We all know it; we are divided and becoming more so.
We not only can, but we must find common ground.
How can we do that? Let’s start with FEAR. Many believe that this is at the heart of polarization. Think about it, and I believe you will see.
Next, look around for a sense of insignificance. People feel that they just don’t matter. That’s sad and scary at the same time.
It’s easy to see, from watching any news channel on TV, that a sometimes warped view of the other side magnifies differences. Most of us, the people we know, are not extreme, but most of what we hear is from the extremes. That’s flat scary, right?
Leaders on either side can be very good at creating “mutual radicalization.” This can harm our democracy.
One study found that 79% of people who met in a mutual discussion group felt others understood them better, and they were more aware of the experiences, feelings, and beliefs of others. Most, 75%, felt less angry and less split from the other side. Since radicalization is an irrational and emotional process, we may not be aware of what is pushing people to more and more extreme positions. Talking can help us to understand better.
Many issues aren’t as black-and-white as they seem on the news. Politics aside, there are gray areas on all sides. We must focus on the values we share.
It is important that we let go of trying to bring an unwilling person to our own side. Usually, we cannot change other people’s minds. Arguments just don’t work. Sometimes it’s OK to just walk away.
Our votes don’t tell everything there is to know about us. Try to be curious about what other’s votes mean to them. Look for ways to open a conversation to learn what is important to them.
Social media can be a problem. We are not discussing face-to-face; we are Facebook-to-Facebook.
Back to what we can do:
- look for common ground and shared values
- be prepared to constructively address issues of fear and a sense of insignificance
- be skeptical of extremists; resist radicalization
- look for ways to simply talk; learn what makes others tic
- arguments don’t work
- remember; Social Media is not the same as a conversation
(Excerpted, paraphrased from:)
Healing the Political Divide
Kirk Waldorf (and other cited authors)
American Psychological Association
January 1, 2021
Monitor on Psychology Vol 52 No 1 page 42