumb to short-lived rage and remove ourselves from our joint activities because we don’t like the politics of the people we now may see as adversaries, or enemies or worse. These people know and like, or even love.
I propose a solution for you to consider. Make it happen. Make Lennon’s vision come alive. On your little piece of turf, in your own way, to the extent that you can, make his dream come alive. State your mind, to be sure, but seek to understand the position of the other first. So you can empathize. So you can feel their pain and speak to that pain to soothe it, and not just respond to the fiery words coming out of their mouths. The latter approach will only make things worse, and we all know it.
You may need to achieve a higher level of “skilled-empathy” than you have practiced before. And you may need to use a different kind of listening, listening to learn, instead of listening merely to craft a response. Because this time our differences seen deeper, don’t they? And our reactions to each other seem more heart-felt, as if our lifestyles are being irrevocably threatened, when as stated above we Americans have been through extremely challenging times before, and gotten through them. You may want to watch a TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt that addresses how we can grow in empathy for each other as a possible path to remain friends with the other side.
I think we can do this, if we all accept responsibility for making things better. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I think I’m not the only one. http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_can_a_divided_america_heal
This blog is an example of thinking in my new organization, Community 2.0. PM me for more information about how the best way to reach our full individual potential is by working more effectively together.