Since Wednesday November 9th (2016) I’ve been practicing something that I preach: Pausing. Being Curious. Reflecting. Observing. Actively listening.
My circle of friends and colleagues all seem to be on the same page about one thing: The result of the elections in the United States will have dire consequences not only for the country but for the world.
You have only to look at the President-elect’s platform and who he surrounds himself to realize that his power lies in tapping into people’s fears. The result is xenophobia, misogyny, racism and hate.
For me, what has concerned me even more and filled me with a deep sense of foreboding has been the reactions of many who disagree with the outcome of the election.
As protests against the election outcome grow hostile and violent I’ve decided to play devil’s advocate and put myself in the shoes of someone who voted for Trump.
If I were a white, working-class, male, American, living somewhere in the middle of America, I had voted for Trump and was now watching the protests in the United States as well as the rest of the world, there’s a high likelihood that I’d be thinking two things: 1) F*&k you! And 2) My vote counts and now I have a voice. You are not taking that away from me!
I figure, it would only make me more entrenched in my position because I’d interpret the message of the protests into: “I am right. You are wrong.”
This would be seen as a threat to shut down my voice.
Now, what do you think happens when someone feels they are being shut-down?
Either they become passive aggressive or they blow up. And why is that? Because they don’t feel heard.
This is not a simple problem of “I am right.” and “You are wrong.”
The problem is complex.
You have very powerful people who are playing on the fears and vulnerabilities of so many. Few are able to connect the dots between say, for instance, who pays more taxes, who pays less and who ends up better off. Few have the ability to be curious. Even fewer have the ability to communicate with each other and yet this is exactly what we need right now.
I’m not saying anger shouldn’t be expressed. Expressing anger is healthy and needed but where one chooses to express their anger and who is around when it is expressed has an impact.
What kind of impact do people who did not vote for Donald Trump want to make?
Do they want people to clamp down, shut down, entrench themselves in a position directly opposing their own? Or do they want the kind of impact that sees conflict change into transformation? Something positive that benefits everyone?
By all means, if this election result upsets you, express anger, sadness and disappointment but please let it be expressed in a space that is safe and doesn’t isolate, alienate or shut-down other people. After that, get curious.
Are you still with me or have you tuned out?
If you’ve tuned out just remember how you’ve felt on the receiving end of someone angry and who has ripped right into you. Are you there yet? Now, for a moment, can you understand how the person on the receiving end of your anger can feel? With that feeling that you have made them feel, do you think they will be open to listening to you?
People need to be curious before stating their position and the approach has to be genuine. Ask the question Why? and keep asking it in order to get to the root of the problem.
People need to reflect back what they hear from those they oppose. Not only for those they oppose to actually hear what they are saying but for the listener to ensure they are truly hearing the other person.
It’s amazing how much we don’t listen to each other! I mean how many times have you caught yourself thinking about how you are right when in a discussion with someone you disagree with?
Actively listening makes us have to stop and tune-in.
Those who oppose the election results also really need to hear themselves too because to be honest, I hear the same hate and intolerance from some of them that I’ve heard from some of those who voted for the President-elect.
People need to feel acknowledged.
Everyone is suffering. Not only Muslims, the LGBTQ community, other minorities and women but men too. Are you surprised? More importantly, are you curious?
We are in serious trouble if we do not nurture our skills in being curious, acknowledging and truly, actively listening.
This is not the ONLY approach to take but it’s a necessary step in the direction of resolving conflict.
If we address the fear (held by both those who elected Donald Trump and those who didn’t) and the feeling of not being acknoweldged by employing communication skills with authenticity, we remove the the obstacles that allow the President-elect to wield his power.
Take a moment to munch on it.
Pause. Be Curious. Reflect. Observe. Actively listening.
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