This article first appeared in my newsletter November 10, 2016. Click here to sign up to receive my online newsletter.
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I don’t comment on politics in this newsletter, and I’m not going to start now.
EXCEPT – It’s two days after the American presidential election. Yesterday, everywhere I went (in a Canadian city!) it’s all anyone was talking about. This morning my inbox was full of more commentary. Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking. I hope it’s relevant to you, and in alignment with the purpose of this newsletter.
Here in Alberta Canada, we’ve experienced three elections in the past year and a half. We were eligible to vote in two of them.
The provincial election in May 2015 and the federal election in October 2015 had many of us talking politics and what kind of province and country we want; who we liked and who we didn’t. It seems the US election was the topic of even more conversations than the two elections in which we could vote.
Our polarities were in sharp focus. Rural. Urban. Economy. Environment. Gender. Inclusion. Protection. And that other issue – in all three elections, some of us didn’t like any available option. Which was the least awful alternative?
Then there was the polarity of reactions. We could look at the same results and have wildly different emotions and thoughts.
Shock. Outrage. Grief. Fear. What will become of us now?
Joy. Hope. Vindication. Excitement. What could be possible now?
With our polarities on such visible display, we are in great danger. We may begin to demonize those with whom we disagree, and tear apart our countries and communities.
The old politics of “right” and “left” do not serve us any more.
The old ideologies of capitalism and socialism do not serve us any more.
To solve our genuine problems, we need to reach out and understand people who not only think differently than we do, but people with whom we are uncomfortable. People we don’t like; people we have held in contempt; people we don’t trust; people we fear.
Last week I had an instructive experience. I was with someone that I decided a long time ago has such different views that it’s better to keep our conversations to chit chat. The person made a comment I disagreed with. Usually I would discount the comment mentally and think of a way to change the subject.
Instead, I surprised myself by asking an open-ended question to invite a longer response. As I actually listened, I began to see something differently than I have before. What I thought was black/white yes/no right/wrong had other possibilities. I could feel my mind expanding. More importantly, I could feel my appreciation of the person expanding.
Even people (like me!) who think we are somewhat open-minded, have parts of our belief systems carved in stone. We think we know absolute truth about what is right or wrong, true or false.
We need to hold fast to our values while being willing to listen until – though we may not change our minds – we at least understand what the other person believes.
Then we may find common ground. We may even be able to see ways to solve our intractable problems, whether it’s a family circumstance, a community project, an economy that serves us all or environmental actions that allow future generations to survive and flourish within the finite limits of our planet.
If you can’t make yourself listen because it’s kind and considerate, do it for pure self-interest.
The essence of brilliant salesmanship is to understand what matters to potential clients (or friends and relatives!) and provide solutions or new possibilities that they believe will enrich their lives. The essence of brilliant negotiating is to understand what matters most to opposing sides and figure out a way to provide that to both sides. The essence of a stable economy – whether personal or national – is to provide products and services that solve others’ problems or create desirable new possibilities.
That all involves the ability to listen until deep understanding is achieved.
There. That’s one of the places my mind went after the US presidential election. Hope it’s relevant!