I think we all just really suck at conflict.
Highly charged cultural conversations are happening right this very minute all over the country. Whether we find ourselves at our family dinner table discussing a celebrity scandal, at work discussing breaking news, or in the company of friends over drinks on the weekend — people are talking.
But more and more Americans are leaving these conversations with feelings of anger, mistrust, and downright dread. Some respond so deeply and so intensely to challenging conversations,they develop distaste for discussion and interaction with others in general. “I don’t talk politics” they say. But is shutting down really the answer? How can we express our concern over the “Divisiveness that permeates American life if we are unwilling and unable to talk about the divide?
Some suggest that political correctness is the cause for disharmony and strained social relationships in modern American society. Political correctness has become a perjorative term used largely by those concerned with exposing correctness when it is abused or overused, citing only the most absurd examples. But political correctness defined as the idea that people should, “Take care not to use language or behavior in a way that could offend a group of people,” is hard to oppose. I mean it sounds like the sort of thing that just makes life and getting along a little easier. Are we all just too sensitive? Don’t think so.
I think we all just really suck at conflict.
Social media by design emphasizes and celebrates the individual. Each of our social networks is carefully curated to shield us from things we don’t want to see. We can simply “swipe left” on any human being or idea that doesn’t fit into our personal worldview. We can join “groups” of other like-minded folks, never having to travel too far outside of our comfort zone. When a foreign concept is introduced we can instantly decide whether to Accept IT or ATTACK IT. In this world a “thumbs up” is expected to express all of the joy I felt hearing the good news about your dad coming home from the hospital, and a simple sad face let’s you know that I am sorry to about your company’s layoffs.
All of these things are harder to do face-to-face. Friendships can be made or lost in a New York minute in the online world, having an impact on how we speak to and treat each other in real life.
I think that we become triggered because social media has gives us the illusion of ‘sameness” — which is almost always destroyed by the reality of diversity. By the messiness of life. The more we step on these social and emotional landmines, the more we want to retreat to the comfort of our safest spaces.
We need to start talking again. We need to be real again. We need to be OK with not agreeing again. We need to start thinking again. America needs to learn to handle differences constructively again.
So how can we start to have better conversations? Here are some tips:
- Ask Questions. If someone is passionate about a particular subject, that means they have thought about it a lot. Listen. If their thought process is off because they are missing important factual information, kindly offer some more info on the subject. Leave your emotions out of it. You can say something like “You have an interesting point of view on this. I saw an article you might be interested in. I’ll send it to you. I’d love to get your thoughts.” This is a more positive and productive way to share information.
- Find Common Ground. There’s always something we can agree on. Focus on that and discuss solutions. Too often we emphasize what divides us. It’s helpful to celebrate our shared values.
- Serve Others. Sometimes we hold strong positions about things we personally are struggling with. Perhaps your uncle’s gripes with immigration are actually about his difficulty finding work. When the smoke clears, offer to help him improve his resume writing skills or connect him with a networking association for people in his field. Anger and frustration almost always stems from a feeling of being overwhelmed by an issue or personal circumstances.
- Show Appreciation. Thank the other person for sharing their point of view and giving you something to think about. You can always learn a little something from people you disagree with. Shoot them a handwritten note focusing on what you learned, and any conclusions you have come to as a result. This is an opportunity to let them know that they have been heard- AND to kindly restate your final position. We always respond a bit better and deeper to things we get in writing.
Mission Incorporated on G-Town Radio! Tune into 92.9FM every Wednesday at 1PM for community info you can’t get anywhere else: events, services, organizations, and opportunities for our neck of NW Philly.
Nov 6 is Coming – Get Inspired!
Join friends and neighbors on Tuesday, October 30 at East Falls Forward (your friendly neighborhood RCO) for food, drinks, and inspiration to get out and vote!
We’ll have some cool zoning stuff to address first – find out the latest on the Kelly House improvements – then we’ll here from special guest Lawanda Horton and Henry Sauter, Founders of Mission Incorporated, about their pop-up voting project and impressions from their travels around the city engaging voters. And don’t forget there’ll be snacks, free beer, and other refreshments.
When: Tuesday, October 30 (doors open at 6:30PM)
Where: 3721 Midvale Avenue (the BuLogics building — MAP LINK)
Listen, Socialize, Eat, Drink, Be Merry, Be Inspired!
Mission Incorporated on G-Town Radio! Tune into 92.9FM every Wednesday at 1pm for community info you can’t get anywhere else: events, services, organizations, and opportunities for our neck of NW Philly.
Lawanda R. Horton Sauter, MS (President/CEO)
Business & Professional Development Solutions
5537 Germantown Avenue, 19144
You can also email them or follow on Facebook.